I had a plan. I know, I know, famous last words. But, really I did. It went like this: After decades of working as a busy family law attorney, I would retire from my law practice and do what I love most full time. I would write. But first, my husband and I would pack up and sell our family home in Massachusetts. We got rid of tons of stuff after thirty-three years, but took all of our memories with us.
The plan, like any story, had a setting. We would spent seven months each year on St. John, an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where we had been vacationing for thirty years–and where I set my mystery series. So far, so good.
After a few minor missteps, my husband and I found a small cottage overlooking Coral Bay with a huge porch where I watched the sun rise each morning as I opened my laptop and began to write. Later in the day, I would head to one of many quintessential beaches with white powdery sand and silky turquoise water. After a leisurely soak, I’d drop into my trusty beach chair under a shady tree and write more. It was perfect. Until….
Until Hurricane Irma, a Category 5-plus hurricane with winds above 270 miles per hour, slammed St. John with a direct hit on September 6, 2017. Only to be followed by Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017. Fortunately we were not on the island at the time. But St. John was decimated, our cottage rendered uninhabitable, and we were displaced and disheartened. Time for a new plan.
We went back to our “other” home, an old travel trailer conversion on outer Cape Cod where we planned to spend the milder months. Our “tindominium” was a tiny, summer-only home with a deck, a screened porch, and a writer’s shed with its own mini-deck surrounded by raised beds. I continued to write in my shed while we pondered Plan B. Where would we spend the harsher winter months? Where would I write?
Family members rallied and invited us to join them in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for January and February. We found separate, but nearby studio accommodations high above the city in the 5 De Diciembre neighborhood. We mourned the loss of our dream to spend our old age in St. John while being comforted by the music, food, and sweet people of Mexico. And tequila.
I rose every morning to the sound of roosters crowing and dogs barking to sit at a small kitchen table on a hard chair where I opened my trusty laptop and wrote. I discovered I could tote my laptop to a restaurant on the beach and sit at a table for hours writing with my toes in the sand while gazing out at the Pacific. It turned out Plan B wasn’t too shabby.
The following two winters, we stayed in San Pancho, Mexico, a small village we had discovered during our first winter in Mexico. San Pancho is filled with art galleries, restaurants, music, and a beautiful beach at the foot of the only main road that runs through the tiny town.
It is a writer’s paradise, with tables and benches on the streets, parks, and the beach where you can perch and pound the keyboard without a bother. I quickly finished the book I had been writing, and started a new one. San Pancho, our Plan C, felt like it might be it. The permanent plan.
I should have paid better attention to the Yiddish adage: “Man plans, God laughs.” I had spent a little time worrying that San Pancho might succumb to a hurricane, or worse, an earthquake. When the pandemic card was played, I was flabbergasted and reminded about how pointless it is to speculate and worry. Plan C had been felled, perhaps temporarily, by Covid-19.
BACK TO BEACH #2
I would spent the winter of 2021 under house arrest in a tiny tindominium. My writer’s shed with no heat was useless. But I was alive, healthy, and I learned that I could write anywhere.
My corner of the couch overlooks our multiple bird feeders that my husband faithfully fills every day. With laptop on lap every morning, I pound away, word by word, occasionally gazing up to watch the bluebirds, cardinals, and woodpeckers at the feeders. I get my exercise rising to shoo away the squirrels and turkeys.
To our surprise and relief, the heater in the tindominium works well, although it’s a bit noisy. When I get stir-crazy, as we all do, I take my laptop for a ride to the beach where I write in my car when it’s too cold to sit outside.
THE WRITING LIFE’S A BEACH
We plan to return to San Pancho next winter, but who knows? What I do know is that I can write anywhere and that I have been privileged to have been able to write in some amazing locations.
I think about the fabulous writers who have written in homeless shelters, Laundromats, buses, and libraries, and I am humbled. I have learned that it is where writing takes you that matters more than where you write.
BEACH WRITING 101
As for a plan? What I’ve learned is Plan A, B, C, or Z will work if you remember these guidelines:
- You can write anywhere.
- Writing can take you anywhere. It is the journey.
- It helps if you have a daily writing routine you can take with you.
- Wherever you are, create a space to write, however small. Respect it as your own, and make others do the same.
- Life is like the story you’re writing. Expect the unexpected and relish it.
Have you ever written a book on the beach? Where’s your happy place for writing? Join us on Facebook to discuss your favorite places to write….
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C. Michele Dorsey is the author of soon to be released Tropical Depression, the third in the Sabrina Salter series. No Virgin Island, the first in the series is set on of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. The second in the series, Permanent Sunset, received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly.
Michele has been a lawyer, mediator, adjunct professor of law, and yoga instructor. She finds inspiration and serenity on St. John, Cape Cod, and San Pancho, Mexico.