Friday, January 13, 2012

Sound Retreat

By Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone

What is my idea of a favorite writing retreat? I have gone on many an excursion with journal and pen in hand expecting the soothing quiet of a remote location and the not-available-at-my-house perfection of room service to provide the idyllic tranquility and undiminished concentration to dash off the great American novel. So far, mostly all I’ve achieved are frequent flyer points. As it turns out, preparing for the perfect writing experience actually strangles the moment for me. It’s too much pressure, too much opportunity, too much much.

When I think of the places I’ve actually written well, when the words flowed like honey onto the page, well, I am lead to the conclusion that more prisoners should be best-selling authors. And those Chilean coal miners? Well, they had time to brainstorm adventure series while waiting for daylight to break through. No distractions, no lovely beach, no tanned hard bodies wandering into view. Distractions, distractions, distractions. They are the nemesis of my moment of literary retreat.

A writer friend of mine told me that if I wanted to write more, better, faster, I needed to make my writing less precious. I needed to stop waiting for the retreat – the perfect moment, the picturesque location, the soothing environment – and find my retreat in every free hour, half-hour, ten minutes of unexpected time, in every location from parking lots to busy coffee houses. She encouraged me to discover my writing retreat serendipitiously, in every opportunity that presented itself. I may long for Maui and sultry tropical breezes but the best writing retreats now require the true writer’s passport --my journal. Basically, she taught me that to write I needed to retreat from retreat. I needed to live, make the words part of the daily life, the real life that gets lived and breathed without thinking.

In my journey during 2011, when I decided I needed to recommit myself to myself as writer, I made some changes that I hope will pay dividends in 2012. The first, to keep my journal always with me, seems to be working. I’m not writing stories in it, I’m just jotting ideas, capturing moments of life and laughter as they jump out at me. That journal is giving me daily “retreats” without requiring a budget or a rental car. More importantly, they string from day to day like fairy lights, magically leading me down adventurous paths built of imagination and grouted with language. Have you ever walked a labyrinth in your own town? Go online and see if you can find one. Take fifteen minutes and put one foot in front of the other, opening your mind and your heart to whatever comes. Then take forty-five minutes and write, write, write. Then give everything, anything, everything that comes into your mind as an offering onto the page right there next to the maze. And tell me if you don’t feel renewed. Rested. Re-energized.

Writing, for me, isn’t a retreat. Not when it’s good and pure. It’s the opposite, regardless of atmosphere and geography. It’s an advance. A charge into the life that gives me the stories. So for 2012 I won’t be doing any writing retreats. Forward charges only. I’ll look forward to meeting you all there.

Thanks for reading.



Meredith Cole said...

I'm a huge journal fan--I'm glad to hear it's working for you, Gabi. I use mine to get warmed up and help me get rolling during my writing sessions. And having a place to jot down those little ideas that pop up unexpectedly is great, too.

Gabi said...

What would we do without our handy this thought might fall out of my head blank page? Not that that ever happens to you, Meredith.

Lori Lacefield said...

I need more of this daily "retreat" too. I still like unofficial writer retreats though. One writer friend and I went to Maui in nov and it was a perfect combination of writing, dinners, wine, writing, talking, ok more wine, and late night writing. Really got me re-energized, and I realize that is just perfect. So if you ever want to "retreat" for a week or weekend somewhere, let me know. Would love to catch up AND write!