Saturday, February 7, 2015

Writing Retreats

People who know me in person (and people who follow me on this blog too, for that matter) know that my personal life has changed a lot in the last couple of years. One of the big changes is that I am, at least temporarily, staying with my parents. I say at least temporarily because we've discussed the possibility of it becoming permanent, due to my parents' advancing age. I mean, they're really young for people nearing 80--no one believes they're that age when they meet them--but they're not as young as they used to be. That, however, isn't the point I was trying to make. 

I love my parents. I often joke that I was raised in a Norman Rockwell painting. Sure we had our disagreements growing up, but I never for a second questioned whether I was loved. I still don't. And I genuinely enjoy my parents' company. But I'm 51 and, for the year or so before I moved here I lived all by myself, unless you count my dog Baili and my cat Ziva, and since they never really talked to me or interrupted my train of thought, I don't. And, being brutally frank, even when I wasn't living alone for the last couple of years I might as well have been.

But that's not the case anymore. I'm one of three adults in the house. Even as I try to write this in the living room, I can hear my mom's running commentary as she struggles to get all the right pills in all the right compartments for the coming week. I'm not complaining. It's hard to see your parents grow older, but I'm honored to still have them at my age and I wouldn't trade this time for anything.

It's not, however, the most ideal situation when it comes to writing. The headline of a blog post from a couple weeks ago said that, as a teacher, I can write anywhere. That was a lie. I really have a hard time concentrating on writing here at home. I can go in my room and close the door, but all I have in there is a bed. I do it sometimes, but it's just not all that comfortable and I can't really concentrate there either.

So what do I do? I go on miniature writing retreats. Mostly to Panera Bread. I sometimes think I should give them a cut of any profits I make since a huge chunk of all three of my books (well, 2.75 books at this point) has been written while swilling gallons of their coffee. There's something about the white noise of that place that just seems to get my writing cap to fit just right. I leave my house where I'm surrounded by a couple of people to work in a place where I'm surrounded by dozens of people, but the difference is that all the people at Panera are just there. They never interact with me unless I want them to.

When I get the first draft of Shalan book 3 finished, I'm arranging with a friend with a cabin to go on a weekend-long writing retreat. It's secluded and has all the comforts of home except the interwebs, which is exactly what I need. The plan is to do nothing but heavy duty editing and revising for the whole weekend with no interruptions. I'm really looking forward to it.

When I first heard of writing retreats, I had this big romantic picture of people writing in chalets high in the mountains or houses overlooking the ocean crashing against craggy cliffs. But I realize that I can retreat practically anywhere for practically any length of time. Anywhere and and anytime that puts me in the right frame of mind to compose even a few good lines is a writing retreat.

I don't know how many fellow writers read this, but I'm curious about how you retreat or even if you do. Where do you go? How long do you go? At what point in your process are you most likely to go away? I'd love it if you would comment and let me know.


  1. Here's hoping to lots of quality writing, energy for editing and great coffee on your retreat.