And So, 10,000 Calories Later…
As you know, Bob and Bobbette, I write full time. I set my schedule each day, determining how to accomplish the writing that must be done, balancing that with the administrative work generated by a career that consists mostly of self-publishing. I don’t have to report to a day-job; I don’t have an external boss. (Okay, there’s a pretty forceful orange kitty, but I still control the bag of treats.)
Given that life of relative leisure, that schedule of general luxury, why would I ever want to go on a writer’s retreat? Isn’t a retreat really a form of busman’s holiday? A way to take my work and stretch it over more days, more nights, more hours?
Well, yes and no.
Last weekend, I went on a writers’ retreat with three other writers. (There was supposed to be a fifth person at our little getaway, but alas, family crises intervened…) I was “hosting” the retreat; however, my home is too small to host so many dedicated writers. Therefore, I was responsible for feeding three other writers, from Friday evening through Sunday lunch. (I also volunteered to do pre-retreat bed-making and post-retreat laundry, but the actual physical-space hostess declined my offer.)
First, the retreat allows me to socialize with other writers. We get to trade stories — about what we’re working on, about which writers we’ve recently met in person or online, about new developments in traditional- and self-publishing, about the crazy, constantly changing business we choose to call our own. We talk when folks arrive at the retreat, and we talk at meals. We talk at impromptu mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks. We talk when we’re ready to knock off work in the middle of the night. There’s a lot of talking, even though most of us are relatively introverted people. (A lot of the talk involves actual meals or improvised snacks, hence the title of this blog post…)
Second, the retreat allows me to write. Yes, I have my own schedule, and I get my own writing done at my own desk in my own office in my own home. But when I’ve committed to traveling 1.5 hours away to write, when I’ve taken a weekend away from family to write, when I’ve carved out days on my calendar, protecting them from other events, to write, then I know I have to actually, you know, write. This past weekend, I generated about 25,000 new words. They aren’t perfect. I left myself some blanks that I’ll need to fill in later. I know I’ll have to add more to some scenes and take some away from others. But I produced close to one third of a novel in three days, and I’m quite pleased with that output.
Third, the retreat allows me to think. I spent a little more than three hours in the car, driving up to and back from the retreat. Those hours work a bit like time spent in the shower or time swimming (without nearly as much wrinkled skin to contend with!) — my writer-brain is freed to work on plot snarls, on subplot structure, on the rough places where I know the novel still isn’t working. After arriving home, I knew that I needed to revisit two earlier scenes in the book, making clear their connection to the main plot, strengthening the complementary power of the subplot.
I fully expect to pay for my retreat. (Sure, there’s the economic payout — gasoline and food. I mean the real cost.) That bossy orange kitty didn’t let me out of her sight last night. And I’m typing around her purring little body this morning.
But I’m incredibly lucky. I don’t have to “pay” my spouse for my retreat. He never makes me feel guilty for abandoning him, for walking out on a weekend when he had to wrangle cats alone, when he was stuck by himself for hours and hours and hours. (Yes, I know that he enjoys his own down-time. But I take the choice away from him when I choose to go on retreats.)
And so, 10,000 calories later, I’m rolling up my sleeves. I’m back to work on JOY OF WITCHCRAFT. I’m throwing new obstacles in Jane Madison’s path. Because that’s what writers do. We write. (And eat and talk and eat and plan and eat and outline and eat…)
How about you? How did you spend your weekend?