Posts Tagged ‘writing retreat’

There was a running theme to many of my conversations during my week in Seattle. My lovely writer friends and I would be chatting and catching up, and at some point, they’d ask me, “So, what exactly are you doing in Seattle, anyway?” And now that I’ve done this twice, I thought I’d share my own recipe for having a personal writing retreat.

Many of the writing events I know of place an emphasis on giving and receiving critique. This is great, and a lot of value can be had at these events. However, for the past year or so, I have found myself wishing for a different kind of event, where the focus instead lay on the writing. So this March I attended the Rainforest Writers’ Retreat in Washington, which seemed to (and did!) fit the bill.

Unfortunately, the Rainforest Writers’ Retreat is only once a year, so I decided I’d try to have my own retreat in Seattle. It’s fairly simple to arrange: I pick a week, arrange my flight and hotel, and then send out an email to the writer friends I have in the area, letting them know I’ll be in town and available to hang out. I know what I’m going to be working on ahead of time, writing-wise. And that’s it.

The view from my hotel window in Seattle.

Here are the benefits I get from these retreats:

1. Focused time to work, away from all “daily life” kind of distractions. I didn’t think this would make a big difference, but for me, it really has. I simply get more work done in a hotel room than I do when I’m at home. I’m less likely to waste huge chunks of time. And I’m also less likely to allow myself time to wallow in any writerly anxiety about my project I might be feeling.

2. New perspective. In a different place, my thinking becomes slightly more flexible, and so I’m able to see my work slightly differently and embrace new ideas and directions with slightly less resistance.

3. Motivation. Because I have spent the money on the retreat, I feel deeply motivated to make sure the time counts and I get as much work done as is both possible and reasonable. It doesn’t hurt that I’m seeing writer friends the whole time, and I don’t want to have to tell them I’m not getting anything done either.

4. Connection. In some ways, my retreat is like a convention in that I’m surrounded by like-minded writers. But in this case, I get to spend more time with these writers one-on-one and in small groups, which means we get to know each other better.

5. Inspiration. Also like a convention, because I’m spending time with writers, I get to talk a lot about writing and books, and our enthusiasms tend to feed off one another, making me feel more excited and ready to write. And if I need a little extra shot of brain juice, I’m in a big city full of museums, cultural events, and people-watching opportunities.

So far I’ve found these retreats to be a successful experiment, as well as something I look forward to. I hope I can do more of them in the future.

What about you? Do you have an ideal retreat or workshop scenario?

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I returned from Washington late Sunday night, only to find I had brought a bad cold back with me. This is the kind of cold that makes me feel like the distance between my neurons has doubled, so that any thinking I might wish to do happens… very… slowly. So even though I don’t usually talk about events much on the blog, because I think maybe that is very boring for anyone who wasn’t at said event, that’s all I’ve got in me today.

First, a few pictures. The location was truly gorgeous, right on a lake that tended to get misty in the mornings, with the rain forest on the hills behind the buildings. It rained a lot, not surprisingly, which was fine since I was supposed to be writing.

Beautiful Quinault Lake: what a view!

And here's the lake again through the trees.


There was lots of moss in the rain forest.

I was pleased with how much I wrote and found I was able to be more productive than my usual. I wrote until my outline broke. Of course, now I have to fix it before I can start again, and aforementioned neuron difficulties aren’t helping matters any. But figuring out how to fix broken outlines is actually one of the parts of writing I like best, even though I also enjoy complaining about it.

But really the best part of the trip was the people. No big surprise there, of course. Put me in a room full of writers, and the likelihood of me meeting someone who I find fascinating and nice increases exponentially. So do my chances of encountering a kindred spirit, and really, there isn’t much in this world that makes me more happy than making contact with that elusive breed. Except perhaps spending even more time with them. And writing.

I wonder if it’s a matter of depth, a trait all the kindred spirits I’ve met share. I don’t know if people who already have depth are drawn to writing, or if writing requires and develops depth in people. Or perhaps both? I don’t mean to imply that all people who aren’t writers don’t have depth (or contrariwise, that all writers automatically have it), as that is simply not true. But I do think the percentage of writers who have depth (or at least who express themselves in ways that reveal it) tends to be higher than average.

I think I’d like to write more about kindred spirits when my thought processes are in better working order. But in the meantime, I must conclude in order to consume liquids and lay on the sofa like a rag doll. Suffice it to say I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Quinault Rain Forest.


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