“"...till by the end you feel you have lived many lives: which is perhaps the greatest gift a novel can give."”
Ursula K. Le Guin

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

The View From Tenaya's Porch
Smiles in the Garden
Ned Writes 2009! - Weekend Writing Retreat
Tue 2009-07-21 15:04:07 (single post)

I spent the better part of this past weekend with my Tuesday writing group in Nederland (elevation 8,233) where we did what writers do when we get together: We wrote. A lot. We also ate a variety of yummy things, walked our feet off, gawked at baby swallows at the post office, oohed and aahed at the scenery, lounged in the hot tub, and enjoyed the constant affections of two cats and a dog.

Tenaya took advantage of her family being out on a fishing trip to invite Ellen and I up to her house, which is cozy and spacious, well furnished in creature comforts, and also possessed of possibly the best view in town. See photo 1: this is the view from Tenaya's porch. The rooftops of central Ned, and the lake behind it--you can just make out the dam. From the desk Tenaya set me up at, I could see this view each time I looked out the window.

Next photo: Tenaya and Ellen smiling big happy smiles of accomplishment! This was taken Sunday afternoon just before Ellen and I departed for the bus station.

We had spent that morning and the day before alternating 2-hour writing sessions with breaks for food, exercise, and self-pampering. I got two brand new scenes for a brand new short story written ("Janet's Fibercrafts and Miscellaneous Services", temporary working title), and I submitted my very first content article to Demand Studios (it was subsequently approved and I got paid for it, yay!). Tenaya and Ellen were both deep in the organization stage of novel revisions, condensing scenes and considering character story arcs. Occasionally hummingbirds would buzz the garden (in which Tenaya and Ellen are sitting in this photo), or the pets would wander through, or someone would put on another pot of coffee or tea.

Group writing retreats: I can't recommend them strongly enough. With writing comes a multitude of snares: loneliness, aimlessness, self-doubt and self-effacement, even despair. A writing retreat can trip all those traps and render them harmless--at least temporarily. The constant company of friends who are equally determined to Get Writing Done is a good antidote for the solitary nature of the work. Holding each other to an agreed-upon schedule adds structure and inspiration to keep a writer on task and excited about it. And the very act of dedicating a weekend together to Writing And Nothing But Writing goes a long way to combat the everyday wear-and-tear damage a writer's confidence can sustain: "Are you working, or are you just writing?" "Am I interrupting something? Oh, you're just writing." "Everyone writes--how hard can it be?" Writers writing together are constantly reassuring each other, just with their continued presence and dedication, that what we are doing here is important. Important enough to protect it by turning off the phones, leaving everyday responsibilities in the hands of a kind friend or family member, to beg off invitations and social would-be obligations with "When--this weekend? Oh, I can't. I'll be busy writing."

We talked about having another one of these retreats soon, taking turns as hosts. I'm going to try to reserve us a weekend at the Sheraton Mountain Vista in Avon come late August or September; that worked out really well a couple years back. It's gorgeous up there in the Vail Valley. But if that doesn't work out, there's no reason we can't just congregate at my house. It's a pretty ordinary space compared to Nederland or Avon, sure, but even ordinary spaces can be consecrated to a purpose. Ask Tenaya: However exotic the location seemed to me, to her it was simply her house. She lives there day in and day out. She invited us up to help her make it special--by virtue of how we used it. Even a small corner of a two-bedroom apartment in the middle of the city can become special, dedicated to a special task. And never doubt that the task is special. Special enough to devote one's working life to it.

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