“You’re going on a writing retreat?” my son asked. “I don’t get it. Retreat means backward.” He then raised his arms, adopted a panic-stricken face and shouted, “RETREAT!” as if commanding a thousand foot soldiers. To further prove his point, he bolted from the kitchen and dashed across the living room to hide behind the couch.
As I giggled at his sense of enthusiasm and wild imagination, two thoughts entered my mind.
1. I desperately hoped that I would not embody his run, duck and cover methods while taking a break from life to accomplish some writing. I want to be bold, strong, courageous, and steadfast when approaching my words.
2. Our English language is a beautifully and frustratingly complex phenomena.
Allow me to switch gears for just a second. I promise I will return to the topic at hand, once I have meandered around it for a paragraph or two…
The D3 college baseball season starts this week. Four solid months of hard work, double headers, late night speculative conversations, hundreds of line up possibilities, thrilling wins, agonizing defeats, team dinners, road trips and excitement… for my husband. Ours sons and I enjoy the ride and show up to be a part of it as often as we can. It’s a great time of year, but it’s not my time to shine, it’s his.
We are very lucky, each having an extreme passion that fuels our heads and hearts and spirits. Throughout the entire fall and early winter, my husband has supported me and cheered me on. He has not complained a bit while I attended conferences and weekend workshops, while I set up after school meetings and spent more time looking at my computer screen than his face. He has been, to say the least, incredible, content to let me do my thing, knowing his time will come.
Now it’s my turn to do the same for him. Like I said, we are lucky, not to mention the fact, that we make a great team.
So, knowing full well that my “time” was coming to an end, I planned not one, but two writing retreats in January. (4 months is a long time people! I needed to stock up!) See I told you I’d make it back on track!
For the first, I went to a middle-of-no-where cabin with my writing group. The time was short, the agenda was even shorter. 24 frozen hours with only a wood burning stove, our ideas and our companionship to keep us warm. Trust me when I say we more than survived. We thrived! Sometimes, less is more. The space to escape, the freedom that comes without a watch to keep you accountable to regular meal times and plenty of sounding boards with in an arm’s reach all made this quick trip truly wonderful. I was able to rewrite 3 chapters of a YA fantasy novel that has been “in-progress” FOR-EV-ER. I left feeling rejuvenated, and like I had made some solid progress. I also had a lot of fun getting to know the women I write with bi-monthly. It’s amazing what you can discuss and solve and muse when you put 7 smart, talented and generous women in a cabin in the woods. This is an experience that I would highly recommend! I can’t wait until my Wwink friends and I adventure out of town again.
(If you’d like another writer’s take on this retreat, you can read about it from my fellow word-nerd Christy’s perspective HERE.)
The second retreat was an urban one. Well, urban in the sense that I was in a city, staying at a hotel, surrounded by restaurants that serve food fancier than PopTarts and homemade mac n’ cheese… my usual menu. (At our hotel I couldn’t even order Moscato or Disarrono… neither qualified as trendy enough to keep in stock! Sigh, I guess I’ll drink the French75 instead.)
This urban retreat had an entirely different feel. A jam-packed agenda kept me from calling home or even texting much. Each minute was stuffed (in a good way!) with an awesome learning, writing, networking or collaborating opportunity. At this retreat I wrote, work-shopped, revised and publicly read a brand-new piece! I stayed up late chatting at the hotel bar and made new friends. It was surreal and magical in a way that only happens when a group of committed and passion-sharing people convene. Heading home I felt tired, but in a way that was satisfying rather than defeating. Again, this is a retreat I will look forward to repeating in the future.
While both experiences allowed me to get away and write, both were entirely different. As you look to fit a retreat into your schedule, think about which type you would prefer. What kind of writing are you in the mood to do? The kind you do in your sweats on a couch next to a fireplace? Or the kind that involves business cards and a microphone? There is no wrong way to retreat (unless you are going backwards!) but there is probably a right way for YOU. Take time to consider this as you search for conferences, workshops and writing classes. But know this. Choosing to spend your time, money and energy on a retreat will not lead you astray. The time I have spent over the last few years at events like these has improved my craft, helped me meet career influencing writers and professionals, given me time to do my work, and fed my soul by spending time on myself and something I love to do. Take it from me, take the time to find a retreat that works for you. Then save up your money… and GO!!!
Here are a few retreats coming up this spring and summer that you might be interested in. I’m hoping to be at a few of them myself!
Novel in Progress Boot Camp, hosted by Wisconsin Writer’s Association
Location: West Bend, WI
Dates: May 20-26, 2018
Write by the Lake, hosted by UW Continuing Studies
Location: Madison, WI
Dates: June 11-15, 2018
Cirenaica Summer Retreats, hosted by the Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild
Location: Fall Creek, WI
Dates: several to choose from
Writing at the River House, hosted by Amanda Zieba
Location: Desoto, WI
Dates: Thursday, August 16- Sunday August 19, 2018