Isolation Lends itself to Artistic Achievement in Memoir

It’s been an interesting first few days at Dorland Mountain Colony. I like the term “colony.” It evokes an eclectic group of pioneers hunkering down in some secluded place to build something weird like a spaceship to Mars or a cult or something. But it’s really just a cluster of modular homes on the side of a mountain. Artists come here to achieve completion with their memoirs or conceptual pieces or, like me, screenplays. 

Artistic achievements in memoir or any other type of book don’t necessarily require being removed from your daily life and living in an art colony, but boy does it help!

At first, I thought I wasn’t a good candidate for a writer’s residency. After all, this is where people come to “get away,” and what do I have to get away from? A cat and an empty house? As long as I’m bringing my computer with me wherever I go, I’m basically also bringing my work, my source of anxiety, a constant onslaught of spam and advertisements, and innumerable unfinished projects. But the truth is, I now realize I left behind a lot, too, including home repairs and everything associated with Maine in the winter. That actually frees up a lot of brain space for me as I work on my latest artistic achievement, here: a screenplay that is in many ways a memoir

It’s “cold” in California, meaning you will be cold if you wear springtime clothes, as everyone always does. But you know what they say in Maine: “there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” Californians just go through winter inappropriately dressed, complaining about the “cold.” It’s adorable. But back to Dorland colony—It’s exciting to be here because the piece I’ve started is a western-style screenplay. 

I’m interested in westerns as an art form, because they’re basically the first post-apocalyptic fantasies. 

They function as artistic achievements in memoir, I think, for a lot of screenplay writers, because you can set people in nearly any pre-technology environment and have them live out a character arc that’s familiar to you, whether they’re 49ers panning for gold, families moving west in covered wagons, or sheriffs trying to bring law and order to a world gone mad. A few years ago, Covid let a lot of our own world slip away from us, a lot of law and order slipped away, too, and it made me feel like westerns should make a resurgence. It’s that old artistic memoir idea that you can remake the world and tell your personal story within this no-man’s land that lacks all the fundamentals of the civilized world. 

Well, I’ll check in with you readers more as this project progresses. The most interesting thing about it right now is the historical research I’m doing. There are so many eras of the old west to choose from, and so many regions as well. My characters could cross paths with the “trail of tears” where Native Americans were herded from the southeast out to Oklahoma. Or they could be part of a Spanish land grant or even Civil War characters. The possibilities are endless; and the potential artistic achievements in both memoir and fictional-style stories, pretty-much infinite. Stay tuned!

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