Archive | Retreats

Writers: Step Away From Your Computer*

Yeah, I know.  It’s November and you’re holed up in your writing cave.  Because, NaNoWriMo.  You’ve got words to write! 50,000 of them, to be exact! And even if you’re not participating in that NaNo thing, you’re doing your best to get tons of words on the page every day because that’s what we writers do.Typewriter_Writing_Writer_238822_l

And so, I hear you saying that you cannot step away from your computer.

But I’m telling you that you must.  That it is healthier for you and your writing to get out and about once in awhile.  And in case you’ve forgotten what that looks like (I had a writing friend who invented excuses to go to the grocery store so she could talk to the clerks) here are some suggestions:

Go to a writing event.  Okay, so these don’t exactly fall out of trees.  But even when they are available, we sometimes don’t take advantage of them.  I’ve been to two recently: Poets & Writers Live, and Wordstock, our version of the Southern Festival of Books, albeit in a pasty Northwest its-pouring-down-rain-out-there-not-sunny-like-in-Nashville kind of way.  Each was very different, but each had something that inspired me, educated me, or reminded me why I write.

Join a critique group.  This will get you away from you computer on a regular basis–weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.  And it will have the added benefit of gaining you readers for your work.  We all need readers for our work, precisely because we sit in our little caves and write and get way too close to our work.  You can find one by contacting your local writing group (most every city and region has one) and/or looking at the Meet Up site.

librarybooksGo to the bookstore.  If you’re anything like me, you spend more time on the internet looking at books than in actual brick-and-mortar stores.  But remember the pleasure of whiling away an afternoon in a book store, looking at books?  Its one of the best ways to spend the day ever.  And if the sight of all those author names on books doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.

Have a writing retreat.  Why, I just happen to know about one happening in Nashville in January.  It’s called Room to Write, and I’ll be there to guide and encourage you and talk about how to keep a writing practice going over the long haul.  Terry Price and Janet Wallace will also be on hand, but mostly you’ll have lots of time to write.  Even if you can’t come to Nashville, you can create your own writing retreat.  Find a cheap motel or an Air BnB nearby and hole up.  Band together with some writing friends and rent a vacation cottage (inexpensive in the off season).  Banish your family and hole up at home for the weekend.

Take a writing workshop.  There are plenty of them around. Try your local community college.  They usually offer a plethora of continuing education classes.  Check with your local writing group.  Ask the Google to find you some local private instructors.  Or, I don’t know, you could come to France with me next September.  (You can read about this year’s adventure here.  I’m in the process of posting info for 2016, and it will be up shortly.  But email me if you’re interested and I’l send you the brochure.)writersworkshop

Take an online class.  Okay, so you’ll likely have to sit at your computer for this.  And its not quite as good as getting out and about in the world.  But it might be a good chance to meet some other writers and learn stuff, too.  There’s a ton of them out there, and I predict there will be a rash of new ones starting in January.  Again, consult the Google.

Do something fun and forget about it.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is take the day off.  Yeah, it is best to have a regular writing practice, but taking time off can clear your mind and allow room for new ideas to emerge.  Julia Cameron recommends people take Artist’s Dates, wherein you go off on your own and do something that you enjoy, whether that’s swinging in the park or visiting an art gallery.  One’s writing brain does need replenishment once in awhile.

So, how about it?  What do you do when you have been sitting at your computer way too long?

*Remember, way back in the day when some car alarms didn’t shriek a loud, horrible noise, or honk their horn, but instead intone in a very deep voice, “Step away from the car” over and over again? I do.  And that phrase is forever embedded in my memory.

Photo credits (all are from everystockphoto):

Typewriter–kiamedia

Library shelves–click

Writer’s workshop–marshalltownpubliclibrary

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Come to France With Me in 2015

Just saying right off the top here–this is a teaser post.

Because you want to come to my next writing retreat in France, don't you?  You know you do!  We don't have every detail confirmed yet but we have decided where we will be.  Ready?

Collioure, France. Coll800

It is a seaside town with mountain views, and also the twisty, curvy medieval streets I love so much in part of it.  Tons to explore in the town itself, and many wonderful things to see nearby. Collioure is in the Languedoc-Roussilon region of France, and I can personally attest to the wonderfulness of their wines.  It is near the border with Spain (you could take the train from Barcelona if you so desired), in the south of France.

So, yes, that's the location.  But let's not forget that this will be a writing retreat/workshop.  I've had some questions about how this works, so here is the scoop:  Every morning (Sunday-Friday), we meet from 9:30 to 12:30 for the workshop.  This time is devoted to mini-lectures from Debbie and myself, and discussion about the designated subject (an aspect of writing).  We assign a book in common for all to read, from which we draw examples. There's in-class writing and every day, we give an assignment, which will then be discussed in-depth the next day.  (For an example of this year's schedule, click here.)

But we're not all work and no play.  Huh-uh.  Yes, you will have assignments to work on, but there will also be plenty of time to explore the town and a field trip or two to other locales.  And we have been known to enjoy the local wines, um, quite a bit, when we reconvene in the evening for talk and food and drink.

There's also the option for staying on for a second (non-writing) week.

Stay tuned.  Debbie and I are meeting next week to work on the schedule, and we'll have that posted as soon as we can.  We've got quite a long list of people who have expressed interest in the workshop this year, so drop me a line if you want to nab a space!

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A Writing Retreat/Workshop in France

It is cold where you are, no doubt.  And wintry and gloomy.  

On such a day, you might start dreaming of summer and travel.

On such a day, perhaps you might dream of summer, travel, and writing.

On such a day, maybe you might dream of summer, travel, writng, and France.

In which case, I have just the thing for you:

Pezenas–Writing in the South of France Boutiqes-de-pezenas

Yes, I'm returning to France this year, and you can come, too, if  you would like!  (You know you want to.)

My business partner Debbie and I have been running writing retreats together for the past few years. This one will be our third, our second overseas.    Last year we went to Ceret, and our participants had a blast–and got a lot of writing done.  This year we are going to Pezenas, in the same region, and we've got a gorgeous house right in the middle of town–which means you can walk to shops and cafes (where you might want to partake of the French habit of a glass of wine mid-afternoon while you write).

France_location_mapThis year our workshop will focus on character. The way it works is this: We meet every morning from 9:30 to 12:30 to discuss our topic, workshop your writing, and talk about the book-in-common we all will have read.  Debbie and I are both published authors with many years experience teaching, and we guide our classes with a supportive yet firm hand.

After the workshop, you're free to explore and write (you will have assignments) all afternoon. Sometimes we do group activities but we also like to keep it loose and open so you can do what you want.  In the evenings, we reconvene for wine and dinner (again, you're free to do what you like, but our groups tend to be wine-focused convivial).

You guys, this is as good as it gets for writers.  Trust me.  It's wonderful.  But don't just take my word for it.  You can read testimonials here (and also learn a lot more about the retreat).

It truly is amazing how much you can get done when you are away from home.  In case you've not yet gotten the retreat bug, here is a collection of posts from previous retreats and workshops I've participated in, which will help to give you a flavor of them:

 10 Takeaways From France

Here, Not There

The Art of Retreating

Writing Away From Home

Writers Connecting

Do you attend retreats or workshops regularly?  Chime in! (And if you're interested in joining us in France, email me.)

 

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The Art of Retreating

Travel_paris_france_942640_hI'm in France, embarking on a week-long writing adventure, co-leading a workshop/retreat.  (Not to make you jealous or anything.)  There's probably nothing more invigorating for your writing than to get away with the specific intent to write.  And, if you struggle to find time to write in your daily schedule, a retreat can offer that time.  I have a client who gets all his work done on his novel by taking writing retreats every month or so.   Here are some ways to accomplish this:

1. Find an
organized retreat
, where a group of people comes together to create time to
write. Sometimes other activities are planned and in most cases, these
activities are optional, should the writing be going well. You can find listings
at Shaw Guides, or if you're looking
for the best of both worlds–instruction and time to write–check out my
retreats at Let's Go Write.   (We're heading overseas again in 2014, possibly to Italy, so stay tuned.)

2. Band
together with a group of friends and create your own retreat
, as I have done on
several occasions. Going in a group can reduce expenses considerably, and the
camaraderie after writing sessions are over is priceless. Some writers like to
read their work at night, either what they've been writing that day, or
finished work, and some prefer to keep to themselves and ponder the next day's
session. You can rent a house, stay in a bed and breakfast, or find a resort.
Just make sure everybody is clear on the ground rules from the outset.

3. Design a
personal writing retreat
. When you're coming down the home stretch on a
project, going off by yourself to work on it can help you finish. Hours of
solitude devoted only to your writing fuels a lot of inspiration. Find an
inexpensive room in a nearby city and take yourself away to work. I have a
friend who often takes personal writing retreats at a college town, because
accommodations are plentiful. Resort towns in the off-season are also good. Or
check out this site for more
options.

4. Go to a
writer's colony
. This is a bit different in that there will be an application
process involved. Writers apply for residencies of anywhere from a week to
several months, and in many cases, meals and everything you need are provided.
Competition is fierce, especially for the most prestigious colonies, such as
MacDowell. But there's also quite a list of lesser-known colonies that might
interest you. Either google or check them out here.

5.  If
all else fails, design your own retreat while you stay at home.
  Inform
everyone you know that you'll be focusing exclusively on your writing and then
follow through–turn off the phone, shut down the email boxes, refuse to answer
the door. Because in reality, retreating is a mind-set more than anything else.
It is committing to keeping outside influences at bay while focusing deeply on
your own work, that which is most important to you. And that can be
accomplished anywhere.

Retreat Guidelines

Once you get
there (whether there is across the ocean or behind the doors of your office),
here are some guidelines to get the most out of the retreat:

1.  Go
with a specific project in mind.
  It is generally best to stick to
working on one thing, but if you have a crazy right brain like me, you might
want to bring several.  Retreats are great for making lots of progress on
a novel, for instance, or for conceptualizing and get a great start on a short story or essay.

2. 
Have a goal in mind.
  We start our Let's Go Write retreats with a session in
which every participant names their goals.  As with all goals, it is good
to be specific.  Not, "make progress on my novel," but
"write 8000 words on my novel."

3.  If
the muse hits, go with it
.  If you're in the flow, don't stop. 
Doesn't matter if you are at a retreat with planned activities, go with the
flow and get those words on the page.  That's the point, after all.

4. 
Don't overlook the power of bonding.
  One of the best things about organized
retreats is that you'll meet other writers.  Connecting is vital for
writers, and something we often overlook in our furious efforts to become good
writers.  You can go to a retreat, have plenty of time to work, and still
meet other people.  Our Let's Go Write retreats are famous for our convivial Happy Hours.

5. Don't judge by
word count alone. 
If you don't
hit your intended word count, don't brand yourself a failure.   You've probably gained more than
you think, because having space and time away from the concerns of day to day
life allows the mind to open up and expand.  It is easier to
conceptualize, and to look at the big picture. 

Do you take writing retreats?  Do you prefer going in groups or alone?  Leave a comment–I'd love to hear your experiences!

Photo by beggs.

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Here, Not There

Last week I co-lead a writer's retreat in remote Diamond, Oregon.  (We kept referring to it as "the middle of nowhere" but one of the hotel's employees took offense to that.  However, it kind of is.)

Hotelsign

It was an awesome week, with attendees and myself and my co-leader making strides in our writing.  I had come upon a wee block in how to reconfigure my novel and I had a breakthrough about that while gone.  Yay!  I even ran into an old writing buddy.  (Go figure–billeted where the paved road ends and you run into someone you know.)

The days went like this:

9AM-12PM:  Writing instruction, discussion of literary pieces, workshopping of participant pieces

Noon-1:30ish:  Lunch at the hotel

1:30, on: Writing, time to work on assignments

5 PM sharp: Happy Hour on the screened-in porch

It was a shock to drive from brown, high desert Diamond into lush, green Portland on Saturday.  It was even more of a shock to learn, as soon as I got into cell-phone range, that my daughter was at that very moment in emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.

Which is why this week I am here, not there.  There being Maui, where I had planned to head for a spiritual retreat.  But a daughter recovering from surgery with a five-month old baby to care for is reason enough for me to stay home, don't you think?

Maybe I'll get some more writing done in between caring for them.  In the meantime, I've got another guest post lined up for this Friday, and I'll be lurking around, so stay tuned!

PS.  The retreat was so successful we're thinking of doing it again in the fall, probably for a shorter amount of time.  You should come.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: How do you retreat to write?  Or do you?  Are you one of those souls who fit in your work around everything else that you do on a day-to-day basis? Please share how.

The photo is of the old hotel sign at the Diamond Hotel and I snitched it off their website, but I don't think they'll mind, because they are really, really nice people.

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Writing in Retreat

Tomorrow I take off for Diamond, Oregon to co-lead a week-long writing retreat.

It's been a hectic week, with my cat Captain in the hospital for two days and a million things to get done. (Including packing a bag with at least five books, maybe more, in it.   Gone a week? I'll need at least that many books to dip in and out of.)

But I think I'm about ready.  Mornings will be spent giving the retreat attendees instruction and afternoons exploring the area and writing.  I've explored the area a lot already, so I intend to do a lot of writing.  And thinking.

Never fear, however, because I have some guest posts scheduled here for while I'm gone, so the blog won't be completely dark. 

So come on by and check out what's going on here in my absence.  It'll be a party, for sure.

 

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Writers Connecting

I have been away, not only from my home, but from my writing. 

At least, I've been away from the writing writing part of writing, the actual putting words on paper part.

But I've been doing a couple other activities of vital importance, the first being brainstorming and planning and the second being connecting with other writers, which is what I want to talk about today.

Often when I lead a workshop, I  start out by considering the importance of connecting. This surprises people, because they expect me to begin by talking about choosing a pen, or finding the perfect journal, or carving out time for writing. When I talk about connecting, I'm actually talking about  a multi-faceted practice which includes:

* Connecting with the work

* Connecting with other writers

* Connecting with family and friends to gather their support

* Connecting your work with the world

All of them are important.  But sometimes we writers, being solitary creatures, tend to forget how important connecting with other writers is, how inspiring and motivating it can be.  I've spent part of the last week, from Thursday to Sunday, at Room to Write, the twice-yearly writer's retreat at Scarritt Bennett in Nashville. It is held in  April and October, and it offers exactly what is advertised: room in which to write on a gorgeous campus in the middle of Nashville.   You retreat from the world in order to have time and energy to connect with your writing, which is why people sign up for the event.

And yet, they get so much more.

Through connecting with other writers at meals and optional events, they get the invaluable sense of being a part of a creative community, where everyone speaks the same language and nobody thinks you're nuts if you admit that sometimes your characters talk more loudly to you than the real, breathing people in your life.

It is easy to forget how important this is.

We're such solitary creatures, writers are.  We have to be, in order to get words on the page. Most of us can't get much work done when people surround us, and so the natural inclination is to shut the door and stay inside our writing caves.

But the rewards of connection with other writers are so great, its well worth it to open that door and step out into the big, wide world. 

How do you connect with other writers?  Is it important to you?

 

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