It requires being alone with our creativity. Writing retreats are great places for this to happen.
Each summer I teach two week-long writing retreats on an island in Lake Superior. They are sponsored by Madeline Island School of the Arts, and we live on campus in cottages and gather each day in a sunny classroom to orient, plan, and learn--then go off to write alone. I find the coming together, the daily check-ins, balanced with the solo writing time, is the key to making a retreat work.
What is necessary boredom, and why is it so important for writing?
But inner lives can be scary to face alone! The balance, again, of community and coaching are what makes it possible.
Looking at Your Own Motivation--The First Question
Good retreats provide (1) necessary boredom, (2) coaching and new skills when you get stuck, and (3) just enough community to feel support but not social overwhelm.
What are the personal benefits to me? If no one else were to read this book, would I still write it?
When the book doesn't get written, the reasons are as individual as the writer. Maybe you don't have enough time. Maybe you have too much fear, and it keeps biting you when you sit down to write.
I urge them to remember what it was like to waste time in sheer exploration. It may sound counter-intuitive, but each day on Madeline Island we practice time management from a perspective of creativity. With some structure and plenty of writing time, writers begin to see that elusive thing called time and what it really meant for them as creative writers.
As each writer got more relaxed and felt more at ease with the group and our daily schedule, as we got to know each other as a creative group, we began share more intimately, be foolish in front of each other. We gradually read more of our raw writing, scenes just created that day, and this let everyone practice being fearless. As voices were heard and respected, these voices got stronger.
I am always amazed at how the week grows organically, how it becomes custom-made for each person.
It is always hard to say goodbye on Friday. We become quite a family by the end of the week--which is how a good retreat should be. Knowing each others' true stories is often the best door to really knowing a person.
1. Why am I really writing this book?
2. What's the primary obstacle I face, in writing this book?