In two and a half days, I logged over 10,000 words of story architecture, plotting, and brainstorming for my newest novel idea as a byproduct of a writers retreat that I and seven other individuals enjoyed this last weekend.
Was the writing retreat productive? Absolutely. But it was so much more than word counts and fresh pages of prose.
Can you remember those time-freezing, luminous moments that your memory holds onto as if they’re made of pure gold? The times when you felt most understood, most accepted, most loved, most content? I’ve heard these moments called the times in which we feel closest to Heaven. I’ve felt this at every retreat that I’ve been on with this group.
In my personal journey, my writing concept had barely transferred from the seed stage to the germination stage when I loaded my bags into the back seat of my friend Scott’s car and headed out for the east side of the mountains. I prayed for inspiration pour like a geyser and then waited to see what happened.
This is what occurred: Beyond the word counts and the writer’s block and the surges of inspiration (or frustration), our retreat was deeper than a just a time dedicated to churning words onto paper. I know that if I had gone by myself into a cabin in the woods to write for three days, I would not have emerged as energized and rejuvenated as this retreat, despite the fact that all of us went to bed after midnight and rose with the sun to eat breakfast together, surviving on very little sleep.
We encouraged each other. I spoke with one friend in a quiet walk to the river about her burst of doubt in her own writing abilities, and encouraged her to continue in her work, remembering only a few weeks before when I had come tp her, full of doubt, worry, and the need to be told that I wasn’t a terrible writer.
We played games at night and drank wine, reading the jackets of pulpy paperback novels and trying our hand at composing the first line of the first chapter, then guessing to find the right one.
We caravaned into the nearest town, bought iced coffees and ice cream, and plugged away at our laptops or writing notebooks. It was a marathon of writing, and most of us were exhausted after pushing beyond our usual boundaries. But at the bottom line, none of this was really about what we wrote.
It was about being together and sharing how our Christian faith interacts with our artistic process. We prayed for each other. We told each other with our mere presence that we believed in each other.
My writing group has built a pattern of two retreats a year together, one in winter, one in summer. Honestly, I was still riding on the encouragement and excitement of the winter retreat as I headed off this summer one.
For those of you reading this and wishing you had something like this experience, take that instinct and funnel it toward joining a writer’s group. If you want to do a retreat and find two or three friends who would join you, there are lots of cabins and hotels out there to fit the bill. If you want to make it a super affordable getaway (always my first option), start asking around to see if people have homes or cabins that they would lend out to a bunch of artists. You’d be surprised how many people want to help.
Writing retreats among friends are a little bit of Heaven. Artists need to stand together and support each other in this art that is typically practiced in isolation. What writing/artist communities are you a part of? Do you need to get connected?