Sometimes you just have to.
Retreat, that is.
In order to advance.
So that’s what I did last week. Went on my first ever writing retreat. Four days. The Women’s Fiction Writers Association writing retreat to be specific. WFWA has been two years in the making and this was our first ever retreat to Albuquerque, New Mexico. (I swear, one day I’ll learn to spell this correctly on the first go round – Albuquerque, not New Mexico).
It was a magical, enervating experience, not just to finally meet some of the people we’ve all been friends with for the past two years online, but to simply soak up the joy, camaraderie, support, sharing and gabbing that comes when you meet with others whose goals align with yours.
This was my first retreat: hopefully it won’t be the last. It is SOOO different to a conference, and for me, at least, just what the doctor ordered. And so, without further ado, here is my list of eight reasons why retreating is a way to advance your writing goals.
- It’s a chance to unwind, relax, and make no apologies for focusing on your writing. That’s why so many of the 65 of us on the retreat could be found at all hours of the day and night (and really ungodly morning hours), with gallons of caffeine busily tapping away on our laptops or scribbling in our notebooks on our latest works. A silent reverie where mind melding wasn’t even necessary. The communal writing spirit was powering us forward.
2. It’s an opportunity to not sit in “talks” or “lectures” but in actual circles – yep – and talk as a group about that hour’s particular discussion group. Hearing how others dealt with rejection, their writing process, their editing techniques and more, makes you feel less alone. You can share tips, reveal low and high points, glean incredible insight and bond with other writers who have plumbed the same depths as you and danced for joy at similar highs throughout the creative process.
3. It’s an opportunity to meet with unpublished writers, debut authors, published authors and New York bestselling authors on an equal footing and NOT be intimidated. You get to schmooze over margaritas (there are lots of them in Albuquerque), chow down over jalapeno-spiced meals (this is New Mexico after all), and talk about everything from writing to whether our pets miss us. (I think my dog missed me).
- It’s a reminder that your work MATTERS. That it’s not only permissible but ESSENTIAL to take time out to retreat and focus on your passion: where you can wander the halls or sit on the patio or lounge by the pool and listen to people chat about conflict, protagonists, black moments, publishing deals, agents, editors and all those wonderful buzz words that make you want to jump up and down and proclaim “THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!”
- It’s a way to tap back into your creativity, to discover that your inner four-year-old needs a time out to remind you what matters; where your passions lie and how to harness them and imbue your writing with them. Oodles of thanks to the charming, adorable and brilliant Kimberly Brock for her Tinderbox workshop and making us dance, sing, tell ghost stories and pull out crayons, glitter, stickers, glue and chop up magazine pictures to remind us where our stories came from in the first place and how to keep finding more.
- It’s a way to learn a harsh lesson that it is NOT selfish to spend your time writing. Thank you a billion times over Darynda Jones for your impromptu, impassioned speech about how writing is preparing you for your future career. “You wouldn’t say going to college is selfish, would you?” Darynda demanded of us. And when a New York Times bestselling author tells you you’re not being selfish, you damn well better listen!
- It’s a way to make new writing friends and cement bonds with those you have met online. They are the gift that keep on giving. You now know what their real voices sound like when you go back to your life with them online and they critique your pages, cheer you from the sidelines, bolster you when you hit a wall, and repost your silly Facebook memes.
- It’s a testament to a few determined souls who believe that there’s a niche in the writing market that has yet to be filled and if you build it people will indeed come. Two years ago a group of determined women including Orly Konig Lopez, Laura Drake, and Kerry Hall Lonsdale said, “We need a place for women’s fiction writers.” They thought they’d be lucky if WFWA got 100 members. We’re now at 700 plus thanks to the vision of a few hardy souls. Hats off to all the founders for their foresight, insight, passion and dedication. Without you there would be no WFWA, no retreat and no way for me to advance.Onwards!