Thursday, July 24, 2008

Retreat Musings: Alone Time

One of the hard facts about writing is that you do it alone. You can have a fabulous critique group, an understanding family, maybe even an astute agent and/or a kind editor. None of that helps when it's just you and the blank page.

On the retreat, many of us craved alone time. Little kids, day jobs, distractions...we were leaving them behind, temporarily. We were holing up in those lovely cabins and a-write, write, writing, bay-beee!

Only, that didn't quite happen. Turns out there's only so much alone time a person can stand. And that writing, while solitary, demands engagement with the world. How to find the balance?

I did spend a lot of time alone on the retreat. I kept the shades to my cabin windows pulled. I drafted new material for my manuscript under revision, which made me happy, but dang it, that manuscript didn't say thank you or even good job, sweetie. It looked at me greedily like I was a fading light source and it was a pulsating black hole.

That's when I crept out, in search of company. I joined the afternoon critique sessions, which turned out to be the ultimate motivator. Wow! My fellow retreaters were kind listeners. They were funny. They were lyrical. They were brave. They were wild (yee haw!)

I learned so much from hearing them read their work aloud. About rhythm, and structure and voice. I dared read a piece of my novel-in-verse-in-progress. They demanded that I write more of it---the next day! (So yeah, they were more powerful than that black hole.) But I did. I wrote more, for them. And it woke me up to the simple power of what happens next? in story-telling. We write alone, but we create story to be shared.

Thanks, Cassandra and Anne Marie and Alma and De and Loree and Katy and Kristy and Linda and Kathy and Tanya!

(More photos and words from De here)


  1. What a lovely group of writers. You inspire us all!

  2. I think one of the nice things about the set-up is that everyone has her own cabin, yet there is room in the cabins to gather and there is also the main house. So you can go where you need to go to do what you need to do.

  3. I still want to read more! Are you working on that one or are you working on something else?

  4. Thanks for your great advice during the retreat, Sara!

  5. Hi Sara-- Your posts are always inspiring. I have an award for you over at my blog. :-)

  6. Writers' colonies and retreats are wonderful places to recharge your batteries and feel really serious about one's work. Also to meet like minded people. I have been to ones in Arkansas and also near Saratoga.
    I hope you feel it was very worthwhile.

  7. Sounds like heaven, and those cabins are so cute! I have been craving something like this. I had an idea about a fairy tale writing retreat, somewhere gorgeous -- that is, not that the retreat is a fairy tale, but that the writers spend their time writing fairy tales. Maybe some day!

    Glad you had such a wonderful time :-)

  8. I find deadlines work wonders in the motivation department. With three kids bickering, whining and reading over my shoulder, I find it very difficult to focus. But I do.

    When school begins again, it may be MORE difficult to focus with all of the quiet!!


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