Blissful Writing Retreats

How do writers find the time, space, and energy for writing?  I’m a big fan of “getting away,” although my personal experiences have little in common with the popular image of “the writer’s retreat.”  Or “The Writer,” for that matter.

“But you’re a writer,” my friend says, surprised when I turn down a new thing she offers me, because she pictures writers as adventurous folks.  Others assume writers all want to have best-selling books, to become wealthy and world famous.  And of course, real writers go off to beautiful secluded nurturing retreat centers, where they pen these masterpieces while eating gourmet foods.

I’m not especially adventurous. For example, I do not care for new foods.  I’m grateful to Michael Pollan for writing The Omnivores Dilemma, which explained to me that my backward attitudes about food might be primal; animals test new foods carefully.   I test new people and new groups in a similar manner; I’ve blogged before about limiting the size of my tribe.  Fame by definition messes with that.

But retreats! I’m a retreat addict.  Not that I can afford Hedgebrook or Pendle Hill or various other writer-dedicated venues.  Once, in the ‘80’s, I went to a writer’s retreat gathering in Oregon for part of a week, with other writers and inspirational classes.  I remember the fauna and swimming holes in those mountains; I don’t remember writing anything.  The retreats where I really wrote cost me nothing but time.

1980 – A summer living in a camper with my dog in the Okanogan Mountains.  Writing while the dog snapped up the horse flies trying to bite me.  Daily visits with family in between marathon writing stints on the old Olympia typewriter. Geniune cutting and taping.

Last summer, four days with a lovely client in her sweet country home.  She read books while I wrote.  We came together for meals and essential chore-breaks. Gathered eggs and red-lined an entire manuscript.

Housesitting, yay!  With views of a bay, or lake access, or just camped out in the attic of Al Dale’s “barn,” every season of the year.  No TV, no housemates, no work but the writing. A whole beautiful week without speaking to anyone but the house dog and myself.  Re-emerging into society tongue-tied, which feels more like words have untied themselves from my tongue, can only emerge through my fingers.  Lost in my fictional world and loathe to leave it.

Staying with my Gram in Pennsylvania, snowbound December through March.  Every morning after breakfast, sitting at my computer in the basement. After lunch, writing a few more hours until the dog begged to walk.  Evenings, editing in the bedroom while the TV droned through Jeopardy ten feet away.

I missed my niece’s wedding on Maui.  Stayed a week in my sister’s snow-covered house with her two dogs and my one.  No internet!  Writing, sleeping, eating, walking dogs in the snow. Two a.m. eating, four p.m. sleeping.

Paradise for me is solitude, dogs, long walks, naps.  Add paper, ink, and familiar foods.  Bliss.


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