Several months ago, I received an email from my writing friend, Lisa at Lisa’s Musings, talking about the possibility of having a Winter Writers’ Retreat. She asked me for ideas and she shared her ideas with me. Then we talked about what the schedule might look like and how we could keep it very low cost by simply having a simple lunch of sandwiches and salads and a dessert, with drinks and snacks available throughout the day, and the lunch would be all that each person would have to pay for. Lisa also ran the idea by our friend, Donna at Donna L. H. Smith, who helped with some activity planning, getting the word out and registration.
So, this past Saturday, February 27th, seven (counting Lisa) of us got together at Lisa’s house for this retreat. Donna asked us to introduce ourselves and share what type of writing we do and how long we’ve been married and how many children we have. Then she opened with a devotion and prayer.
Lisa had asked me, during the planning, if I would be willing to lead an activity. She gave me two choices and I chose the one I felt was the less daunting of the two. 🙂
Therefore, after the opening devotion and prayer, I led a creative writing exercise. I was relieved when everyone found the exercise to be so much fun.
After the creative exercise, Lisa gave us two characterization exercises and two setting exercises and we spread out around the downstairs of Lisa’s beautiful home to spend some time writing, using at least one of these exercises. I actually used a combination of one of the characterization and one of the setting exercises and I applied them to my current work in progress. I think the creative writing exercise we started with helped to get my brain into writing mode. (Of course that was the purpose.)
The next thing we did was break into two groups and we each shared about something we are currently struggling with in our work in progress, whether it was a plot problem, problem with a character or with the setting, or something else. Then the others in the group helped to brainstorm to come up with ideas to work the problem out.
During lunch we had conversation about upcoming writers’ conferences, what we thought of the retreat up to that point, self-publishing and the possible challenges that would include, flash fiction and blog writing.
After lunch we had a critique group, where Lisa shared the critiquing process — a way to help and encourage the writer, not rip their work to shreds — to begin with a positive, then point out something that could use some work or fixing up with an idea or suggestion for that, and concluding with another positive. These things need to be specific to be of any real help to the writer and the people doing the critiquing need to consider the Big Picture.
We ended with another prayer and an excerpt from a book that Lisa recommended for encouragement.
I cannot speak for any of the other ladies, but I found this day so very helpful. I was able to leave there with a fresh excitement about writing, especially working on my work in progress. I had been struggling with something before that and so the brainstorming for story problems was a huge help with that. I also really enjoy being able to share with other writers because they understand me and I understand them. We can help and encourage one another and that is so valuable.
Everyone left with a desire to do another retreat in the future.
This was the great group of ladies who attended, minus Donna, who took the photo.
I encourage all of you who write to find a group of writers you can spend time with talking, sharing, brainstorming, problem solving, and encouraging one another. You may even want to consider starting your own small writers’ group or hold your own small simple retreat like the one we just had. Writing is a solitary activity and can be stressful. It’s good to step out of your writing closet and breathe some fresh air and spend time with others who understand your struggles and the way your mind works (you know, that you talk to your characters and stuff).
Have you been to a writers’ retreat? Do you belong to a writers’ group?