Writing Retreat Season

I’m preparing to go on a month-long writing retreat to a familiar place in Idyllwild, a small community in the San Jacinto Mountains not quite three hours from my home in San Diego.

Idyllwild cabinI’ve been to this cabin many times. Most often I go with my good friend Dian. We’ve been writing and retreating together for more than twenty years. But this time, I go alone. Or rather, just me and my Wild Women. While on retreat, I’ll be working on my next book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, which will be out next February and I’m on a sooner-than-later deadline.

As I made my lists and gathered up piles of books, files, writing accoutrements, my  scant wardrobe (morning pajamas/evening pajamas), and other items I’ll need (popcorn, M&Ms), I thought about the “Guidelines for Writing Retreats” that were in A Writer’s Retreat Kit.

A Writers Retreat KitI’m posting them here as a way of remembering them, but also to share if you are planning a writing retreat, and I hope you are. You know, a retreat doesn’t have to be a month, or even a week; a retreat can be any length, even a mini-retreat where you don’t actually leave home but set aside the time and create the space.

Ten Guidelines for Writing Retreats

1)    Set your intention. An intention brings together your body, mind and spirit into conscious awareness of the action you are about to take.
2)    Make the time. No one will give you the time; you must claim it, take it, find it, carve it out, set it aside.
3)    Plan your retreat. Make your lists; confirm reservations; arrange travel, childcare, plant-,pet-,or house-sitting. Gather your materials.
4)    Create a safe, nurturing place. No matter where you go on retreat make certain you have a sense of feeling protected, both physically and psychically.
5)    Enter into retreat. Enact a ceremony. Through mindful awareness and physical action you cross the threshold from ordinary time into time out of time.
6)    While on retreat remember that writing isn’t your sole occupation; use this time to engage in other activities that support, broaden, and deepen your experience.
7)    When returning to the world, just as you performed some small rite to enter into retreat, return to ordinary time and place through conscious ceremony.
8)    When emerging from retreat, what will you bring with you? Your writing, of course. Maybe a talisman or memento. A full heart; gratitude. Carry it gently.
9)    Acknowledge whomever helped you make your retreat possible. Perhaps a simple thank you will suffice, or maybe you’ll want to share your experience and your writing with them. Acknowledge yourself for honoring your writing in this manner, acknowledge your own self-nurturing.
10)    Do it again. Soon.

idyllwild poetI’ll be back in a month. Though I may post again while I’m gone. There’s a cafe in town where I can access the Internet. Here’s a picture of a poet who took requests, all set up on the steps outside the cafe.

Meantime, this quote by Burghild Nina Holtzer. “The creative process is a mystical path. It is not measured in miles or minutes. It is not linear. We do not enter it after we get everything else out of the way. We must know that we can enter at anytime, and anywhere. Knowing this bring an exhilarating sense of joy.”

What about you? Do you have plans for a writing retreat? Or have you just returned from one? Do you remember a favorite retreat you’ve taken and the work you did there?

20 thoughts on “Writing Retreat Season

    • Hi Marianne, Excuse the delay in responding. I just found your comment about your successful writing retreat. Thanks so much for writing and telling me about it. The view (inside and out) is gorgeous!

  1. Okay this is the most consistent writing I’ve done ever. Every day. And I decided to keep it going long after the month is over. For some strange reason I’m not antsy and restless and bored these days. And the novel has a mind of its own, in fact, it is writing me.

    • This is the best news I’ve had all week long, Linda. Congratulations and thanks so much for keeping me posted on your (surprising, to you) writing stamina and inspiration. Good on you!

      • And then I got stuck for about four days. I think my character needed a rest? I keep remembering what Anne Lamott ( said in Bird by Bird, to do one frame (my word, she said picture) at a time. In fact I wrote it on my pen and nail file box beside the tower: “One frame. One.” It works.

      • A wise teacher for us, Anne Lamott. Sometimes we need a rest too, I think. To refill. At least that’s how I felt once I came down from the mountain. I needed to rest, breathe in, and partake of something beautiful. Good writing, Linda. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Thanks, Judy, for your 10 tips on writing retreats, and for the reminder that I can create my own anywhere or for a short period of time. The cabin looks like the perfect place to listen for those wild voices! Enjoy!

    • HI Carol,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m glad the retreat tips struck a chord. It is so quiet here in Idyllwild I can hear those Wild Women, though, truth be told, their voices can raise above about any kind of racket. Good writing!

  3. Best, Judy, as always. I will think of you as I gaze upon the hills and trees from my window — and then with that inspiration I will sit here facing away from all that and work on my novel (which includes those hills). We never write alone.

    • Thanks, Linda. I think it’s Annie Dillard who reminded us that a blank wall is the best view for writers. I know I can get lost watching the squirrels outside my window. And what is it about the way the wind moves the pines?

      • Okay. I thought about this. If you can do it then I need to do it. I commit to daily work on my novel for the entire month of May. There. It’s in writing. We just entered our BC hot season so that means long languid summer afternoons and quiet, perfect for the muse. Back to the mountains and trees and birds. I’m in.

        Anyone else on?

      • Wow! Linda. This is terrific. We’ll be writing alone/together. Sending all kinds of best wishes for a beautiful month of daily work on your novel. Let’s be sure to check in at the end of the month. Yay!! Linda.

  4. A cabin in Idyllwild – sounds amazing and spiritual. I know it’s hard work – but I am still envious that you will be enjoying peace and quiet and nature for an entire month. All the best! Ellen

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Ellen. That cabin in Idyllwild is amazing and spiritual and you know, the hard work of writing there doesn’t seem as hard as at home, where the distractions aren’t always so spiritual! I hope you’ll take yourself on a retreat sometime in the not too distant future.

  5. thanks for reminding me of the 8 summers I spent at the Idyllwild summer poetry festival.. wrote so much and loved it so much and now that I can no longer go I like hearing of others enjoying that wonderful little community..

    • Hi Una, Thank you so much for commenting and reminding me of the Idyllwild summer poetry festival. I’d like to attend sometime. Lovely to read some of your poems in the latest San Diego Writers, Ink anthology. We missed you at the reading. oxoxoxJudy

    • Thank you, Eileen. I’m looking forward to hearing what all those wild women have to say! I hope your own is keeping you up nights with her wild voice.

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