Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mini-Writing Retreat #1: What IS a retreat after all?

Thanks to those who shared links to lists--they'll appear in a blog when I take up 'resources for writers' again. For the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about mini-writing retreats and what can be gained from finding a new and different place to write. 
BTW, congratulations to Lori Robinette who won the CD with my books, Where Is Papa's Shining Star? and Finding Papa's Shining Star.
 There are an even dozen definitions for the word ‘retreat’, most of which don’t apply to what I did yesterday and plan to do once a week for the foreseeable future. My goals were to (1) get away and see something new and (2) accomplish more writing in a shorter time by virtue of no internet access. Both goals were met. (More on that later.)
Lake Catherine State Park is located just over 40 miles from home, so I loaded up everything on a carefully-prepared list—and the dog, who is always ready to go somewhere—and headed out. Temperature: cool. Sun: warm. Breeze: constant, like the sound of rushing water. Leaves: crunchy underfoot. Scents: earthy. Music: classical. Diet DP: of course. Dog: loving it.
We found an unoccupied picnic spot (um, guess there were ALL unoccupied, actually) and pulled in. Dog out on long tether, water bowl filled, tablecloth spread, CD in player, computer booted, DP open, first writing project completed in no time at all. I deserved a break, so I settled back to consider just what a ‘retreat’ is really all about.
I wasn’t running away from anything. As Nellie Forbush said in the inimitable South Pacific, it was more like running to something. I had the satisfaction of having taken control of my day. Now there was time to think and, most importantly, to sort out those thoughts and make sense out of them. And what better way to preserve them than by writing everything down? I filled three pages of a spiral notebook in just over half an hour.
Feeling quite smug and self-satisfied (or are those one and the same emotions?), I leaned back and squinted up at the tree branches which formed a canopy over my cozy place. Look closely at the picture, how the branches grow randomly from the trunk, ending up virtually nowhere. Ah, but do they really? 

Look again. Those branches are necessary for growth. They provide the base for the leaves which shield the observer from the sun. I noticed that even Lady’s attention seemed to be drawn upward rather than outward.     
Being a writer, I naturally began to make a comparison between the growth patterns of the trees and writing. Consider the limbs (ending nowhere) as the foundation of writing—call it ability, talent, determination, desire, whatever you please. The leaves are the words and ideas that flow from that.
But, you say, they don’t go anywhere. They just hang out. That’s right—that’s all they do. But the point is, they DO something, just as we do something when we write. Whether we publish traditionally, independently, or not at all, we’ve grown those limbs and filled them with leaves, and they are there—and useful—and beautiful.
One of yesterday’s projects was more reading in Chris Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey, in which he says, “…you must express your creativity, your true nature, or die…”
When the trees cease to grow new limbs, to produce leaves, they die.
When the writer ceases to write, he dies (the creative part of him anyway).
There are many reasons to write. Mine is simply to write for the sake of writing.
I’m alive.

1 comment:

K9friend said...

Sounds like your mini-retreat was quite a success. Getting away from everything (including that dreaded time-waster the internet) is a good way to let the brain churn and creativity flow!