Monday, May 5, 2014


Right this second, I'm sitting in the middle of a gorgeous green lawn, reclining in a lounge chair, with my laptop in my lap and my eyeballs closed. A refreshing breeze is blowing across my face and arms, while the sun's warmth keeps me from getting too cold. I'm on retreat. A writer's retreat. And it's heaven.

I just opened my eyes, but I can't make out the screen clearly on account of my sun-blinded eyeballs (turning one's face up to the sun will do that, I suppose, even with your lids clamped down), so I'll keep writing without the assistance of visual input for a while longer.

For the last few months, I've been dealing with my usual winter blahs. Spring arrived, but the inspiration didn't come with it. I haven't written as much or as well as I'd like. I have allowed myself to get caught up in everything else that needs my attention: children; spouse; laundry; house; cat. Meanwhile, the manuscript doesn't impose. It doesn't insist I work on it. It just sits on my hard drive, patiently waiting for me, accepting whatever bits of time I give it.

The trouble is, if you let it, a manuscript will do nothing but wait. In my experience, manuscripts EXCEL at waiting. They might even major in it at college. While they sit there, waiting all professional-like, everything else in a writer's life continues to demand her notice. Loudly. It's so easy to lose the stride, the fire.

Seriously, I can't see. What is this even?

Enter the writing retreat.

One of my very best friends in all the world knew I was struggling, and she generously invited me to come to her home to work. She and her husband (another of my very favorites) have treated me like an honored guest, their Author In Residence, while I've been here. They've seen to my every need while I have taken over a whole portion of their house, spreading my research materials, computer, and personal belongings all over the place. They've fed me beautiful meals and refused to allow me to do the dishes. They've told me my only responsibility here is to get inspired and WRITE.

And boy howdy, I have written.

It's amazing what miracles a change of scenery can do, what wonders can be wrought by a temporary reprieve from responsibility. With nothing else to focus on, my brain has been working in overdrive, churning out more words in the last four days than I've written in the whole last month. Right this minute, writing isn't something that's getting in the way of all the other stuff I have to do for my family and home. It's a pleasure, a wonderful, beautiful pleasure. THIS is why high school and college students can churn out poem after poem. When you've got nothing to do but think about the story... you think about the story. And you write it. And maybe also a blog post for the poor, neglected blog.

Calling an event like this a retreat is apt. What is a retreat, but an occasion to pull back and regroup? When faced with an overwhelming situation, a retreat allows a writer (or an army) to strategically refocus the effort where it's most needed.

Tomorrow is my last day of retreat. Wednesday, I return to my life and all the business that is going to try to pull me away from my writing. I hope to carry with me the feeling of my retreat, of being able to disengage from everything around me for a short time to focus on the work. To remember why it is I love writing so freaking much.