Tag Archives: writers retreat

3 Rock Solid Reasons to Retreat

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cloudsWhen it’s used a verb, “retreat” is like a military term. “Our foul-breathed enemies are advancing–retreat! retreat!” But retreat can also mean to withdraw to a secluded, quiet place. To me, a writing retreat is a combo of both. For a lot of us, time is our enemy, so when we¬†withdraw from our daily routine to devote time to craft, it’s like a retreating retreat.

Why take time to retreat?

  1. That story is not going to write itself. You have stellar intentions to write at lunchtime or after dinner or on weekends, but then out go your intentions when the tyranny of the urgent takes over. The only thing you find time to write is a to do list. Retreats provide concentrated time to truly, you know, concentrate.
  2. Creative¬†juices curdle under pressure. You’ve noticed that, right? The more you push and strain your brain to produce in a tiny capsule of time, the quicker your creativity contracts. It takes time for half-baked ideas to warm, rise and fully expand.
  3. Getting out of your element opens your pores, I mean, doors. Perhaps I need to explain. When you write in a new environment, it’s unsettling–in a good way. It gets you out of a same ol’ lame ol’ rut. Go with it. If new ideas come knocking, open those doors!

139Bonus round–Ideas for creating your own retreat . . . book a hotel room for a weekend. Too pricey? Use your office at work–Saturdays are typically quiet. Ask a group of writing friends to rent a house for a few days. Will a relative be out-of-town for the weekend? Ask if they would like a house sitter. (Nothing wrong with sitting in their house to write, right?)

Please treat yourself to a retreat this year, my little triple berry scones. The only regret you’ll have is not doing it.

In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion. ~ Albert Camus155

focusing on the write thing

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My "cheerleader," Cynthia Leitich Smith

My “cheerleader,” Cynthia Leitich Smith

My "cheerleader," Lauren Myracle

My encouraging retreat critique group--Ann Finkelstein, Anna Boll, me and Lori Steel

My encouraging retreat critique group–Ann Finkelstein, Anna Boll, me and Lori Steel

Vermont College of Fine Arts

Vermont College of Fine Arts

Someone once told me that the way detectives learn to spot a counterfeit is to study the original. The more familiar they are with, say a real $100 bill, the easier it is to see the differences in a fake. In other words, they focus on the good, not the bad.

This weekend I participated in a retreat for writers of novels for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Now, I’ve been to lots of writing conferences and workshops over the last decade, but what set this experience apart was the emphasis on the positive. Retreat organizer Sarah Aronson told us at the outset that when we receive a critique we should not discount the good comments we receive.

Too often that’s just what I’ve done. I think to myself, This person is only saying kind things to let me down gently before the hammer falls. But Sarah encouraged us to really listen to the observations about what we’re doing well. The good bits are, after all, the parts we want to create more of, right? By concentrating on recognizing my authentic writing voice, not the counterfeit, I’m better able to hear the difference between what’s true and what’s tinny. Sarah’s advise made all the difference for me. I soaked up the good comments, not to pump my ego, but to learn how to make progress.

It goes without saying, but here I go saying it, that this doesn’t mean I get to ignore the parts of my work that need, well, work. (Some of it is downright stinky. Get the clothes pins please!) And sure, it’s essential to listen to constructive criticism, to consider the suggestions of others and to welcome even hard-to-hear feedback. But allowing myself to accept words of specific affirmation has caused me to see my abilities in a whole new light. I’m better able to see what’s possible, instead of thinking, this is impossible.

As a result of embracing the positive, when our amazing presenters like authors Cynthia Leitich Smith or Lauren Myracle or Candlewick editor Andrea Tompa humbled me with kind words, I could thank them. Was I shocked? Okay, yes. But I was still able to thank them instead of waving the words away.

I came home from the retreat feeling rejuvenated. My faith in my abilities was bolstered a bit and I can honestly say I feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. I am energized, instead of deflated. WOW, does that feel good!

You may not be able to escape to a writers retreat in the mountains of Vermont (I’m still stunned that I was able to!), but let me encourage you to adopt the same shift in focus. You will be amazed at the difference it can make. I’m positive of that.

You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In-Between. – Johnny Mercer