Monday, January 18, 2016

The Best Writers' Retreat Ever

This Year I Needed A Work Station
For eleven years, my husband and I have taken off for a week in January to hunker down at a resort timeshare unit that's been in his family since the 1980s. We think of it as a retreat week, when we get away from problems of all sorts. I read, he does mind-boggling jigsaw puzzles in disturbingly short periods of time, we frolic in the snow for a few hours here and there, go out to eat because I don't go near a stove unless it burns wood for looks, not heat. We can't do those things at home because of one thing and another. 

This year, I had to work while retreating because I need to make some submissions this week. Last week I:
Retreat Week's Completed Reading
  • Created a fifth draft of The Mummy Hunters with the edits I did on the fourth draft before I left home.
  • Wrote a #@!! synopsis for The Mummy Hunters.
  • Spellchecked and did a word count for The Mummy Hunters.
  • Finished reading the second book for Cybils judging, read all of the third one, and started the fourth.
  • Read a load of bookmarked articles. I still have a load of them. I've got to stop bookmarking all this stuff from the Internet. Really. I do.


What A Bummer, Huh?


I worked every day, maybe an hour, an hour and a half. It was probably closer to two hours on Friday. This should have really, given that my retreat week is supposed to be all about doing whatever I want and not very much of that. But it didn't stink. It was great.

Rosemary Ice Cream--Amazing
I came away with a feeling of accomplishment, a load off my mind. I was also able to get in some practice for the new tai chi routine we're working on in class, watched three episodes of The Incredible Kimmy Schmidt, may have found a computer program I need for a personal project, hit a new snowshoe trail, and ate some quite decent poutine, as well as some rosemary ice cream, which was just as marvelous as it sounds.

Not All Writers' Retreats Go Like This


Needless to say, this was the best writers' retreat I've ever been on. Why?
  • The other (real) retreats I've attended were more like mini-conferences than retreats. There were presentations or some sort of activity scheduled for most of the time. I didn't come home with any work done, because there was no time to do any.
  • I'd been working on this project for a couple of years and was at the tale end tidy up point. If I'd been trying to generate new material, there's a real chance I'd be whining now about my ruined retreat.
  • I had plenty of space and quiet, which can be hard to find on official retreats.
  • I really could do whatever I wanted, because of the lack of presentations, panels, one-on-one critiques, etc.
I came away wondering if there is a way I can replicate this experience. But, you know, wanting to do this again sounds a lot like desire. And what does desire lead to? Unhappiness.

I will satisfy myself with being happy with last week's experience.


Carol said...

Thanks for sharing, Gail. Really puts an interesting perspective on things. -- Carol Dannhauser

Gabi Coatsworth said...

Sounds like a great idea. It's something to do with not having to deal with the everyday, I think...

Gail Gauthier said...

"...not having to deal with the everyday." I guess that's part of what people look for in a retreat.

Nancy Tandon said...

Sounds delightful! And...hooray for The Mummy Hunters!!

tanita✿davis said...

One of the most successful NorCal SCBWI retreats is held yearly? twice yearly? at Green Gulch SF Zen Center. There's NO program. People are fed (strictly vegetarian meals which are surprisingly good, according to the carnivores to whom I've spoken) and can stay in their cabins or meet in kind of a living room area in the evenings and read aloud and/or critique things... but there's no program. No talks, no theme. People work, read, walk, and sit in silence.

It sounds perfect, but since I have no kids and there's only two of us in this house, it's never felt like a necessity... but at the same time, having someone feed you (although Tech Boy assures me that he'd feed me, he also TALKS to me... nudges me to show me things bookmarked from the internet... and is generally lovingly pestifulent), keep you warm, and otherwise see to the details also sounds like it would work. I like your idea of a retreat and think it bears looking into, but somehow a January one would mean I'd be bringing Cybils work and other stuff along, too...

Meanwhile, I share your #@!! about the synopsis thing. WHY are they so HARD?????

Gail Gauthier said...

I'm waiting for Computer Guy to say to me, "Isn't every day of your life a writing retreat?"

Yes, I suspect many writers don't think traditional retreats are a necessity, and that's why the word is used now for workshops/mini-conferences at bucolic sites. A few years ago, one of my extroverted writer friends and I were discussing my desire for a traditional writers' retreat. She said, "What's the point?" Meaning, I think, that she can write anywhere. Why pay to go someplace to be away from people and write?

I think the attraction is exactly what Gabi said above. "...not having to deal with the everyday."

Here's why synopses are so hard: They're the writing equivalent of cramming a size 12 body into a size 2 outfit.