Saturday, February 20, 2010

Writing retreat--Day 1

This morning my friend Isabelle and I left Portland about 9:30 for the glories of Tillamook County and a writing retreat in Netarts, a tiny village to the west of Tillamook proper. Our friend Susan had found a house for us there, very affordable when six artists share the space for a week. It was a glorious morning to start out on an adventure, as we're having a false spring, not uncommon for Oregon in February.

I do writing retreats often. I like writing in the company of others who are also at work at the craft. There's a synergy, a hum of creativity that is very conducive to my own work. And we usually agree in an opening circle to keep silence through most or part of the day.

Over the years, the retreats I lead have evolved into a certain loose structure: breakfast whenever we want (sleeping our fill is one of the nicest retreat luxuries), silence then for folks to work or think or dream or walk or write. In our current group, we are five writers and one painter. Lunch too is on our own though one person each day is in charge of providing fixings, putting them out, and cleaning up after. Then there is silence all the long afternoon: more writing, more walking, more dreaming.

At the end of the day (sometimes afternoon, sometimes evening), there is a circle. It's slightly ritualized with a different object chosen each day as a talking "stick" be it a shell, personal momento, feather, talisman. We check in with each other as to the day's progress--most of the check-in is emotional rather than literary. How we felt about our work, how long it took the muse to show up, what the inner critic had to say. We celebrate pages written, ideas explored, fallow times of just reading and thinking. Then in a second round, people read what they've been working on for a few minutes. It's always okay to pass if you don't want to read.

After dinner, there is usually a certain amount of hilarity as we play canasta, scrabble, quiddler. Sometimes we do collage together or other art work. Not everyone wants to play. If the muse is still around, people will disappear back to their rooms for more writing but most of us are ready to be social after a long day alone and enmeshed in our work.

Each day is a bit like the one before although the stories being written evolve as do the friendships of those in such close creative communion. The writing intensifies when it is given such lavish attention and so do our creative spirits. I highly recommend it.

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