Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing Retreats and Writing Fridays

Writing Retreats and Writing Fridays

In 2002, I went to my first writing workshop/retreat on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle. I’d long been a fan of Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion: Journal Writing for the Spiritual Quest, a book that had been influential in getting me journaling after I go sober. When I learned that Baldwin lived five hours from me and offered retreats, I signed up!

Lots of wonderful things happened to me at that first retreat. I discovered the beauty of Aldermarsh, the lovely retreat center where we stayed, and I got started as a serious writer. But equally important was my learning about writing in community. Each day we worked in silence in our own spaces, all the while “holding the container” for each other. Each day we met for lunch and dinner and laughed and talked. Each day we met in sacred circle and read our work or talked about our joys and frustrations. It was magical.

I went home determined to write every day, to become a writer. But it didn’t happen even though I’m a person with a lot of discipline and determination. It was just too lonely. And that’s a fundamental truth about writing. It’s a lonely business. So I signed up for another workshop with Christina and wrote a lot.

The same magic of community happened and I realized I needed to create some community at home for myself. So I did two things: I figured out some other retreats I could arrange (like borrowing my friend Diane’s beach cabin for five days or house sitting for my sister and inviting a writer friend along).

And I started doing Writing Fridays.

On certain Fridays, I invite 4-5 writers to join me from 10 to 4. We have a brief opening circle, where we state our intention for the day. Then we work in silence on our writing until 12:30, when we meet for our brown-bag lunch. Then we start writing again about 1:15 and write until 3. From 3 to 4, we talk about how it went, encourage those who need it, and read what we’ve been working on. It’s a wonderful peaceful day and always productive.

Some of the same writers come regularly and we’ve even held our own retreats at Aldermarsh Retreat Center. So if you're struggling to get writing done alone, try finding or creating some community.

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