A writer must write.
The only writing exercise a writer needs is the daily practice of parking one’s butt in a chair and applying pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. The only tools a writer needs are said pen/paper/keyboard. The amount of time spent in the chair is up to the writer. Ditto for the number of words on the page.
But to be a writer a writer must write.
I didn’t write for many years. Not consistently, anyway. Certainly not daily. There were too many other more important things to do. But now that my sons are both in school full time, that has changed. My most compelling reasons not to write are now gone from the house 7 hours of the day and I have settled into a new routine that devotes every morning to writing. Every Monday to Friday morning, anyway.
So when I received an invitation to a day-long writing retreat, my first thought was that I didn’t really need it. I was already getting my daily dose of uninterrupted writing. Besides, I had another commitment that afternoon so I couldn’t stay for the whole day anyway.
But it kept pulling at me so I decided to attend from nine to noon. I’m glad I did.
There were 10 of us in a circle around the periphery of the room, each of us with table space and an outlet. It was a really neat thing to look up from my laptop and see all these other writers at work on their craft. When someone needed a break, (s)he could leave the room for coffee/snack and a chat with a fellow writer. When we broke for a catered lunch at noon, I hung around as long as I could.
It was so nice to talk with other writers about what they were working on, where they were in the process and any other writing-related topics that came up. I had got a lot done in that 3 hour span, buoyed up by all the creative energy in the room, and I was really enjoying the conversation so I was reluctant to leave.
Later that day, on the way home after my 2:00 event and a grocery shopping expedition, I glanced at the clock. It was 4:30. Had I stayed at the retreat, I would still be writing. What could I have produced in that afternoon had I sustained my morning’s pace? Would I have been able to maintain that pace? Maybe, maybe not. But I know it would have been productive one way or another.
A couple of years ago, our writers’ group created our own retreat. We rented a chalet in Kananaskis country, divided up meal responsibilities and spent the weekend writing and the evenings sharing what we had written. This was a stretch for me. I never brought anything to group meetings that hadn’t been edited to the nth degree so reading my very raw work was more than a little uncomfortable. But good. And it wouldn’t have happened had we not retreated to focus on our writing.
Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of enticing ads for writers’ retreats.
I could stay right here in Alberta:
THE OLD FARM HOUSE – A WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS RETREAT IN ROSEMARY ALBERTA
Registration deadline: April 18, 2011, $190
Paint, Write, Read. Enjoy writing at a historical homestead. Find inspiration in nature’s playground. Discover your characters in a rural setting. Feel free to roam the grounds including: a garden, orchard, tree house, deck, bonfire pit, swimming pond and wild bird habitat. Classes include calligraphy and character development.
Meals are provided. Visitors must be willing to share rooms and arrange their own transportation.
Or head to a neighboring province:
WRITER RETREAT IN KASLO BC
One-person writing retreat available in Kaslo, B.C., in the field below the house of fiction writer and writing coach Holley Rubinsky. One-on-one work if you’re eager to move your project to the next level. Holley gives intentioned Writing Day! Workshops in her Victorian house in the beautiful West Kootenays for groups from three to seven. For more information, visit http://www.holleyrubinsky.com
Or . . . oh, wouldn’t this be nice:
WRITING IN GREECE: SLOW DOWN AND JUST BE
Tuesday, September 13 – 27, $2150 Cdn
Slow Down and Just Be is a two-week self-directed writing retreat that allows participants to immerse in Greek village life, be still, and replenish their creative resources. The retreat will take you from the busy, tourist-packed streets of Athens to a cozy seaside village in the southern Peloponnese. Sink into village life with the sea at your feet and the mountains at your back. Experience. Explore. Reconnect with the still, small voice within. You will leave relaxed and renewed with plenty of new experiences to draw upon in your creative endeavours. This retreat is largely unstructured, allowing you plenty of free time to do your own thing. We will be a small team of only 10 creative adventurers. For more information, http://www.suzanneharris.ca/writing-retreat-greece.
Maybe some day I’ll enjoy the particular benefits of a writing retreat to Greece (or Kaslo) (or Rosemary, Alberta), but in the meantime, I’ll continue parking my butt in my chair for a mini-retreat every weekday morning and spice things up with an occasional Saturday Write-in half an hour down the highway in Crossfield. I don’t know when the next one will be, but if you’re interested in attending, leave a comment for the organizer of the event, Julianne Harvey, at her blog. I know she’ll be thrilled to welcome another writer.
And I’ll be very happy to smile and nod at you from across the room while we write.