Kimmel Harding Nelson: Days 4-6

The late March 2010 KHN Residents: Timothy Eshing, T. Wheeler, Matthew Jensen, Jenn Koiter, Ji Eun Kim. This was an awesome installation Ji Eun did in the window of an empty storefront.

This represented about the half-way point of the residency at the close of day six. I was able to get close to forty pages of new writing done, which is really pretty amazing for me. I came in a little skeptical of the residency idea. It didn’t make sense that I’d get a ton more work done in two weeks here than I could over a normal period at home. But it really turned out to be an amazing experience. Typically I’ll write between 500-1500 words in a day. But I consistency quadrupled that at Kimmel Harding Nelson.

I talked a bit about the reasons why I think this is in the previous post, but I want to hone in on that a little more here. The biggest difference, I believe, is simply the matter of time and space to work in. These are the factors mentioned on the brochures for these places, but it wasn’t really something I could understand until I was there. There are usually a few times during each day when I feel like writing, and they don’t come at the same time each day. At home, on a normal schedule, I can’t just drop everything and write. It’s a schedule—one that thankfully allows me regular time to work in the first place. And I’m very lucky to have that. But at KHN I could work whenever I felt like it. On Thursday morning I was more productive in the morning. On Friday I was more productive at night and was able to stay up late to work. I guess the difference never seemed like that much to me. Finding an extra hour in the morning, or an hour late at night. But if you have the space and the energy to work at a high level for that hour, you’re adding a four-page work period into the day. Sometimes two. And that really adds up, even over five days. If I could keep this pace up, I might have been able to finish drafting on Hyphenates Part 2, which would have put me way ahead of schedule.

A favorite of KHN residents. Best huevos rancheros I’ve ever had.

Still, I did take most of Saturday off, as Nicole and Maddie came down to Nebraska City to visit. We played around the apartment a little, as Maddie and my roommate Matt really hit it off, then got lunch at the Arbor Day Lodge. We went back to Omaha for a while after that, even though Maddie really wanted to stay at “Art House.” She and I went to the store and made dinner so Nicole could have nap time. It was nice to see the family again, something I’d been looking forward to from the moment they’d dropped me off.

It’s always such a strange balance to strike between giving yourself enough room to work (time and space, mental space) and keeping the people who are the reason you’re working so hard close by. The balance any working person tries to find, I suppose, particularly working parents. I think back sometimes to my life before Maddie was born, when I had hours and hours of free time each day. It’s easy to become nostalgic for those times—freedom, nights out, artsy-ness. But the fact is that most of that free time was wasted. There were video games then too, and binge drinking and hangovers. The balance was out of whack.

One of the great old homes of Nebraska City.

It wasn’t until Nicole was pregnant that a change came over me, a biological switch was flipped that made it easier to focus—in fact, it made it uncomfortable to not be working because there were people who depended on me.

I think this was a big part of the residency too, and a major reason why I think it was a big success for me. It’s not that the writing was easier to do when I was at KHN, but there was an imperative to do it. There were people at home missing me, counting on me to do well. And I wasn’t going to let them down.

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