Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Retreat to Advance

Detail from the Morning Garden Retreat Center

This past weekend, I had the great fortune to take part in my first writing retreat. From Friday evening until Sunday evening, I was able to step away from the responsibilities of my everyday life and devote two entire days to my craft.

It was wonderful.

I've been wanting to do a retreat for some time now, but either the logistics weren't favorable, or the timing was wrong. This time, the stars aligned: the weekend worked, the cost was reasonable, the facility within an hour's driving distance (theoretically - I did run into horrific traffic on the way there). So I joined a group of strangers, united in their passion for the written word and their dedication to the work.

Jennifer Jean, (thank you, Jennifer!) a poet and teacher, organized the weekend and started us out with introductions and had us state our intentions and goals for the retreat. It was really helpful to have this be witnessed by my fellow writers and it felt like we all supported one another in reaching those goals.

There was time to write, to have conversation, to go for walks (the property is on the water in Gloucester and the weather was wonderful), do some yoga, and fill up on coffee/tea from the never-empty coffee pot and tea kettle. (Thank you, Sebastian!)

The cupboard under the stairs. . . never did find Harry Potter, though
The retreat center was large enough that we could all scatter into our own nooks and crannies to write. There was also a common room where we could gather for meals and conversations. The place had the right kind of silence - the silence of shared community.

I definitely felt as if the weekend opened a door to my subconcious, as I was able to add 5,000 words to the sequel from hell in progress and find surprises along the way that enrich the story. TIME AND TITHE now stands at 74,000 words, with an approximate 6,000 to go, give or take. I'm well into the climax and have a roadmap for the end. Had I only completed the roadmap, I would have been thrilled by the time I spent at the retreat. The fact that I got that map AND was so productive is phenomenal.

I feel privileged to have spent the weekend in the company of such talented and passionate writers. I feel as if each one of them invited me into their specific world and, as ever, I am richer for the experience. Each of us has our own stories to tell that are unique; and yet, universal in their impact. We were a group of poets, musicians, novelists, and memoir writers, united by our need to create and our love of language.

There is a warmth in this kind of shared experience. And while we participated in a kind of 'parallel play' in which we were each immersed in our own creative worlds, we were together in the act of creativity. As the final event of the retreat weekend, we gathered to share reflections on the experience, and some of our work. It was my pleasure to read a recent short story that I had not shared with anyone yet. Hearing it aloud and seeing the respect and attention of my fellow writers was truly a gift.

As was the time spent immersed in the world of words.

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