Last weekend I drove to my first writing retreat. I was excited to be invited to join this group of published authors, but nervous, too. For one thing, the center is run by Franciscan Sisters, which had me worried about my sometimes-colorful vocabulary. The word “retreat” conjured up images of solitary reflection, solemn faces, and hushed voices. And a ruler across my knuckles if my language slipped into dangerous territory. However, a good friend of mine who had taken part in the retreat for more than a decade called it the “highlight” of her year. How could I pass it up?
I’m glad I didn’t.
In the years since I started writing I’ve attended a dozen or so writing conferences, but this retreat was another animal entirely. There were no agents, no editors, and no pressure to be “on.” I didn't have to worry about making small talk with strangers and saying too much or too little. Instead, I got to hang out in my jeans and sweats with my hair-- We won't talk about my hair.
During the evenings, we lounged in comfortable chairs eating chocolate—naturally—and swapping stories about writing, families, and pets. To be truthful, we told more kid, dog, and cat stories than writing tales. On Saturday we shared manuscripts, critiqued synopses, and kicked around story ideas. We moved at our own pace, went for walks when we felt like it, and crashed in our rooms if we were in the mood for solitude.
A plus for me was the “green” environment. The heating was solar, the food was organic, and the surrounding land bloomed with native prairie grass and wildflowers. The only drawback from the solar heating was our cold showers Saturday morning. Not the best way to clean up after a chilly morning jog, but we all survived.
If you and your writing need recharging, I suggest you get some friends together and head out on a retreat. You’ll come home filled with inspiration and—if you’re like my new group—a couple of pounds of chocolate, too!