The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Retreat from Routine

        Earlier this week I went on a writing retreat. It was held at an abbey. A monk-ery. With most people, it would have been a 6-hour car trip, but we managed to make it in 13 hours. (I picked up two writing friends, then swung by and picked up my daughter and granddaughter. Using a shoehorn, everyone was wedged into the car, and in Kansas City we stopped and had lunch. Then, we met up with my son, and my daughter and grandbaby left with him. The three of us who remained headed to a grocery store in St. Joseph--a town that was on the way to Conception, Missouri. It was the stinkiest store I've ever encountered. After quickly exiting, we found a different (and better-smelling) store. We then made our way to Conception.

      Some time to write. Some time in a different place, with a different routine, which often makes a big impact on writing. Some time that's full of nothing but quiet and blank pages (or a blank screen).

      As I wrote, I took occasional breaks to read. I also went on some short walks. As the time passed, I thought about what makes--for me--a productive writing retreat.


      Begin the day with something bright. I did some reading (a John Irving novel) that jumpstarted my creative juices.


       Don't bring too much baggage with you. (I only brought this small bag because it was five people--and one was in a booster seat--in a Prius. Since we were wedged in like Europeans, I also packed like a European--lightly--and everyone smoked thin French cigarettes on the way to keep with the theme...even my seven-year old granddaughter.) Leave your self-doubts  and your destructive inner critic at home.


       Be aware of the "extra" things you need. Research material. Post-its. Hand-written first drafts. Be sure to bring what you require in order to keep the writing flowing. (I only ate half of the box of Cheezits. I swear. The rest I gave to a grateful son, who has two hollow legs.)


       Surround yourself with inspiration. Bring something great to read, so you can take an occasional break from writing. (The abbey has a huge library--three floors of books--and although most are academic-type books, I did find a good-sized section of novels and poetry books.)


       Be prepared for changes. You may go on the retreat with certain goals in mind, but things might change, and you have to be flexible. (There are lots of farms in the area that "grow" electricity instead of corn. If you've never stood right under one of these giant windmills and embraced it, you should. It's quite an experience.)


        Stay grounded. Don't set goals that are too lofty and also avoid setting goals that are unattainable. (I originally planned on revising a manuscript, but that wasn't possible, so I worked on a couple of submissions for an anthology. This is the front of the church at the abbey.)

         
     The trip back only took ten hours--a record-breaking time. (We stopped at Half-Price Books in Kansas City--a huge used book store--and shopped for a couple of hours, and then had a late lunch before heading back to St. Louis.) 

         What are some of your favorite places to write--or some of your favorite retreat spots--and why are they ideal for you as a writer?

20 comments:

  1. I offered alternative transportation. There's a huge SUV sitting in the driveway that gets a whopping 12.6 mpg. It would have been more comfortable.

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    1. 12.6? That's the gas mileage I get when I...that's NEVER the gas mileage I get. (If you tripled it, THAT would be my gas mileage...)

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  2. I am so glad you got so quiet time which sound like it included some laughter time too. Never been on a retreat and can see myself going to writing retreat, sitting down and finding my mind BLANK. I often think of a little cabin room we bumped into in the middle of the night after a ferry ride across the Ohio from Kentucky. It sat way up high, was plain inside, mismatched quilts on the beds but lovely balcony over the Ohio River. We watched a storm come up, the lightning strike, the water roil. Could see this as a great place to write!

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    1. Claudia--That sounds like a great place for a writing retreat. The river...the scenery...Perfect.

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  3. I don't have any place special to write. The only thing that I really require is room to pace if I'm really thinking.

    The retreat looks awesome!

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    1. Mama Zen--I don't believe you have to pace for very long. (Are you just trying to make the rest of us feel better? Puh-lease! ;)

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  4. First, I've never been on a writing retreat so I'm terribly envious right now. Second, we travel like you do. My hubby and I take 9-12 hours to get to our son's place in Florida. My daughter makes it in 7. The only excuse I have is that we're old. lol Hope you penned some wonderful words, and happy for you that you had such a wonderful opportunity to focus on doing just that.

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    1. Lisa--I think you could do a DIY retreat, like this one was. Pick a place--a cheap place, if possible. Go there. Write. Come home. (You have to do that. You can't stay there and write forever--your husband would miss you too much.)

      And yes, the older I get, the more frequently I have to stop at gas stations to empty my bladder ...)

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  5. Aside from my dark basement lair, I am quite productive in the shower. Not with a little pen and notebook-on-a-rope. In my head. I'm also prolific flat on my back in the La-Z-Boy. Never been to a real retreat. I can imagine my brain going all rebellious and refusing to squeeze out an idea.

    I missed you while you were missing from the blogosphere. Glad you had a delightful time, though not so thrilled about trying to remove that image of your bladder from my brain.

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    1. Val--I even went to the library and tried to get on my blog so I could comment on yours, but a large message appeared on one of the monks' computers in the library, saying, "Access denied."

      They must have heard what a rabble rouser you are...

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  6. A writing retreat sounds lovely. Maybe one of these days it will happen...

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Pat--Make it happen. It's easy to do...

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  7. Because I write at home, all alone, five days a week, I don't say I'm in need of a retreat, because really, what am I retreating from except boredom? It's more like an immersion experiences for my senses when I do go away. For the last three years I've gone to The Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, in Eureka Springs, AR. While I'm "supposed" to sit at my little desk, or on my deck or porch, I find I can't write that way. Instead, I hop on the cute trolley right outside my door and head for the very busy main drag, slithering through shops, art galleries, and eateries. There is an historical Carnegie library and a cool local museum. There's a haunted hotel which shows little plays. There are strolling musicians, and concerts in an amphitheatre. It's all very beautiful, with history and architecture and colorful characters. It's not so much where I write, but re-charges the creative juices. The side bar is that I plan it for October, when the natural beauty is enhanced and it's not too hot, and to co-incide with my favorite writers conference - Ozarks Creative Writers. A week or two at the Colony, with three days at conference. I love it! (As an official Ambassador for OCW, anybody who wants more info should ask me!)

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    1. Dairy Hollow...Being a person who loves milk, I can imagine rich, fresh milk flowing, along with my words.

      That retreat of yours sounds idyllic, but October is an impossible time for me. Perhaps someday, when I'm retired?

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  8. I've never been on a retreat, either, and am especially impressed by anything involving abbeys and monks. I hope you brought back tons of submissions...and maybe some cheese for Lynn.

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    1. Tammy--These weren't French monks. Just born and raised in America ones...

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  9. Sioux, The cool thing is, the Colony is open all year (I think). There are tons of happenings in Eureka Springs to plan around. As a matter of fact, there is a giant book festival May 18th. But alas, the original "farm" at Dairy Hollow is not for residents anymore. No cows, no milk, no cheese. But they do serve delicious dinners.

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  10. Marcia--Aaaah. I guess I can only fantasize about rich milk flowing, while wonderful lines spew out of my computer, eh?

    The name Dairy Hollow sounds like a great backdrop for a murder mystery...amidst writers....

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  11. LOVE my writing retreats. I've been to several in the North GA mountains--work all day, conversation and adult beverages in the evening. The best!

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    1. Cathy--Adult beverages...THAT'S what I forgot to bring. ;)

      I agree. It's a wonderful way to get some writing done, some networking done, some relaxing done.

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