Friday, December 20, 2019

Getting Away from Your Life to "Entrain" at a New Level: Benefits of a Writing Retreat or Class Away from Home

Winter is the time of year when I think about entrainment.  Entrainment, as it pertains to the writer's life, is the art and science of learning by proximity to writers who are working at a higher level than you.  It's skill by osmosis, by community.  For me, it's an absolute necessity.

Why?  Because we only know what we know.  We reinvent ourselves over and over, unconsciously, until we entrain with something moving at a higher skill level.

I am a landscape painter as well as a writer (juggling more than one artistic passion is a challenge, but I can't put either one aside).  For years, I spent a week each January in California entraining with my favorite painting teacher.  I found a week the perfect amount of time to shake myself out of my own repetitious ruts and begin to synchronize with what she was trying to teach me. 

The beginning of the week, about twenty-four hours on average, I fought moving out of what I knew.  I painted the things I knew how to paint, and my teacher offered small suggestions, but she knew (as well as I did) that I'd need time to exhaust my interest in repetition and safety.

About midweek, I became bored and a little frustrated.  I sensed there was more.  I'd spent the money, wangled the time off from family and job, so I really didn't want to leave with the exact same toolbox I'd arrived with.  I began looking around for small risks to take with my painting.  A new subject, a new method.  My teacher, being attuned to the entrainment that was occurring, was right there, waiting with bigger suggestions.  I'd usually try them, fail a bit, try again, and soar.

By the end of the week, I had a new perspective and new techniques, but most of all, I'd picked up, unconsciously, some of the ways she approached her own art.  I'd moved to a higher level.  And I took it home with me.

Of course, I also loved the warm weather break from winter in New England.  But I could get that lying on a beach.  As an artist, I wanted more than just a vacation.  

These retreats away from home marked my new year and helped me set goals for progress with my craft, which I could bring to fruition all year long.

When Madeline School of the Arts (MISA) asked me to offer winter writing retreats in Tucson and Santa Fe, I remembered how much I'd gotten from my art weeks.  I said yes.  MISA is an old friend--their home base on an island in Lake Superior is where I teach each summer, and they were opening new locations in the southwest to fill the wintertime need of art students around the world.  This year will mark my fourth winter teaching for them in Tucson and my second in Santa Fe.  I hope you'll consider giving yourself the gift of a week away.  

You get to entrain with me, as I entrained with my painting teacher, and you get to learn as well from a small but vibrant community of other book writers who attend.  All levels are welcome.  Last year, a writer attended to finish her book--it is slated for publication in 2020.   

Wishing you a happy holiday season and new year, good writing ahead, and if you're tempted by the idea of entraining together this winter, check out my Tucson retreat in Februaryhere and my Santa Fe retreat in Marchhere.  A few spots still open.  (Links are also in the sidebar on this page.)

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