The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Retreat into Writing

        A couple of weeks ago I went on a writing retreat. Actually, I led a writing retreat, which made me a bit nervous. You see, I've gone to some exceptional writing retreats, so I know what they look like when they're good... and I wanted this one to be good, too.

        After getting some feedback, I'm already planning the next one. In the meantime, I'll share what we did, what worked and what didn't:




  • Pick a place that has some comfy seating. Writers sit a lot. Sometimes they want to sit at a table/desk and write. Other times, they need to gather together in a small group and chat about their writing. Our meeting area didn't have very comfortable seating--this was the best there was. Everything else about this place was perfect, so I guess I'll be driving a Winnebago full of overstuffed chairs to the next retreat...


  • Have some writer "stuff" for everyone to read... if they're interested. I heard about this article about rejection from Claudia. It's a doozy. I also included some calls for submissions for short stories, flash fiction, and educational journals.


  • Include some fun goodies. In each bag there was: a bottle of water ('cause if you drink a lot, you have to pee a lot, which means you're taking short, frequent breaks from your writing--good for your bones and good for your creative juices), a small notebook, some chocolate (do I need to explain the rationale for that?), some nuts ('cause writing is tough work and protein always comes in handy) and other things.


  • Have a scheduled "social hour" in the evening where everyone can munch and hydrate and let loose--a time when writers can talk about anything. Writing can be stressful. Taking a break to bond and chat with fellow writers is beneficial. (And if you're wondering about those empty wine bottles in the background, umm... I think the previous group left those behind.)
          Yeah, that's what happened.

  • Find out--ahead of time--what everyone wants in regards to the schedule. I found out after the retreat was over that although 8 of the 10 writers lovedlovedloved the wide-open schedule, 2 of them would have appreciated some activities/prompts. Next time, I'll set up a some optional writing exercises--away from the rest of the group--so writers can get some writerly nudges, if that's what they want/need.
How about you? Have you been to a writing retreat? If so, what worked for you and what didn't?

17 comments:

  1. It sounds like you had a good balance. It is difficult for me to write on demand. I once attended a retreat at the Botanical Garden, and we were allowed to go off on our own and write. Inspired by the flora and fauna, the words flowed. I also think indoors, aroma therapy or candles that are not overpowering are soothing and help me write. Congrats on leading that event.

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    1. Linda--

      Candles and aroma therapy--Thanks for the suggestion. And I can imagine how inspiring the garden was for you. You're the kind of writer who is always able to find inspiration...

      Delete
  2. Sounds like you had your retreat well planned and that it went well. Bet everyone is looking forward to the next one. I do an annual retreat with my critique partner. 2017 will be our third year, and we always get away for 3-4 days, somewhere we can hole up and talk books and marketing and plotting etc. The ideas flow, as does the La Crema, and we always return home energized and with a lot of writing done. I think just getting out of our normal space helps boost creativity.

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    1. Lisa--I agree. Sometimes even parking my butt in a chair at a coffee shop for awhile makes the words flow.

      La Crema? What is this La Crema you speak of?

      On second thought, don't tell me. I don't want ANOTHER addiction to contend with... ;)

      Delete
  3. I've never done a writing retreat, except for self-imposed ones (i.e. hubby out of town and I plant myself in front of the computer).

    Someday I'd like to do the Dairy Hollow retreat that Marcia G. goes to each year.

    Pat
    www.patwahler.com

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    1. Pat--Me, too. That place sounds wonderful.

      Delete
  4. WRITING retreat? Never been to one.

    I HAVE been to General Custard's Re-Treat! The chocolate custard in a waffle cone worked really well for me. Never had anything there that didn't work for me, though.

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    1. Val--I have never met a frozen custard or ice cream I didn't like.

      Perhaps Hick could build a shack on your estate that could be rented out to writers?

      Delete
  5. I can vouch for Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs AR, but it isn't what you'd call a retreat. It's personal writing time except for a communal dinner each weekday evening. Oh, you can make "people time" as long as all involved are willing.

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    1. Patricia--That sounds idyllic. Lots of time to write. Dinner fixed by someone else.

      Someday, I'll have to go there...

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  6. Yep, done small retreats and bigger ones, but both were similarly "organized" like yours. I think the trick is getting writers who are all committed to the program. Nothing worse than that one writer who's there for fun 'n games...so easy to derail everyone else!

    Sounds like yours was really good!

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    1. Cathy--I've been to writing events where one or two think of it as a social time. You're right. It doesn't take much to distract or derail.

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  7. Your retreat sounds fantastic. Maybe next year.. .

    Do you remember when a group of us met on Main Street in St. Charles and you led writing exercises as we walked around? That was a lot of fun!

    Maybe you cold incorporate a group walk, weather permitting, for those who are able to navigate the surroundings. It would be a good way to inspire the group.

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    1. Donna--I do remember, but only after you mentioned it.

      Perhaps in the spring, when the weather is warmer. And thanks for the reminder. (St. Charles is a wonderful place to write.)

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  8. Sounds great, but I've never been to one. I was surprised, however, how much I completed with a writing prompt during a regular critique group session.

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  9. Iremember that mini retreat or exercise, or whatever it was called. It was fun and actually gave me starts on stories. Old Main is inspirational and has lots of places to sit, early in the morning. We stopped for coffee and some of us read aloud. Then we had lunch together, which included more writing.

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  10. Like Patricia L says, Dairy Hollow isn't much on "group time," but heavy on writing alone time. But of course you can offer to meet with anyone who enjoys more sharing, and the dinnertimes are ideal for conversation. Once when there was just a handful of us who knew each other well, we met in the common room and sang old songs! And WCDH holds regular events like a poetry pot luck for locals, and whoever is there is welcome, so options abound depending on the dates.
    (I only ask that if you go, tell them I sent you!)

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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by...