Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Writing Retreats - A Productive Change of Scenery








I love writing retreats. Scratch that...I need writing retreats.

As a busy, involved mother married to a husband with a very big job, requiring long hours, home is riddled with responsibility for me. I write at the same desk I pay bills from. My deadlines rest on the same calendar with doctor's appointments, PTA meetings, volunteer commitments. Even with a home office with a closing door, my attention is pulled in countless directions, especially during the summer.

A few years ago I recruited my BFF, author Carmen Oliver, to embark on the first of, what would be regular writing retreats. We bid farewell to our families and hit the road. An hour west, in the heart of central Texas, we set up residence in my family's waterfront lake house. We knew then, as now, that much of our time will be spent ignoring each other- split up on opposite ends of the property. Immediately, my blood pressure drops and the quiet envelops me like a warm blanket. There is, purposely, no internet connection. The TV is kept silent. Chocolate flows. I am always amazed at how productive I am on retreat.

Maybe it's the natural setting that drops ideas into my lap like leaves falling from the trees. Or the motion of the water, bubbling to the surface and flowing ever forward. Or the surprising squirrel muse that inevitably appears to remind me to keep it real. Senses come alive, distractions evaporate, and the story lands on the page.

Since that first retreat, more author friends have joined us for writing weekends. Cynthia Leitich Smith, Julie Lake, Bethany Hegedus, Jane Anne Peddicord, Erin Edwards, Shana Burg, to name a few. In fact, check out Cynthia's recent retreat post about our latest outing, where she made huge progress on her graphic novel adaptation of Eternal.

You don't need a lake house to organize a retreat. Be creative. Choose the kind of setting that inspires you most, away from your normal writing environment.

Here's what our typical retreat schedule looks like:

Day 1- Typically Friday afternoon- Arrive and settle in. This is social time. Over dinner we chat and get comfortable with the surroundings. Often, we end the evening talking about what we're working on. Sometimes, we keep it to ourselves.

Day 2- Come together for breakfast 8:00-8:45. Everybody retreats to his/her desired writing spot.

12:00-1:00pm Come together for lunch. Retreat.

6:00pm Come together for dinner. We generally go out to a cozy restaurant and relieve the pressure from a long day with a glass of wine or some such. When we return, we share what we've written that day, or open a discussion about a story issue plaguing us. Sound boarding is ever so helpful and friends are generous with support.

Day 3- Breakfast 8:00-8:45am - Retreat.

12:00-1:00 Lunch. Last chance to share. Retreat.

5:00pm- Pack up and head home with stacks of completed manuscript pages in hand.

What are you waiting for? Retreat! Retreat!

Oh, and if you're interested in renting this lake house for your own writing retreat, shoot me an email. We give discounts to SCBWI members.

dbratton3@austin.rr.com

4 comments:

carmenoliver said...

I love the tranquil mornings while the house sleeps and my brain slowly awakens with sips from my steaming coffee mug. Then I'm in a mad rush to get the thoughts onto the page.

It's all that you mentioned and more!

Thanks, D!

gwen morrison said...

Great post! And I so agree! A friend and I feel the same and we've embarked on a new journey to share this with other writers through our own retreats, offered four times a year!

Check it out here http://www.writebythewater.com

Donna said...

Gwen,
Thanks for stopping by. Retreats really liberate the imagination, don't they?

Don Tate II said...

"like"

Don