Having recently returned from the writing retreat I host in Tuscany every May and October; it seems the right moment to review why writers attend retreats and what they hope to achieve. I certainly have my theories, and I know why I would attend a writing retreat (it’s been a while), but I thought I’d do some research beyond my own opinion. Consequently, I’ve spent the last few days sifting through a stack of a hundred or so inquiry forms I’ve received in the last year.
There are two questions I ask writers to answer when inquiring about my retreats.
- Tell me a little about your writing experience.
- What would you like to take away from this retreat?
The answer to the first question ranges from; I’ve been journaling all my life and want to write a memoir to I’ve just had my first novel published, and I need to recharge my creative energies before starting the next one to I’ve lost my writing mojo and need to find it again, and so on … you get the idea.
It’s the second question I’ve spent some time studying. The breakdown for the prime objective in attending a writing retreat falls into several categories. For each category, I’ve excerpted phrases, desires, wishes, and dreams from the inquiry forms I’ve received.
Who will I be with?
The residential retreats I offer are designed for and open only to women, and this is part of the appeal for many women. But, beyond that, the search for like-minded creative souls is a common theme.
… camaraderie … a collaborative setting with other creative minds … sharing my work with other writers … fellowship with other women writers … new relationships with other writers … being with other women writers … feel part of a comminity … finding encouragement … networking with other writers to find support and inspiration …
Although no one has ever specifically said they were looking for a “safe space,” without a doubt, how safe the women feel is one of the most common remarks I get at the end of a retreat. I make sure my writers are connected before they arrive at the retreat, which helps with those “first day of kindergarten” nerves. In addition, I have clear parameters around feedback and support during our writing sessions, which helps create a nurturing and supportive environment.
Will I find peace and quiet?
Without a doubt, we all need to run away from home at some point to find our creative center, and we women are usually the last people on earth to allow ourselves this luxury. Taking time away from a busy life and putting yourself in a place where all your needs are taken care of is the ultimate act of self-care and respect, not only for yourself but for your writing. As you can see from the following excerpts, it’s a common desire/dream.
… a calm space to write … get away from the ‘busy-ness’ of everyday life … take time for me … space and quiet … home life is too hectic to focus … renewal … need for quiet … immerse myself completely in the writing process … no responsibility for anyone except myself … get out of my head … get centered and focused …
When running retreats at the villa in Tuscany, I strive to create a calm and quiet oasis where creative energy can flourish. Pacing is critical, whether it be the timing of meals, when to provide downtime or invite outside stimulation, or how quickly to introduce new materials. When your every need is met, all you have to do is write.
What will I learn?
Writers are, by nature, curious folks and forever seeking to deepen their understanding of the craft and approach it from a new or different perspective. The women writers who attend my workshops and retreats are no exception.
… a better understanding of the craft in general … improve my descriptions … organize the stories that I’ve begun but have never finished … finally tackle dialogue … hone my technique … find the beginning of my story … build better characters … further development of my writing skills … focus on structure … need help with organization … my plotting is plodding … more knowledge about self-editing …
While my passion lies in getting writers beyond their internal criticism into the creative flow, and their words on the page, I’m also dedicated to the craft. My retreats include daily writing sessions focused on elements of the craft, and the writers then employ these elements in the creative process of crafting and refining their work. We cover character development, plot, dialogue, sensory imagery, themes, editing, and more.
If not now, when?
There comes a time in life when we need to ask ourselves this question. We may well have put our heart’s desire off for too long, and hopefully, the “when” is now and not never. Life is busy; we all know that, and that busyness can drown out the whisper in our hearts asking for the things that nurture our souls.
… unleash my imagination … get back to my roots as a writer … motivation to keep writing … write daily with purpose, courage, and skill … daring to break through finally… make writing a part of my everyday life … need inspiration, guidance, and clarity … a running start on my novel … leave with the commitment to tell my story … bring my story to life on the page … am at that now or never point in my life … revive my spirit … jumpstart my desire to write again …
Now is the time to listen to that whisper.