When faced with a blank sheet of paper, ordinary people cringe. When faced with a writing assignment, normal people would rather go to the dentist. When contemplating a full day week of writing, or a deadline, many writers would rather run errands and do the laundry. But there is a subset of writers for whom the act of writing is not only enjoyed but also relished -- those of us who can't get enough of the blank page, the empty room, the solitude.
For us diehards, a real vacation is a week or even a month away on our own to write. Leaving home with a toothbrush, a stack of yellow pads, laptop, and a trove of books for inspiration is a brand of Nirvana. Sure, most vacationers chomp at the bit to climb Kilimanjaro, Everest or even Mt. McKinley on their precious summer vacations. Others dream of long, languid days at the beach, an ocean cruise, a tour through Europe's capitals. We crazed ones want to write. Some even pay for the privilege.
Seriously? Isn't it said that when you sign up to be a writer it means that you are going to have homework every day for the rest of your lives? Who would want that? Besides, isn't there enough time to write at home, in between your full time or several part time jobs, your kids, your family, your (fill in the blank of the things that divert your attention on a daily basis.)
How can a writing retreat possibly qualify as a vacation? Aren't vacations the time when you "leave it all behind," "give your mind a rest," "take it easy?"
Yes. And for most writers, those of us who truly love our craft, writing is all of the aforementioned. We are leaving it all behind, we are giving our minds a rest, and we are taking it easy. Because for us "retreaters" the idea of being alone to think and create is energizing, revitalizing and exciting in the way of the most exciting mountain climb, trail exploration or rafting trip. To be there, awake, fresh, to experience the creative process unfold is the most thrilling thing that we writers know.
Still, vacations are a time to branch out, let loose, see new things. And retreats are this for us too. For most writers, inspiration begins on slips of paper, napkins, scribbled notes. Our drawers, lap top files and heads are filled with "fragments," those great first lines that we rarely have time to bring to fruition, that screenplay that's been knocking around in our heads for months, that idea for a novel that we've been stalled out on page 75. Branch out, let loose, see new things? Right?
Writing retreats are growing in popularity. The most recent search on Google came up with over 300 guided retreats and retreat centers. And then there are those of us who go off alone -- no guide, no mentor, no community, no shared dinners. Solo. Alone.
This is the 10th summer that I've put aside a week for myself to write. And I still don't get away without a healthy dose of guilt. 'Do I deserve this? A week to myself?' Then there's the realization (happens every year -- but I forget) that this is not about 'leaving' my spouse, but about creating uninterrupted time. If I want to write through breakfast, lunch and dinner, so be it. If I want to lie in bed until noon, writing, so be it. If I want to stare at the wall for an evening, so be it.
Still, leaving always brings a modicum of anxiety. Do I still have the chops? What if all those ideas really are terrible? Well, as the great ones say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
So, give yourself a gift -- the gift of time. Go on a retreat, a personal vacation. It's an adventure of a lifetime.