This last weekend, I took four days away with five other writers for a time of writing, revision, thinking, reflection, encouragement, and rejuvenation.
For those of us who take retreats, most of us use the word “retreat” to imply that we’re getting away from something. But if you think of that same word in terms of war, it implies falling back, fleeing from the force that the soldiers are resisting.
An advance is when you step forward (think “advancing troops”) and that, rather than retreat, is what every single one of us did this weekend.
As writers, we have to do everything but retreat if we want to push ourselves on to new and better things.
Speaking of pushing ourselves, we had some pretty interesting discussions. One of our poets, brought this question up after breakfast on our final day, “How do we use our words?”
I started thinking. Am I using words to encourage, strengthen, cast light, sculpt an edifying image, display reality in a fresh way? Or am I using words to feel smart, talk at length about myself, show off, win an argument, make sure I’m right?
This idea reaches far beyond the realm of writers. I realized this weekend that I honor the written word–whether it’s on the computer screen or on the pages of my notebook–far more than I take care with the words that tumble out of my mouth.
I have a huge respect for the written word. But now I want to bring that respect to things I say in conversations, emails I send on my lunch break, text messages I dash off on the way to my next event. I want to use ALL of my words for good, and to really understand how much power I wield when I use in them.
Writers are especially powerful with words–every day that we write we grow more dangerous, and at the same time we grow more adept. Words can be used with ferocity when speaking against evil, and they can be used with exquisite tenderness when comforting a bleeding heart.
And on a lighter note…
The retreat refreshed my soul as well as my laughter muscles. There was a huge hot-tub behind out cabin, and we played a game of Props in the style of Whose Line Is It Anyway? with glow-sticks on our last night there. Our laughter was probably echoing right down to the nearby beach.
Personally, I carve aside a lot of time for revision on my novel-in-progress. I dug out more depth for a subplot character who apparently needed quite a lot of love and face-time from me. (I didn’t realize quite how much attention she needed until the end of the first full writing day).
In the end, though I will always make time in my life to write, there is nothing quite like teaming up with other friends to do just that in the middle of a gorgeous location, far way from what any of us can call normal routine.
And we do not retreat, we advance, bit by bit, sharing our field knowledge and wisdom with our brethren along the way.
I’ll probably never live on an artists’ colony, but for a few days at a time, I get pretty close!