I've just returned from another of the writing retreats I organize for my critiquing group. (We book a remote seaside accommodation 3 or 4 times a year and just go there by ourselves to write.) This was only a mini one - 3 days and 2 nights. Usually they run for a week or more.
A strange thing happened as I walked the beach this time. Images from stories I'd worked on at past retreats flashed through my mind, a montage of characters and scenes parading before me - ghosts from projects past.
It made me realize just how long we've been doing these retreat. Nine years in fact. This most recent was actually our 27th one!
So why do we do them? Why do we all love them so much? Why has nearly everyone who's attended one asked to come back again?
Our group has often discussed this and for some the reasons are individual. One woman who lives alone enjoys the company. Another who collects shells enjoys combing the beach as she plots her stories.
But all of us agree there are three main reasons why we love retreats:
This would have to be the number one reason people choose to attend our retreats. No TV, no friends dropping by, no family demands, no housework (aside from cooking one night's dinner) means everyone can focus entirely on their work. Some even choose not to bring a WIFI dongle so the internet doesn't take up any time.
Fewer avoidance options
One of our regular attendees once remarked, 'At home when I hit a rough patch in my writing it's all too easy to find something else to do. Suddenly the laundry needs doing or I have to weed the garden, or whatever. At retreats I don't have those options so I'm forced to sit there and push through the problem. As a result I get heaps more done.'
Another attendee put it a different way, 'On retreats whenever the going gets tough and I think of deserting my desk, I look around at everyone else madly writing away and I sit back down again. I'd feel too guilty walking away when everyone else was working!'
This is one of my favorite reasons for attending retreats. It's hard to explain and possibly purely subjective on my part. When I sit in that hall surrounded by other dedicated writers all doing their thing, I swear I can feel a creative energy being generated, lifting me up. It's like riding a wave and somehow it makes my writing easier.
Writing is normally such a solitary activity it's nice to do it with others once in a while. Working beside those who share the same passion reaffirms my belief that writing is important and what we're attempting to do has value.
Bring on the next retreat!