Nancy: Top Five Favorite Things About Writing Retreats

A writer in desperate need of a retreat.

A writer in desperate need of a retreat.

As Justine told you last week, the 8 ladies converged on Arizona for a writers’ retreat this past weekend. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a big fan of writers’ retreats, as I posted here and here. This particular one was super special as I had only met two of the other ladies in person before this week, so this was my chance to meet and hang out with and just generally enjoy the time with the whole 8LW crew (including Michaeline via the magic of the interwebs!). But whether I’m retreating with the ladies or my small critique group  or my larger (former) writing group, wonderful things happen at these get-togethers. Today I’m sharing my favorite ones.

5. Binging on snacks/wine/decadent things of choice. Okay, maybe indulging sounds better, but whatever – this is what happens when you bring together writers and chocolate and coffee and wine in an atmosphere where calories don’t count. Don’t judge us – this writing gig is hard work and we need to fuel our brains. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

4. Burrowing into imaginary worlds. One of the toughest things about the writing life is the life part. As much as we want to lose ourselves in our stories and leave behind all the responsibilities of real life, spouses, kids, bosses, and pets have different ideas for our time. And that’s the way it should be. Without life experiences to draw on, a writer would quickly run out of story material (and money and companionship and love). But being able to escape real life for a short time and burrow into the imaginary worlds of our stories is a beautiful thing.

3. Boosting creativity. When I’m in a room or on a patio or in the woods with other writers, even when we’re all heads down over our own computers and typing away at the keys, I feel inspired. Maybe it’s fueled by a sense of competition, or guilt, or just the good writing mojo floating around in the air, but if the people around me are writing, I want to do it, too!  That sense of wanting to create more and better and faster tends to stay with me for days or even weeks after communing with fellow travelers on this writing road.

2. Brainstorming story problems. For a lot of writers, ideas come easily. But taking an idea from a big, overarching concept to a finished, cohesive, readable (and hopefully loveable) story is a long, hard slog. We make wrong turns, get bogged down, and sometimes just need a helping hand or a rope to grab. That’s where fellow writers are invaluable, and among our group, we’ve brainstormed via virtual bulletin boards, Dropbox, and Skype. But there really is something magical about sitting face-to-face with writing buddies over a glass of wine/beverage of choice and snacks, and hashing out the problems. Some of the ladies got great ideas and solved manuscript problems they’d had for days or weeks or longer (I’m sure you’ll hear more about this over the next week or so).

This kind of collaboration doesn’t just help the writer with her issue. Stretching our brains to mull over other peoples’ stories sparks a different kind of creative energy that carries over into our own work.

1. Bonding with fab friends. Not all writers are social creatures, and probably the majority of us are actually introverts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want (or need!) social interaction. A writers’ retreat is the perfect way to draw us out of our solitary writer caves and force allow us to interact like normal people. I’ll admit, I’m spoiled. These ladies aren’t just great writers, they’re fun people and fabulous friends. I’ll take any opportunity to share wine, talk story, and just hang out with some of my favorite writers (and people) in the world.

If you have a writers’ group, writing classmates, or critique partners, I hope you’ll be able to attend or host a writers’ retreat of your own. I really can’t recommend it enough. In fact, I love it so much, I’m doing it again next week! Different state (snowy Maryland instead of sunny Arizona), different writers, same love of camaraderie and story and this crazy writing life. So while I’m preparing for that, I wish you all a week of creativity and happy writing!

10 thoughts on “Nancy: Top Five Favorite Things About Writing Retreats

  1. (-: I really think there’s something to the idea that just knowing others are working hard makes one work harder. I could feel the magic writing mojo all the way over here in Japan!

    I can’t wait to hear more about what you guys have been doing!

    Also, I’d like to recommend mini-retreats. I’ve found writing partners through my dayjob professional development conferences (accidental conversation), and also during NaNo when people advertise about “write-ins” in various places. I wonder if there are Craig’s Lists or something available for people out in the sticks like I am.

    The hardest part for us was finding a public, central place. But it wasn’t that hard — our community has the library, a community Plaza, several community centers, and community meeting rooms at the top of a department store with free parking. After that, it’s a matter of setting a schedule together, stating our goals, then sticking to our guns and doing that writing — and doing that breaking, too.

    And there’s always the internet. I know we did writing spurts during class when people checked in at the beginning of the session, and then checked in again at the end.

    I love being with other writers — there’s a great respect for the distance needed to do our own things, but also that incredibly sympathy and shared goal that feels so inclusive.

    • I’m glad you could feel the vibes we were sending out all the way in Japan :-)!

      I haven’t done mini-retreats, but I did try some in-person write-ins with NaNo. They weren’t my cup of tea because they don’t have the brainstorming/bonding component, but at least it was encouragement to be with others who were focused on getting words on the page.

      Sent from my iPhone


  2. Hey, did I read over on Kat’s posts that you guys did readings? How very cool! I’ve never done that with my local writing friends. I think it takes a lot of courage amongst strangers to do that. One problem is, of course, “What if they don’t like it?” The other problem is, “What if I don’t like their work? I can’t tell them their baby is ugly!” We were so lucky to have Jenny to lay down the groundrules, and after we started, it wasn’t quite as intimidating as I had imagined.

    But reading aloud? Oh, boy, that sounds like a new, scary kettle of fish. I know this is one way authors interact with fans, so it’s important to be able to do. I think I’d be able to do it with you guys over videochat. But could I do it with locals in a semi-public space? Oh, no. I think that would definitely require a more private space. And a lot of chocolate. And maybe a tranquilizer (-:.

    (Scary as it sounds, it also sounds wonderful, and I’d love to hear more about it.)

    • If out-loud reading happened, I missed them. But we were doing different things in different places at times, so it’s possible :-).

  3. This was my first writing retreat and it was great – I got a lot accomplished on a new story. Because it was so new, I had no idea what problems I might run into. I ran into a couple yesterday, took a break and wandered out to where a couple Ladies were chatting about stories and mentioned my block – et voila – great ideas and plot devices ensued.Thanks Ladies.

  4. I think everyone accomplished a lot! My new stories are so new that I don’t yet know what their big issues are, but I got a lot of inspiration from brainstorming on the other ladies’ stories.

  5. Along with all the things you mentioned, the sunny skies of the Southwest were a welcome retreat from Midwestern winter. Loved meeting you and seeing all the other ladies again!

  6. No kidding – that weather was amazing! We flew back to gray, drizzly slushiness and it won’t get out of the 30s here for at least the rest of the week. Ugh. But then again, with such crappy weather, what else is there to do but write? (Well, shovel snow, I guess, but I’m ignoring that for the time being.)

  7. Pingback: Justine: Writer’s Retreat, A Newbie’s Guide, Part 2 | Eight Ladies Writing

  8. Pingback: Nancy: Retreat, Recharge, and Reclaim Your Writing Mojo – Eight Ladies Writing

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