On Chaos, Retreat, and the Solace of Writing (A Love Letter)

Things are hopping around here.  I’m preparing for a major life transition—we’re in the midst of planning an addition so that my daughter and her family can move in. Yep, soon I’ll be doing the multi-generational living thing, attempting to keep up a full writing schedule with a six-year-old and a two-year-old running around. But that’s not all. I’m leaving on March 1st for a month in France. To write, not teach.

And, there’s even more—I’m doing my best to finish the latest rewrite (in my head, I’m calling it a tweak) of my romance novel to get to my agent before I leave. This, even as I’m packing books and furniture is being moved out of my office as I work. Literally.  Like I said in the subject line—chaos.

But I’m keeping up with my writing as best I can. Because writing is solace in times like these.  I often wonder how people who don’t write make it through. Because for me, whether it is writing journal entries or working on fiction, writing is an escape. It’s a place to go in my head when the craziness of the world is swirling around me.  And I am so, so grateful for it.

And soon, there will be retreat. Let me tell you a little about that. We’ll be staying in the lovely town of Ceret. It is my favorite town, ever. We held our workshop there two years ago (and the very first year we taught it). There will be five of us the entire month, and another small group coming for part of it.

I’m looking forward to sinking into the rhythms of a small town for an entire month, especially at a time when there won’t be many tourists. (Not that there ever are in Ceret, which is one of its draws.) And I’m especially looking forward to jibing that rhythm with my writing.

I read a newsletter this morning from the wonderful Kim Werker, a writer and maker, and she talked about the power of intention. I’m approaching this retreat with the intent to take full advantage of the glory and luxury of a month devoted to writing—and seeing what I learn from it that I can bring back home to the chaos.  And my clients. And you, my wonderful readers.

I do plan to keep blogging while there, but I’ll also lose a few days to travel time so if you don’t hear from me for awhile, never fear, I’ll return soon.

And, hey–would you like to go to France with me in September? We’ve still got room for a couple more people. Check out the details here.

Writing in France (Or Anywhere)

Bon jour.

I am in Pezenas, France, down near Montpelier and Beziers (where we stayed Friday night and had an experience on the free bus trying to find our hotel that still makes me laugh out loud every time I think of it).  We–six of us–are staying in a house that could more accurately be called a mansion, with three floors and a grand marble entry on the inside, and a koi pond and swimming pool with a swag of oleander dripping above it on the outside.

Every morning at 9:30 we meet to workshop attendee's stories and discuss our book in common (Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes).  Our subject this year is character, so everything is viewed through that lens.

And every afternoon we write.  (I got in five pages yesterday).  Then at 5:30 we meet for wine, olives, pate, cheese, and bread–lots of bread.  (Paleo people just have to put aside their thing about carbs.  Besides, the wheat is better here.  And so is the butter.  And the eggs.  I'll stop now.)

In between, when the writing is done, there are walks into town (curvy streets barely wide enough for cars, restaurants tucked into every alley, shops and art galleries and lots of people smoking) or into the country side (vinyards and big old stone houses).

But notice I said, when the writing is done.

Because that's the point of being here, after all.  And it is surprisingly easy to get writing done, even in paradise, when you've got a whole houseful of people doing the same thing.

Between this experience and the Book in a Month class I took before I left (which entailed writing 20 pages a day for 14 days, thus finishing a draft, and then rewriting it the last two weeks of the month)I've come up with new knowledge of how to get words on the page and, as always, I am here to impart this wisdom to you.

Are you ready?  It's a multi-part process, so it is imperative that you pay close attention to the very end.  Here we go.

1.  Write

2. Write some more

3. Take no longer than one minute to ring your hands about how bad the writing is and then get back to it.

4. Write more

5. Notice you are writing utter crap and charge ahead anyway

6. Write, write, write

7. Finish your goal of pages or words for the day and breath a sigh of relief because you did it.

So, yeah, I'm being a bit tongue in cheek here (ya think?) but the gist of it is true.  I'm come to realize that we (myself included) make the act of writing way too complicated and emotional, when really, it all boils down to one thing: getting words on the page.

It doesn't matter how good or bad those words are, your only job is to throw them at the page.  To sit your butt down in the chair and write.  Because the wonderful thing about writing is that it can always be revised–and revision is ever so much easier when you actually have word on the page to work with.

What about you?  How is your writing going? What tricks do you use to get yourself to the page?