Sometimes, you just have to get away. After completing my latest manuscript and sending if off my my beta readers, I packed up and went on my first writing retreat hosted by friend and fellow writer, Hazel Manuel at her country villa outside Saumur, France.
The basic structure of this five day six night retreat consisted of morning workshops with Hazel, afternoon work time, and evening share outs. All of this is peppered by delicious meals catered by Chez Teresa in Fontevraud and a Wednesday night wine tasting (it is France afterall) by La Giraudiere which were both fantastic.
I’m by no means experienced with writing retreats but there were a few aspects that were expertly thought out and made the week seemless.
First, there were only four writers at the retreat not including the host. That felt right. There were enough minds and voices to drive discussion, and analyze work but few enough to allow space for everyone to participate.
Second, the scheduling of the week was well balanced. It was a busy week but never felt rushed. There was plenty of time for work but also plenty of time to take in your surroundings.
Finally, the workshops were developed in a way that ensured progress for your project by the end of week. Each day tied into the next and you couldn’t help but grow your story by the end.
If this sort of retreat sounds intriguing, take a look at Hazel’s retreats page.
I did a thing.
Just under two weeks ago, I completed the manuscript for Radio, my latest novel.
That meant I got to break out the celebratory scotch, reserved for just this occasion, and share some with my wife. Woot!
Aside from an excuse to break out the good stuff and heave a massive sigh of relief, there’s a really important understanding that comes from finishing your work and I think it’s important to recognise and hold onto that feeling.
I’m talking about the the understanding that you are, indeed, a writer.
It’s insane how unwriterly I can feel while I’m in the act of writing. Imposter syndrome can be debilitating and there is no cure quite like finishing your work.
One of my favorite quotes on writing, credited most commonly to Dorothy Parker is “I hate writing, I love having written.” I relate to this way too much. Writing is hard, for a lazy guy like me, doubly so, but the satisfaction of staring that bastard of a manuscript in the face and saying, “Bam! I finished you. I beat you. I won!” That’s a good feeling.
It’s also important to remind yourself that finishing, at this point in the process, doesn’t mean perfecting. Perfection in writing doesn’t really exist anyway. It’s about having something to show for your efforts. Hundreds of pages filled with tens of thousands of words, all produced by you. That makes you a writer under any definition. Quality is another question and that comes later. For now it’s important to sit back, have a sip, and enjoy having written.
Just sitting here in front of the tree and wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa. To my Pagan readers and pretty much all of our ancestors, sorry about the whole co-opting the solstice thing. Have a great weekend everyone and what the hell, Happy New Year! We certainly need one.