Finding the Focus to Write

Finding the time to write isn’t always as hard as finding the focus to write.

My house is full of distractions—animals, chores, deliveries, laundry, phone calls, the list goes on and on especially since this has become as much our bunker as our home.

And then there’s the other inhabitants who are currently working from here instead of where they have always worked for most of my writing career. I am never alone at my house. And even if these people are on a different floor, doing their own thing, not paying a lick of attention to me, their presence stifles my writing.

And yes, I know that makes no sense.

Maybe it’s the energy they add to the house or the off-hour smells coming from the kitchen or the distant sound of a raucous zoom call. Mostly I think it’s the awareness that at any moment they might break my concentration and interrupt me with a perfectly legitimate question, like—Has the dog been out? Do I want this helpful interrupter to move the laundry from the washer to dryer (and what setting)? Would I like this thoughtful interrupter to put enough leftover pizza in the oven for me to join them for lunch?

I need quiet, undisturbed, ALONE time to write.

Thank God for our cabin. I escape there now at any opportunity, even if it means I have to do the cleaning between renters.

The cabin is Chateau Frankie, a small cabin on six isolated acres sandwiched between Shenandoah National Park and the Shenandoah River.

We bought it a year and a half ago as the first property in our new business—Shenandoah Dog-Friendly Rentals. This is our retirement plan. We don’t travel or play golf—we hike and read and fix things and hang out with dogs.

The cabin had been neglected for twenty years. It had never been truly finished inside (no window frames, no trim anywhere, a dark musty basement crammed with crap).

All evidence pointed to a previous owner who not only smoked excessively (stains on every surface, bathroom fixture, and appliance) but had never cleaned the place. There was a black layer of grime on every surface and log, plus an awful stale cigarette and ‘old dude’ smell (that’s what our real estate agent called it). Cat food and a cat spilled across the kitchen table when we toured the house.

Instead of window frames, there were blankets nailed over the windows. The walls were marked with water stains from years of leaking. The forest was in the process of reclaiming the entire property (and it did claim the septic, so the house had to have a new septic system. A group of feral cats (and one bear) came to the cabin daily for the piles of cat chow left on the steps.

But it was nestled into the side of the mountain so beautifully and despite the neglect and overgrowth that crowded the cabin, we could envision a cozy space, fenced yard, a deck, even gardens. It took us a year of work to make it liveable and renter ready. It is a beautiful and bright place with every amenity we could think of and lots of dog-friendly touches.

It’s a great place to hang out with friends, family, and dogs. But what it’s even better for is writing. There’s a snug little writing nook with a window that provides glimpses of the resident bear who ambles through our property on his way from the creek up into the national park. In the winter, you can see the Massanutten Mountain range.

Bookshelves constructed from wood from a barn we torn down line one wall and are filled with writing books, inspiring texts, and references. The writing desk is well supplied and inviting.

But that isn’t what makes it the perfect writing spot. What makes it perfect is the absolute quiet. It’s rare I can hear anything except an occasional hound dog in the hollow, a woodpecker that occasionally tries out the house, or a distant chainsaw. A few times a day, a train chugs through the valley.

So, as winter arrives and the river enthusiasts and fair-weather hikers are no longer filling our calendar with rentals, I wanted to mention the cabin to my writing community.

If you (and your dog if you have one) are looking for a place to write this winter, unencumbered by the noise and busy of life, consider escaping to Chateau Frankie. Besides the quiet and the comfort, there is also no wifi, which maybe is the most important distraction you need to eliminate.

Oh, you can make due with a hotspot, it works fine, even to watch a movie (unless you have Verizon, then sorry, you’re out of luck in Bentonville). You might even want to leave the cell phone at home or in your car (the cabin has a not-smart phone provided for emergencies), and truly unplug.

If you want, you can invite a writing buddy, as there are plenty of writing spots in the house, on the porch, even out on a trail.

I’m not sure how I would be surviving this pandemic without Chateau Frankie. I know I wouldn’t be writing very much.

How about you? How are you coping? Are you finding ways to listen to your writing heart and get words on the page?

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me. If you’d like more information on Chateau Frankie, visit our website or find us on Facebook.



If you’re curious about what I’m up to, check out my website,

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

And If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog. And if you want to know what is really happening in the animal shelters in this country, visit, Who Will Let the Dogs Out.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at

I’ve got a new novel coming January 2021! Blind Turn is a mother-daughter story of forgiveness in the aftermath of a fatal texting and driving accident. Learn more about it and read a few early reviews here. It’s available now for preorder (hint, hint – preorders are GOLDEN for authors so I really appreciate them!

My book, 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues was released this past July from Pegasus books and is available anywhere books are sold, but if you’d like some help finding it (or want to read some lovely reviews), click here.

Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at

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