It’s In Deciding

What's one of the most powerful words in the English language?

Decide.

As in, deciding to do something.  With all your heart and soul.  And then following through and doing it. No matter what.

There's magic in that there action.  Deciding and doing it.

I bet you've experienced this.  I know I have.  When I've absolutely, positively committed to something with no waffling, amazing things happen.  The problem is that most often we don't decide.  We don't commit, or we commit in a half-assed way, leaving ourselves room to weasel out if we end up not liking it.

I've been thinking a lot about this.  Last week I was in Orlando, at Suzanne Evans' 10K Coaching Club intensive.  Suzanne emphasizes the importance of deciding in the sales cycle and also in life.  Her position is that most of us wobble through life without really making strong decisions.  Not so with successful people.  They make quick decisions and follow through with action.

Deciding relates to writing, too (doesn't everything?).  Have you had the wonderful experience of deciding to write a story and feeling like it was almost channelled to you?  Or perhaps you have committed to writing a novel, and suddenly you are in that amazing space where every ounce of determination that you have goes to writing it.

Indecision is death to writing.  It is death to action.  And we are a society of indecisives.  To be a writer is to be decisive by the very definition of the word–you're putting words on paper, one after another, a decisive action in and of itself.   Writing is intentional, and intention is decision.

Are you with me on this?

Let's all decide to be more decisive about our writing, starting right here, right now, today. 

What will you decide to write?

***Something I decided to do that I feel really good about is host writing retreats with my friend and fellow writer Debbie Guyol.  Our first event is in San Antonio in October.  Check out more here.

 

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?

 

The Benefits of Retreating

I've been at a writing retreat all weekend.  It was at Scarritt Bennett, a center in the middle of the labyrinth that hosts programs on diversity, women's empowerment, and spirituality.  Labyrinthspring(That's a photo of the labyrinth at Scarritt Bennett to the right, though I focused more on the blooming Redbud and Dogwood trees when I took it, so you can't really see the labyrinth.)

Though I was hired to be the book doctor at the retreat and that kept me plenty busy, I did have quite a bit of time to write.  The way it works at Room to Write is that all meals and a room are provided.  So the retreat participants–11 of us–met for meals and bonding and talking about writing, and then heading back to our rooms to write.   A few other activities were planned, such as walking the labyrinth, meditation, a chat on publishing that Rabbi Rami and I gave, and some late-night excursions to nearby bars, but everything is optional.  So if you want to skip it all and stay in your room and write, you can, and many did.

Many of the writers at the retreat got crazy amounts of writing done.  A couple hit word counts of 10,000, or close to it. But I heard from others that they took the time to read, or think about their project.

And this, for me, was the best thing about the retreat this time.  I did get some writing done–about 2,000 words, which is nothing to sniff at–but most important, I had time to think.  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.  And this, my friends, is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

You don't have to go to an organized writer's retreat in order to find this.  (Though Room to Write is awesome and I highly recommend it!) You can take yourself away for a weekend or a couple of days.  Go to a cheap hotel in a nearby city, or if you don't share my love of cheap hotels, look for a retreat center or even a monastery, which often rent out individual rooms.  Try a bed and breakfast.  Whatever you decide to do, here a couple guidelines for making the most of a 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 marketing piece (which is what I did).

2.  Have a goal in mind.  We start out Room to Write retreats with an evening 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.

So there you have it–my ideas about writing retreats.  But bear in mind, any kind of creative artist or spiritual seeker can benefit from retreating.  So, what about you?  What are your experiences with retreats?  Do you have any advice or questions for others?

***Head on over to my friend Linda Busby Parker's blog and you'll find a guest post by none other than me.  Scroll down a little bit…it is the one titled Spring Check-up.  Thanks, Linda, for the guest post.