Monday, January 14, 2019

Are Personal Retreats Worth The Effort?

Retreat Reading Spot
Oh, come on. That question must be clickbait. Six days of doing whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, with no phone calls or e-mails about problems and when the weather is too bad to drive to a restaurant you just walk across the road to a lodge to eat dinner next to a fire? Of course, a personal retreat is worth the the planning, the packing, and the five-hour drive.

But What About Professionally?

Retreat Reading
Well, remember, the big activity on my retreats is reading. Yes, I spent 5 hours snowshoeing one day, snowshoed to a chapel another day, and to a bierhall still another. I made my annual visit to Bear Pond Books. That still left me enough time to read:

  • 3 UVM alumni magazines
  • 3 back issues of Writer's Digest
  • 1 back issue of Carve
  • The new issue of Seven Days
  • 30 pages of A Room of One's Own (I forgot I planned to read it during Retreat Week until Thursday.)
  • Maybe a third of Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer (Hey, it's a big book.)
  • The last few chapters of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • All of In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (My purchase at Bear Pond Books where something almost always jumps off the shelf at me.)
  • 9 short stories (4 in that issue of Carve)
  • 4 essays (2 in Carve)

Again, What About Professionally?

Travel Journal

Well, I also generated 9 pages of journal notes. Unfortunately, many of them related to a new project that's not part of my goals for this year. But I also got a few ideas for agents to research as a result of reading all those Writer's Digests. I've also got some lengthy notes for an entirely new essay and came up with an approach for another subject that could result in both a short story and an essay. Maybe flash.

So I guess I could say my reading-retreat week fired up some creativity. I've had similar things happen on just a regular vacation. The extra reading and the removal from my usual environment and the next thing I know I'm writing something in a journal.

 Retreat Reading View
Creativity doesn't always get its due. It's sort of an up-and-down thing. Right now it's down while we're focused on discovering readers and making that first sale and giving our main character something to want and then keeping it from her and the Hero's #@!! Journey.  Comparatively, creativity is kind of soft and squishy and maybe even a bit woo-woo. Except it's not. Creativity is how we generate new material. Without it, we're just staring at flickering computer monitors and virgin journal pages.

So if you go on a personal reading retreat, it jump starts your creativity, and you go home all excited because you have a handful of ideas and a book buzz on, how can that be anything but worth the effort? 


Jen Robinson said...

I'm glad it was worth the effort, Gail. My husband and daughter are going away soon to give me a short reading retreat at home, and I cannot wait!

Gail Gauthier said...

Oh, my gosh. What a great idea. Send everyone else away.

Years ago, my husband and sons would go camping with a group three times a year. This was in the day of VCRs. I admit, I spent a lot of my time while they were gone watching R-rated movies I didn't want to have playing when the kids were here.