A retreat. Sylvan peace and lots of writing.
Sort of. That’s what I was doing last week, at a writers’ retreat in NC (and I have to say it, but the south is weird. Just weird. Sorry, y’all. But that’s not what this post is about).
There were trees. Lots of trees. Mountains. Fresh air. And at 3000′ you don’t need AC. It was incredibly quiet, too. I consider that I live in a quiet place although there is a constant hum of traffic, and on the weekends a lot of screechy power tools as neighbors beautify their surroundings. We even have more birds here. The dawn chorus up in the mountains was fairly restrained.
Lovely sunsets and spectacular storms. This pic captures both.
Also lots of wildlife. We were told not to hike the trails alone because there had been bear sightings, although I’m not sure if anyone had told the bears not to come onto the tarmac. We didn’t see any. I saw deer and wild turkeys that did not stand still long enough for me to take their pics, altho this sleeping beauty, a lunar moth, allowed itself to be photographed. It was quite big. There is nothing to indicate scale here except that it is on a window sill. Now if that was a piano keyboard in the background it would be a truly monster moth.
The other wildlife was the writers, a friendly bunch who liked to party. I’d post the pic of the pirate party but inexplicably it’s upside down. Just imagine.
This wasn’t a romance writers event and so there were no editors or agents and it was a time for people to write, critique, and talk about writing. There were also readings, again generally a non-romance thing. I had some notoriety as someone who wrote filthy stuff and considered reading a spanking scene aloud until I realized that to do so I would have to use three different dialogue voices, and decided against it.
So was it worth it? Definitely, yes. Do you really need to get away into a different environment with minimal internet and (mostly) no phone to crank up your writing? I’m undecided. If I wanted to lock myself up and write write write this wasn’t the place to do so, since there were classes to attend or audit. (I chickened out midway through the week and drove to the nearest Burger King to read my emails.) But it was a good place to take a breath and plan what to do, and where my writing should go next.
Have you been on a retreat? Did you find it useful?
I go on a writing retreat every year with a small group of other romance writers. There are only nine of us, though, and we’re all multi-published, so it’s very much a focused writing retreat.
I wrote this blog post after the first retreat we did.
Over time we’ve evolved the system that works best for us. We each have our own room, and a place for writing. The mornings are for writing or email or whatever — we each do what we need to. Some go for an early morning walk or swim. We meet at lunchtime, and over lunch we have a discussion or workshop. After lunch some will meet to brainstorm, some will go back to writing or whatever. We meet before dinner and have some sort of workshop or professional discussion for an hour. Then it’s dinner, and wine and talk and laughter.
Next year will be our tenth retreat, so I guess you can say it’s working for us. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
That sounds like a really great retreat, Anne!
I go on an annual retreat with local writer friends. It’s similar to what Ann Gracie just described, except we don’t do any workshops at all. It’s very unstructured. We meet at meals to socialize and brainstorm, if necessary, but otherwise we are free to do whatever works best. For me that is intensive writing punctuated with “thinking walks” or “thinking paddles” (our usual place has kayaks). The lack of scheduled activities gives us more breathing room for our creativity, which is important for us as working (read overscheduled) moms.
My local group does a writers retreat annually in February, maybe about 20-30 people. We usually have three or four workshops or structured “creativity sessions” spaced out over the weekend –last year they were almost all focused on doing some fun types of artwork to help unlock our creativity in ways other than writing, which worked amazingly well. In between is unstructured time for writing, walking on the nearby beach (if it’s not too cold or snowing), brainstorming with others, or whatever. It is always a great weekend. OTOH, Elena and I did a two-person writing retreat one year at a beautiful lakeside cottage in the Finger Lakes area of NY in the fall, and that was awesome!! Great for writing a lot and quiet, beautiful thinking time, both hard to come by at home in our respective busy households!
I’ve done writing retreats that sound a lot like both these versions. My favorite (for productivity) have been going away with 4 to 5 friends to a cabin in West Virginia, with internet (I’d be lost without the internet, just for the research alone). We just wrote. We discussed our writing over meals but that was about it. To me, there has been no better writing experience that these retreats.