Are writers’ colonies good for writing or simply indulgent escape mechanisms for the undisciplined?

The first two paragraphs from a recent New York Observer column reads thusly:

They summer in the colonies, the writers of New York, scattering forth to the hills as the days grow more sultry: to Yaddo, to MacDowell, to Millay and Ledig House! They go to work, of course, to work uninterruptedly and produce literary classics, and then, after all that exhaustive working, to play Ping-Pong and drink. But what of those left behind? The husbands and wives who change diapers and listlessly push swings on garbage-strewn urban playgrounds while their spouses stroll the green glades?

These spouses have to speak in baby talk to screaming children while their lovers giggle at the witty asides of sculptors and poets. While the colonists collapse in Adirondack chairs with cheeks flushed from a riotous game of table tennis, the city-bound are taking out the trash and eating bad takeout.

My first thought:

How am I going to get my wife to agree to send me to one of these colonies, and soon?

My second thought:

Two weeks? Honestly, after a couple days I think I’d really start to miss my family. Why do so many people seem to want to have kids and then get the hell away from them as quickly as possible?

If I could just find about four hours of undisturbed quiet a day in a library, a bookstore, or my kitchen table, that would be golden.

Hell, I’d take two.

My third thought:

Why does anyone even need to go to a colony to write? Picnic baskets on your doorsteps at lunchtime? Jacuzzis and ping-pong? Drunken stupors and evenings filled with Adirondack chairs and extramarital affairs? It all sounds a little self-important, self-indulgent and overly precious to me.

And none of it sounds very much like writing.

It’s so odd how so many writers seem to want to disconnect the process of writing from diapers and dishwashers and family and fast food, as if the two cannot coincide.

It’s a nice thought, but I hardly think it is reality.

And I suspect that it makes for bad writing.

My final thought:

Sure, it might be nice to get away for a couple weeks to get some writing done, but honestly, what is wrong with the kitchen table? Or the local library? Or a bench at a local college? Or an office in the attic? I run into so many people who talk about the tools of writing and the location of the writing and the beverage of choice whilst writing but not the actual writing.

These colonies sound perfect for the undisciplined person who likes to think about writing and talk about writing more than he or she likes to actually write.

As a writer, I find myself needing to write on an everyday basis, regardless of the stark and tragic absence of picnic baskets and table tennis tournaments and extramarital affairs. For me, I write in between life. In the spaces between the diapers and dishwashers and family and fast food.

Regardless of what you may think, there are lots and lots of in-betweens if you are serious about assembling words and sentences on a page.

If you want to write and you want to publish, you make the time.