Saturday, November 21, 2015

Retreat to Advance, Redux

Photo by Therese Walsh, a bit of silliness outside of the House of the Seven Gables

I just returned home from a week-long writing retreat with a group of writers I first 'met' online on the Writer Unboxed blog. I had the opportunity to meet many of the individuals who ran and participated in the blog last year at the first WU 'Uncon' that took place in Salem, MA.

This smaller gathering consisted of a subset of the folks from the blog and the event who shared an old, rambling, Hogwarts-esque house in Salem for a week of writing, laughter, music, and conversation.

Getting to the 3rd floor 'garret' was interesting. 1 of 2 twisty staircases to navigate.

Many odd doors and closets to nowhere

This door led from the attic down three stories - a straight drop. Good thing it had the bar.

There were about 12 of us who stayed at the strange house, and another handful of folks who stayed at local hotels or B&B's or were local enough to stop by for a write in and hang out time. Despite the quirks of the house - which included the deathtrap stairs, a shower that was out of commission (leaving 2 showers for a dozen folks), barely enough common room for any 6 of us to congregate at any time (as long as we didn't mind being cozy), and entire floors where you had to duck, even if you were of average height - it was a sacred space.

Those of us who live and play inside our own minds have a strong need for solitude, but we also have a strong need for tribe. It can be almost impossible to explain to non-writers how a character is being slippery, or a word isn't working, that creating is both incredibly hard work and play, or how an empty page can terrify. And no one understands the demons of doubt and despair like fellow travelers.

And, while creating is individual work, being able to do so in the company of other creators is supportive, inspiring, and motivating.

Having the week away, where we were all caring for one another and ourselves as well as nurturing the spirit of our mutual creativity was, as they say in the TV ads, priceless. Priceless, too, were the bonds of friendship reforged, the laughter, shared meals, wine, whiskey, music, and bedtime stories.

Most of the merry band at a local restaurant
There was even arts & crafts time and a singalong

There were breakthroughs, epiphanies, and triumphs. I was able to add over 12,000 words to my SF novel in progress and powered through the 'muddle of the middle' and well into the place where three major plot threads converge. The end is in sight.

I'm not sure I would have gotten to this point - certainly not in a week of writing - without the support of the retreat and my fellow writers.

I return to the world tired, but energized, fed in a deep way that had little to do with the communal meals (though they were wonderful!) and everything to do with spending a week away from the concerns of the everyday while being nurtured in creativity.

As a dear friend reminds me often, you have to water the roots if you want to harvest the tree.

I suspect my soul had been thirsty for some time. This week I was well and truly watered.


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