Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Writing Retreat of Sorts

I am at the beach. For the week. Now, why is it that every time I step foot into this small beach town (the one I spent summers at, the one where my parents now live) I am suddenly ready to write? Last summer I spent a few weeks here and they were the most productive writing weeks I’d had all year! I woke every morning early, dragged my chair to the beach, and spent hours scribbling stories into my notebook. This is another thing I do when I get here: I take pen to page. I don’t use a computer. Something about sitting outside, the waves crashing only feet away from me, something about the feel of the pen moving across the paper— all this creates good, true writing.

So I’m excited. Hopefully I will be inspired this visit. I’ve already had a few ideas. A line of dialogue recently popped into my head and I keep revisiting it. Could it be the first line of a new novel? I also had another idea for a short story. And I’ve been dreaming. Dreams always come harder and faster when I’m here. Is it the salt air streaming in the windows? Perhaps. Dreams are often the inspiration for many of my stories.

I think just getting away helps. I need space when I write. Space from everyday stress, from my to-do lists. And I need it literally—wide open space. I guess that’s why so many people take writing retreats, why they sign up for conferences and residencies. We need to clear our minds, give ourselves the gift of a quiet setting—all this allows creativity to breathe and bloom. Last summer my friend Katie and I headed to Provincetown to the
Fine Arts Work Center for a writing workshop. We holed up in a hotel room that boasted the most beautiful deck. We would park ourselves on pool chairs, notebooks in hands, and write until the sun set. The class was great, but the “getting away” was even better. We ate oysters and lobsters and free wrote while sipping on gin and tonics. It was a writing vacation. And the writing came. It seems when we make an effort to relax, that vessel just seems to just open. And even better: when I’m relaxed, I am less judgmental about what I’m putting on the page. Yes, the first step to banishing my perfectionism.

And two summers before that! My most favorite retreat yet. All the way to Auvillar, France. I spent a week in this tiny village taking writing classes with the
VCCA and eating and drinking and walking into town to buy cold Cokes. I let my laundry air dry and watched donkeys walk down the steep hills and picked sunflowers. The writing workshops were set in the middle of the day and mornings and evenings were spent fostering creativity in these other wonderful ways. So luxurious. Again, the writing came.

I know we can’t always travel to France to find our writing groove, but it definitely helps to just take a break, even if it’s heading to the local park to spend two hours writing under a shady tree. And so I’m going to take full advantage of this time and this beach and see what stories are begging to be told. It’s overcast here today, but I don’t mind. It makes everything feel a little more mysterious and romantic. There is something about walking the beach on a misty day that makes me feel so happy and so utterly at home.

Have a great day, everyone! And may you find the perfect writing retreat of your own.

"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium."
~Norbet Platt


Katie said...

I would love to leave the country or even leave town to do some serious writing. Unfortunately, that's not a reality right now. Instead, I find my days to be most productive when I'm sitting somewhere other than my desk. Be it a coffee shop, the library, or even in the basement. A simple change of scenery makes a world of difference.

<>< Katie

Zachary Grimm said...

Kate!! Hi! SOOOOO excited to keep in touch on your new blog! I LOVE IT already! Right now my favorite thing is your Anne Rivers Siddons quote. WOW. And of course I love that I can keep reading quotes after your posts.

Anyway, YAYYY for the new blog! Can't wait to read more! :-D

Zachary Grimm said...

Oh, and I too am at a lake (in WAYYYYYY north Michigan) AND I am writing. It IS fantastic, you are correct. Nothin' better than a beach, the woods, and water. :)

Laura Marcella said...

I love writing with pencil and paper, too. Eventually I transfer to the computer, but my writing flows more freely when I begin a story or chapter the old-fashioned way!

I love the beach!!! I hope you enjoyed your time there and that the writing came as swiftly and strong as the waves!

Koala Bear Writer said...

I think the problem is that at home, so many other things call for our attention - laundry, cleaning, cooking, or for me, a toddler and a baby. When we are away, it's easier to let those things go and focus on the writing.

Kate said...

Katie-- I agree. A change of scenery does wonders for the imagination.

Zachary-- Yay! I'm so glad you're here and following my journey. Thanks for all your support. :)

Koala Bear Writer-- My mind is always muddled with that "to-do" list, too. I think we forget sometimes that it's okay to let the cooking and cleaning go for a day or two to focus on the writing. I have a problem doing that and yes, that's why getting away helps! Otherwise those dust bunnies are just staring at me in the face.