I’ve come back down from the mountain (or “down the hill,” as the Idyllwildians say), with my books, my notes, my well-used computer, my drafted pages, my dirty laundry, and whatever leftovers I had from the refrigerator, including, surprisingly enough, a Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate bar and a handful of M&Ms, and so glad to be here.
While I was away, I received an email from my friend and sister writer, Anitra, asking if my experience of a month-long writing retreat might be a productive topic for other writers who might like to go on such a retreat, and asked me several good questions.
Whether my writing about my experience on retreat might be helpful for other writers, I can’t say, but I’m a believer in sharing our experiences, strength, and hope and so following is the first of two parts of my responses to Anitra’s questions.
Anitra: Were you joyful to go to the page in the mornings?
Judy: Yes. But not every morning. Some mornings I was distracted by anxiety—this is where my morning yoga practice and a brief meditation really served. Lighting my candle helped, too. The ritual of doing these things each morning calmed me. There were mornings I had doubts whether I’d be able to come up with any words. Not even good words, just any words at all, or had I used them all up the day before. And some mornings I took my time going to the page, building the sweet anticipation of another whole day to spend doing what I love.
Anitra: Did you get lonely, and if so, was that a drag on your forward motion with the writing?
Judy: I’m an extrovert; a bit unusual for a writer I understand. That’s probably one of the reasons I do so many writing groups and workshops. Why I hang out with so many other writers, and go to readings and literary events. Why I love living where I live. I know some of my more introverted writing friends don’t understand this about me, and I sometimes think they don’t approve, but I am by nature, in love with people and so, YES! I got lonely. Read my journal for the pitiful details.
But was it a drag on my forward motion with the writing? Not really. I’d created an order to the days as mentioned above—the yoga, the meditation, the lighting of the candle, and setting to work. While I was working, I wasn’t conscious of the loneliness, or the anxiety I might have experienced earlier. It was only after I’d finished for the day that I became aware of how alone I was, how no distractions, how nothing planned, how dark the night.
Anitra: Did you have to take “people breaks” to socialize?
Judy: There’s a café in Idyllwild—Higher Grounds Coffeehouse—where I went a few afternoons each week after I’d finished the day’s work. I’d order a delicious Americano, sometimes a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, maybe flirt with the barristas. Never mind if they’re as young as my youngest students. I was lonely! Here’s where I answered a few emails, and occasionally listened to some music. I also came “down the hill” one weekend during the month away for a workshop I had previously scheduled. While I was in town I had dinner with a friend, attended a book party for another sister writer, Dylan Yates, whose new book The Belief in Angels, was just released, had Sunday morning coffee with my Thursday Writers cohost, Steve, and generally talked to anyone who would listen. Also, I’m a member of a certain, anonymous 12-step group, and I attended meetings in Idyllwild a few times. That helped hugely with the loneliness and isolation. And I had my iPhone for a few phone conversations when I needed a shot of friendship. (Always after the days’ work was done.)
I’ll share more experience, strength and hope and respond to more questions in another blog. Right now, I need to get back to work!
What about you, writers. How would you respond to some of Anitra’s questions?