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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Renewal (aka: Writing Retreat) -- by Emily Whitman


I just had me a major jolt of spring renewal.

I went on a writing retreat.

My first ever.

From April 1 to 14 I had a sweet little cottage, and a sweeter little study space, in the place where my work-in-progress is set. (A little digression: don't you think that term, "work-in-progress," is a bit strange? A distancing, businessy term. As opposed to, "current dream-state," or "the book I'm living with right now and having a love-hate-love relationship with.) There was a lot to justify to myself, taking the time, spending the money, when I have a perfectly good home to work from, and other obligations to heed. But having had my first writing retreat, I now know there will be more. I learned--

Getting away makes a difference. Finding fresh new eyes to see the fresh new world appearing on the page.

Being alone with the work makes a difference. In a way, we're always alone with the work, wonderful writing groups and perceptive friends aside. But this was different. There was a bit of the monastic retreat element here. Very few distractions. The understanding that this was the center of my life for these weeks. I got into the world of the book faster every day.

Making a page commitment makes a difference. Many days at home, if the writing doesn't start working after an hour or so, I'll let the creative aspects go for the day. On the retreat I didn't give myself that option. I set myself a five-page-a-day minimum. It didn't have to be good, or coherent, or even usable. Just that many pages. If it wasn't done by 7 p.m., it happened after 7 p.m. There were days I thought nothing would come, and then three hours of puttering in, something clicked. It was working. Can I stick it out that long at home? Can I work with a page commitment at home? We'll see.

Switching it up makes a difference. Some days I couldn't work in the sweet little study room. I wrote under a madrone tree on a cove. I wrote atop a cliff by the sea. I wrote on a dock at the harbor surrounded by ships. In each of those places, something came to the page, wafting in on the wind, floating up on a wave.

Focus. Time. Commitment. Openness.

New word buds greening on the trees. Thank you, retreat. Hello, spring!

7 comments:

  1. I've never been on a writing retreat--yours sounds incredible!

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  2. I try to go on retreat about once a year. It is so nice to put writing front and center for a few days!

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  3. Once a year! I think you're a very wise writer.

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  4. I've never been on a writing retreat, but it sounds wonderful, especially the one that you went on. I like the idea of going someplace that's private and away from everything, because it's a great way to immerse yourself in your book, as you said.

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  5. I've never done that, but it sounds awesome. Maybe when the kids get a little older.

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  6. I agree with everyone else -- sounds amazing!!

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