We all start a retreat with optimism, plans and hopes and dreams. But on the drive home, or maybe just as you turn the handle on your front door, something hits you.
It’s over. The planned escape to focus on your writing is done and here you are, back home, facing all that your return will mean. And it ain’t always pretty when you once again face reality.
- NOTHING HAS CHANGED
Right on. Once you add the laundry in your suitcase to the pile you didn’t finish before you left, you realize your life waited for you. And there is no escaping it.
- YOU DIDN’T DO ENOUGH ON RETREAT
That’s right. You lazy, good for nothing writer. You spent time staring out the window at the lake or the forest or the desert or…whatever. And some of the stuff you wrote is so lame, you won’t even look at it.
- THE RETREAT DIDN’T HELP YOUR WRITING
Oh yeah. This is just like the diet you started in January. Your 3 lb loss turned into a 5 lb gain in April. You are just the same writer you were when you started, so why did you even bother?
- MUCH HAS CHANGED
- YOU ACCOMPLISHED FAR MORE THAN YOU REALIZED
- YOU ARE A DIFFERENT WRITER
PROGRESS IS NOT ALWAYS RECOGNIZED
Don’t look at that laundry pile the same way. Consider that t-shirt you wore on retreat before you put it into the washing machine. It’s full of your writer’s sweat and you can launder that out. But even if you deleted every single word you wrote, you can’t wash your retreat away. Instead, those words you crafted will percolate in the back of your mind and two things can happen:
- ONE, you’ll realize the writing wasn’t so awful after all. In fact, those words are looking pretty good again
- TWO, those less-than-perfect words will inspire fresh ones that will move your work forward (after all, we all know the true work of the writer is in the edit)
FEEDING YOUR CREATIVE SELF
Even if you did very little writing, your retreat was not a waste of time because everything you experience flavours your creative self. Sometimes, we don’t recognize the new ideas and perspective a retreat gives us. Chats over dinner with the other writers, quiet walks down country lanes, staring out the window at a completely different view — all of this has an effect on you and your writing. While it’s not bum-in-chair writing, it is a legitimate form of creative work. You’re feeding your subconscious.
Your subconscious is your best friend as a writer and none more so than when your main purpose is to create. That’s why you went on retreat in the first place. When you come home, your ugly Internal Editor may perch again on your shoulder whispering negativity into your ear, but your Creative Self is still being fed by your subconscious. And it’s rich in retreat compost.
So turn your back on any negative thinking. Start digging into your retreat compost and see what treasures are buried in your mind. And follow that energy!
For more on retreats, see Ruth’s post on preparing for a writing getaway.
Writescape retreats this summer and fall:
Just Write at Glentula. July 15: 3 or 5 day retreat, Perfect for the budget-minded writer seeking a lakeside all-inclusive escape.
Turning Leaves 2016. Nov 4 – 6. with special guest literary agent Hilary McMahon. All-inclusive, optional workshops, and a fireplace in every room at the Fireside Inn at Fern Resort on Lake Couchiching.