Patrice LaVigne

I am penning my first book. Have you heard that writing a book is hard?

I am not new to being a writer ... I have a fancy college degree to show for it and have spent the last 15 years as a paid writer (to pay off that fancy degree). I am really good at researching and writing 500-2,000-word assignments on short deadlines.

However, writing a book is a whole different beast.

I've always wanted to write a book and I finally decided 2016 would be the year to pursue my goal. My husband and I walked the entire length of New Zealand (2,000 miles) on a trail called Te Araroa and our adventure (and misadventure) seemed to be the perfect subject for a travel memoir.

I started the book-writing process by attending a writer's retreat in February. When we went around the room to introduce ourselves, nearly everyone said "I'm so excited to be here; it's the only time I get any writing done."

Yikes. My idea was that the retreat would kick start my book, but then I would be on a roll the rest of the winter. I romanticized this idea of sitting down with my laptop with a fire roaring, snow falling outside and endless hours of writing my book.

The 2-week retreat was awesome. I returned with 10,000 words written. And then my book collected dust. I didn't make time for book writing when I returned. I did write every day ... just not the book. Life got in the way and I made a million excuses. It seemed what other writers predicted was coming true. Writing a book is a test of stamina and self-compassion, exploring new practices and challenges along the way.

I knew I needed something more to get the job done. Elsewhere’s Residency Program was a gift to myself. I spent the month of May living in the Gingerbread House and I am extremely pleased with my book progress.

Typically, I wrote 1,000 words a day, working for about 5 hours give or take. When all was said and done, I added 24,505 words to my book, which translates to 72 pages. This brings my grand total to 33,620 words, or 106 pages. I believe I am 70% done with the "writing" portion of my book. I am hoping to do a little more writing this fall and winter to finish it off, but let's not talk about the revision process yet. Baby steps.

Beside quantifying my progress, I realize my time at Elsewhere and Paonia was an opportunity to break out of my shell a little more. It wouldn’t be wise to just hibernate because the town is vibrating with opportunities. Two of the 3 other residents were writers, so we really capitalized on our skills. We participated in the open mic night, a writer's group, a radio reading and a workshop teaching others about writing. It was really the best way to make the most of my time in Paonia.

Overall, Elsewhere was an awesome experience. I am in love with residencies, Paonia and Tomatoes the cat.