La Manzanilla, Mexico, where you’ll find a beautiful beach, a mangrove that features 200 resident American crocodiles and dozens of species of gorgeous birds, warm Pacific waters with a gentle surf, jaw-dropping sunsets, friendly people (Mexican and otherwise), a vendor’s market on Friday, many good restaurants with freshly caught fish, and for a few intense and exciting days last week, a gathering of ten women who’d come for a writing retreat.
This is the second part of the Q&A with my friend Anitra following my return from my month-long writing retreat in Idyllwild, a small mountain community in Southern California. While there I worked on my new book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, which will be out next Spring.
Anitra: Did work come out of that concentrated time that might not have in your normal life? Or did it just come faster because you could concentrate more?
Judy: I definitely got more work done in the concentrated time than I would have at home in my “normal” life. I averaged five or six hours at the writing desk each day, in addition to the reading, research, and notes outside of that. The length of time is not so surprising, but the day-in and day-outness of it is something I don’t have in my life at home.
Because I was able to have that time, and because I was isolated—no distractions—the work stayed alive. Mornings began with pages and pages of journal writing with coffee, and thoughts and ideas and doubts and confirmations about the writing and the project itself filled my journal each morning. At the end of the writing day, I often turned to my journal again to write “outside the story,” threads that developed during the writing that I wanted to explore.
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.