Preparing For A Writing Retreat

I'm preparing for a writing retreat. When you read this, I will be in San Diego where hopefully it will be much warmer than chilly Chicago, but more important, hopefully I will be having some major writing breakthroughs. It will be my last day of the retreat, so I'm writing this in advance with the hope that once I arrive I will hit my stride with the book I've been struggling with for almost a year now.

If you read my blog, you know the saga of The Bartender Book as I've been calling it, but if not, you can read about it here. Or here's the latest excerpt of it with links to older excerpts. I was feeling pretty good about it that day, but then four days later, here I am thinking that I should leave it behind along with the rest of the things that plagued me in 2010. And here I am two days later on New Year's Eve deciding that I will persevere and give The Bartender Book one last chance on my writing retreat because I am most productive on writing retreats when I am in the middle of a project and know exactly where I have to go, which I should by now. But I keep hitting road blocks and becoming overwhelmed by the task (my rough draft was 160,000 words, way way way too long for a contemporary novel even for an Outside the Lines type like me so that is a lot of cutting and reshaping and I'm not entirely sure it's possible.)

Two days ago-- as in yesterday from now when I'm writing this, meaning January 7, though I suppose I could have been feeling this in your real time yesterday too, but I hope not for future me's sake. Future me who is now present me... aren't scheduled blog posts fun? Anyway, two days ago I almost gave up again and I became very worried that my writing retreat will not be productive. But then I managed to slog through and finish Act 1 (the book has three acts) and today, as in January 7, I woke up after very little sleep because my brain was churning with ideas for the book, so now I am back to being exciting about preparing for the writing retreat.

So what am I doing to prepare beside messing with your concept of time by pre-writing this blog post? I'm trying to catch up on all my email and leave comments on the blogs I should read more often and do laundry and leave the house kind of clean for my husband and ooooh wait....I just remembered that the last blog entry of mine that I linked you to has this awesome song I recently discovered on it, so I listened to that again. You want to hear it, too? Here you go!

Oh yeah, that is totally the mood I'm trying to set for my writing retreat.

Where was I? Oh yes, preparing for a writing retreat makes me very ADD because I try to get sooooooooooooo much done in order to think about nothing BUT writing when I'm gone.....Postcard stamps. Please don't let me forget the postcard stamps. Let me write that down now.....

Anyway, I probably won't finish half of what I need to and will be texting my husband to pay certain bills and feeling guilty for a while about how much I left undone (that website of mine is really never going to get updated. They are just some tiny little links i need to add, but it keeps falling to the bottom of the list), but then I WON'T CARE BECAUSE I WILL BE DOING NOTHING BUT WRITING..... I hope.

One thing that must get done is the packing. How do I pack for the writing retreat as opposed to a vacation. Well, I don't worry as much about clothes and I don't need hairstyling stuff or makeup because the writers I'm staying with know that when you are in the zone, you are lucky to change out of your pajamas and shower. (But I am bringing showering stuff and real clothes. In fact, since it's San Diego, I'm very excited that I can bring non-winter clothes like a new short sleeve shirt that I bought but it's been too cold to wear here and best of all, it will be the perfect weather there for the faux leather jacket my husband bought me for Christmas and I was afraid I wouldn't get to wear until April.) There has been talk of going tide-pooling among the folks I'm staying with so I will be bringing some ratty shoes for that and the house we are staying in does have a jacuzzi which may be necessary after sitting in a chair typing for hours on end, so I'll bring a bathing suit for that. And a camera because I might want to get out and see San Diego just a little bit. I'll also bring running shoes and workout clothes because exercise helps me get my mind going, so I'll keep that in my routine. And then I'm bringing food. This is because I'm vegan and I always get nervous about going places and finding things I can eat. I always go on trips with a list of restaurants, but I don't have any plans to eat out. There will actually be a cook at the retreat to cook a couple of dinners, but I have a plan to make a big pot of black beans and rice and eat that the rest of the nights because seriously once I get in the zone, I don't like taking breaks even to eat, so food has to be easy. I'm also bringing nuts and peanut butter and of course chocolate. You have to have a chocolate reward at the end of a good writing day (or chocolate comfort after a bad one), that is basically a writing supply in my book.

Speaking of the writing supplies. I'm bringing my laptop, of course, and even bought it a new battery so I can enjoy the whole warm California thing by writing outside. I also have a stack of journals I need to bring, some with notes on The Bartender Book, but also those with notes on the three other projects that have been floating around in my head because if I do get stuck, I will go to one of them. I also have a stack of index cards that I use for plotting and I'll bring some multi-colored pens and sticky notes because you never know when you'll need those. Then there are the books. I have a couple of books I've been meaning to read as research material for one of those floating in my head ideas. And then I have ummm like 15 books I want to read. Yeah, I'm not going to read all of those since it's a writing retreat not a reading retreat. (but wouldn't a reading retreat be fun???? I want to have one of those next winter in a really warm place where I can lay by the pool for a week and read.) The hardest part of the packing is going to be whittling down that pile of books to something reasonable. But you see I want to have options. I don't know what I'll be in the mood for or what will inspire my writing. But I also need reference books like my baby name book (for naming characters), a small dictionary, and oh man can I bring my synonym finder. It's so bulky but so necessary. Sigh. It's a really good thing I'm flying Southwest. I might need to take advantage of the two bags fly free deal.

There is one thing I'm trying really hard not to pack and that's the fear and self-doubt that plagued me for most of 2010. The worry that I'll never finish this book or any other one, that my writing career is done and I'll never be published again, the impossible standards I set for myself. There is really no room for that in my suitcase, but it's sneaky. I'm afraid it might latch onto me and even those crazy new body scanners won't detect it. But if it does follow me, I'm determined to ditch it out there. Even if I don't finish this book, even if I have to scrap it and start a new book, I'm determined to come home from this writing retreat packed to the brim with renewed enthusiasm for writing. Instead of setting page or word count goals, the only goal I have is to fall in love with the written word again and remind myself why I write.


  1. A writing retreat sounds wonderful. Hope it went really well and you got lots accomplished!


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