Archive for 'retreats'

Friday, December 2nd, 2011 by Rosemary
Retreat and Advance

I’m writing from scenic Arizona this week, having recovered from my annual Thanksgiving cold just in time for a writer’s retreat that I’ve had on the books for ages.

But here we are hard at work:

(That’s the fabulous Jeri Smith-Ready, Beth Revis and Kim Derting.)

A writer’s retreat has great benefits. A change in routine and an absence of normal responsibilities. Literally nothing to do but write. And of course there’s the peer pressure. Nothing is more motivating than the frenzied tapping of laptop keys from the other side of the table.

Then, of course, there’s the networking, which is a big thing when you think about conferences and retreats and a conglomeration of writers in one place. We were talking about this last night, and I think it’s important to realize that the way to form a good network is to remember, it’s not about what someone can do for you. It’s about sharing information and support, including emotional support from people who understand the particulars and peculiarities of being a writer. (Because there are a lot of things that ONLY other writers will understand. It’s a weird business and, of course, we’re all weird artistic types anyway.)

A writing life in unique in that there are two aspects of your career. The business side, and the internal, emotional artistic side. You’ll have groups that fall, sometimes, to one side or the other, but in the end, it’s writers who understand writers.

I can honestly say that, in my writing journey, the friends and support system that I’ve been lucky enough to find has made a huge difference in my life. Building a support system is something that takes work–but you can’t force it. I’d say its more about staying open to connections and cultivating the ones that are positive and productive.

And of course, as with any friendship, half of it is being there for the other person, not just what they can do for you. Of course I’m lucky enough to be in gorgeous Arizona hanging out with these amazingly smart women in person, but the Internet is your friend. Also, this is one of the reasons I encourage people to find a local chapter of your RWA or SCBWI. It’ll take work and some trial and error, but a network of people who support and understand the process, both of writing and building (and maintaining) a career is invaluable.

Monday, May 3rd, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
When to Retreat

Last week, I did something I’d never done before — I went on a writing retreat.  I’ve been to lots of workshops where I was taking classes, listening to lectures, critiquing manuscripts, and so on.  The emphasis there really is on “work,” though the sessions are usually very useful and illuminating.  This was just to write, which was great, since I have a book due June 1 and I’m behind.

This one was organized by another writer I know, who invited about a dozen of us to a house in Rockaway Beach, Oregon — the Colonyhouse, owned by the Oregon Writers Colony for the very purpose of providing a place to write.  I went because it also gave me an excuse to visit my brother in Salem (that’s me, multitasking again).  I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to write all day, every day, for the three days I’d be at the house.  Best case scenario — the situation would open the floodgates of creativity and I’d write 20,000 words, finish the rough draft, and also revise the two rough drafts of shorter pieces I brought along for extra work just in case.

Worst case scenario, the solitude and being away from my comfy familiar environment would make me freeze up and I wouldn’t write anything.

As usually happens, I ended up somewhere in the middle.  I wrote about 9,000 words in three days and re-wrote the outline for the novel, which needed to be done before I could figure out the climax and continue writing.  I’m very pleased with the progress I made — it’s been a long time since I’ve written that much in that short amount of time.  At home, I’m usually doing a million other things as well as writing — answering e-mails, going over manuscripts, and living the rest of my life.  With nothing to do but write, I actually wrote.  (Oh, and read.  I got about 300 pages into the latest Steven Erikson novel.  Swoon!)

Also, not having internet and TV?  Miraculous.  Instead of spending two hours in the morning checking e-mails and making the rounds of my favorite blogs, I wrote.  And I think I’ve learned an important lesson about writing retreats:  they really have to be retreats.  The whole point is to get away from the usual distractions.  If I went somewhere for a retreat and could still get wireless internet on my laptop, I wouldn’t write nearly as much.  Too many distractions.

One might think I’d be inspired to unplug my TV and internet all the time.  I think that would be a mistake.  Because that’s the other point of a retreat — it should be special, it should take you out of your routine, shake up your brain, get you out of your comfort zone.  I’m not sure that massive writing pace is something I’d want to do every single day, but it helped get me out of a rut and restore my confidence.  And I can’t never check my e-mail again, as attractive as that sounds sometimes.

I could definitely see doing this kind of thing again, especially if I’m stuck on a novel or close to a deadline and really need the extra kick in the pants that a mini-adventure focused solely on writing could provide.

Do any of you have experience with retreats?  What did you think?