Hanging out at the Holiday Inn, Coralville-style

Last year, I got my act together early enough to get a room at the Iowa House Hotel, which is located right in the Union in the center of campus. That meant I was on site for the whole week, a few minutes walk to the English-Philosophy building where classes are held and able to step out into downtown or retreat to my room at a moment's notice. This year, I'm staying at a Holiday Inn in Coralville, Iowa, which is just a piece down the road from downtown Iowa City. It makes for a very different experience. I don't feel as immersed in the whole thing as I did last time, not quite as connected. But for some reason, that feels okay and I'm pretty sure this is how things are supposed to be this time. Spending time by oneself, for a few days at a stretch, seems to me an incredible luxury at this stage in life. I don't mind driving away from campus, my time entirely mine, diving into a book over dinner alone and then coming back to my room, spreading books and folders over the bed and doing my homework.

I had worried, as I hinted before, that I had arrived here so stressed out and exhausted that it simply wouldn't be the right time to get creative. And while I haven't exactly hammered out a novel, I think indulging this part of me, remembering why I love writers and writing, is (of course) precisely what I needed.

In St. Louis, there are so many things that need to get done before we leave. So many things to worry about and consider. Arrangements, packing, planning. Here, it's just me and my room and my writing and I can stay in bed until noon doing my homework and writing on my laptop.

I think there's some truth, too, in the notion that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think sometimes you have to spend time apart from your partner in order to be able to miss them -- and to remember who you are all by yourself. Important things.

I'm enjoying my class, too. I remembered that one of the things I love most is watching how other people teach writing. That fascinates me, and makes me even more certain that that is what I'd like to do. Not instead of actual writing, but in addition to. If you can spread that passion, convey that power, it's an amazing thing.

It's 10:30 now and I've lazed around the hotel room long enough, drinking too much coffee. Next, I have to complete my homework and make copies before our 2 o'clock class. We're in class each day from 2 to about 5:30 and then set free for the evening. Last year, I made fast friends with some classmates and we wound up dining together each night. But his year, I feel perfectly okay -- not lonely or left out -- not doing that, but just selfishly spending time with myself. If I sit still long enough, I think I can actually feel myself repairing and refueling.