Saturday, April 15

Writing Retreats: A Rare Treat


I had the opportunity to go away on a writing retreat the first week in April. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be able to concentrate solely on writing for three solid days. Someone else to cook AND wash dishes? Check. Time to think and reflect? Check, and double check. Hanging out with writing friends, people who share my interests and understand the writing life? Priceless.

Though I’ve lived in Manitoba for almost nineteen years, I’ve maintained my friendships with writer friends in Saskatchewan, my home province. For many of those years, we held an annual writing retreat. It was a few days to get away and simply write, as well as having fun with friends. I always looked forward to it, especially after I moved. This once a year event was often the only chance I had to see my Saskatchewan friends.


But the group is changing, and in 2016, no retreat was organized. I missed it like crazy, and I was determined I was going on retreat this year, come Hell or high water. I sent out a message asking if anyone else was interested in joining me, and thankfully they were! Twelve of us attended either all or part of the retreat.

We stayed at Living Skies Conference and Retreat Center in the Qu’Appelle Valley, just north of Regina, Saskatchewan. It’s a lovely setting, even if it was too early for the leaves to be out or the grass to be green (we are in Canada after all, and it was only the first week in April). We each had our own modest, but comfortable room, each with an attached bathroom and a small desk. This afforded us the solitude and privacy to write, though some of my friends preferred to write in the lounge, in one of the comfy armchairs in front of the large bright windows overlooking the valley. Since we were the only group in the retreat center, we could write anywhere without being disturbed.


We spent meals together gathered around a large table. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations and catching up with old friends and getting to know new ones. And the food was fabulous. I especially enjoy food I don’t have to cook! After meals, or if we needed a break to commune with nature, we could explore the trails in the hills, or walk the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a place of reflection and calm, something I really needed. When I walked the winding path to the center of the labyrinth, the thought that came to me was “Let it be”. Don’t try to force things, don’t obsess. This applied to my writing and my life.
The Labyrinth at Living Skies
I got a lot done, though I didn’t finish my entire WIP. But at least I know where I’m going now. I’m happy with the progress I made.

Now if I could just duplicate at home the zen I achieved at Living Skies…

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been busy every day. I had to go to the day job, attended a couple of yoga classes, went to a Masters party (golf, that is), took my fourteen-and-a-half-year-old dog on an emergency visit to the vet, and dealt with contractors on our kitchen reno (see some pictures here). As I write this, a couple of guys are installing my new kitchen floor as my dog cowers under my desk. Fortunately, she’s feeling better, though she’s not crazy about the noise they’re making. There was a mix-up in the size of the subfloor ordered (I guess I had the mix-up), and I now have seven sheets of plywood I don’t need decorating my living room. If any reader out there is considering a renovation, do yourself a favor and just move. It’ll be easier. But I digress...back to zen.


Consequently, I’ve written maybe a hundred words since I’ve been home. I have to find a way to work through the chaos and noise, though to be honest, I’ve never been good at that. I can’t even take Kristina’s advice about writing at the library since I have to be at home right now.

That’s why writing retreats are so precious to me. Have you ever been on a writing retreat? If you’re a writer, what do you do to block out the noise of life? If you’re a reader, how do you find your zen?

9 comments:

  1. I love writing retreats! When Nan and I go on vacation, that's basically what it is. We're past due for a getaway now (my fault) and I think we're both feeling the absence of that zen you mentioned. A great post, Jana, and I'm so glad you got to have the retreat even if you didn't get to see your old friends.

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    1. I got to see a lot of old friends, Liz. It's what made the retreat so great. Unfortunately, when I got home, the zen was over! I've got to work hard to make it come back.

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  2. Writing retreats are amazing - my former RWA chapter has one every fall...the talking, the writing...it's all amazing!

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  3. It is amazing. It so great to put the world aside for a few days and just let the stories in my head take over.

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  4. It was my first writing retreat and now I'm hooked! Can't wait for the next one. Fortunately, life's a little calmer on my front and I was able to carry my productiveness into the next week. Good luck with both your writing and your renovations!

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    1. You went through kitchen renovations not long ago, didn't you Karyn? I'm not sure I'll ever do major renovations again. It's not been fun.

      I loved our retreat. It was great to get away for a few days; I only wish it had been longer. I can't wait till the next one!

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  5. I have never done this but it sounds like Heaven!! The closest I ever came to it was the time my friend and I drove up to the Surrey Conference and stayed. Although I don't remember a lot of writing getting done. So, maybe not. Lol

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  6. No, I didn't get a lot of writing done at the Surrey conference either. I was too busy taking in workshops. And I may have spent a little time in the hotel bar. Networking, of course! I hope that someday we can both be in Surrey at the same time. It would be so great to meet you.

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    1. Agreed! Now, to get my enhanced license so I can cross the border again πŸ˜ƒ

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