Weekend writers’ retreat

Last weekend I lied to my family and friends. I told them I was going to a writers’ retreat – a simple excuse to decline theater and dinner invitations (always a tempting and fun use of writing time). In fact, I really was invited to attend a writers’ retreat at a bed and breakfast on Lake Erie. The agenda looked great: a beautiful setting, interesting speakers, optional activities like yoga and hiking, plus time for writing; and all that communing with other writers. Sounded perfect.

But then, I thought about: four hours of (wasted time) driving plus the $300 fee. So instead of going, I created an agenda for a writing-focused weekend and TOLD people I was going to a writers’ retreat. It was also a great excuse to skip laundry and really work on my writing, plus spend focused time reading about writing and taking an online course on screenwriting – in lieu of listening to the speakers at the event.

I wrote a list of potential activities and then developed a schedule much like the actual retreat:

Saturday (also used on Sunday):

Morning yoga stretches (Sun Salutation)
Journal time
Light breakfast

Optional activities:
1) bake banana bread (we had some REALLY old bananas …. definitely wouldn’t make it to Sunday) OR
2) accompany my husband Ron and Dug the dog on their morning walk

Reading time: Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron
Vein of Gold assignment:  binge reading
Writing time
Editing time
Post blog entry (here it is!)
Reading: fiction choice: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan  (the Bowling Green State University alumni book club current selection)
Consolidate notes* (see below)
Review next lessons in Master Class: Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting
Master Class homework assignment Saturday night: Watch movie – take notes

Other optional choices (didn’t get to either of these):
Play music – piano, clarinet
Review TED Talks on writing and creativity (Does Elizabeth Gilbert have one with Big Magic?)

On Friday night I prepared for the retreat:  Instead of time I would have used packing, I went to the gym for a workout. I planned food to make kitchen duty easy for the weekend, and did a little cooking. I grilled chicken and made a chicken pasta salad, one of my family’s favorite summer dishes and great for lunch on a warm summer day.

Saturday lunch included flirting with my husband. “What brought you to the writers’ retreat?” I asked him. He’s been working on a book since NaNoWriMo, and I knew he was planning to spend the afternoon editing. We had a great conversation as though we didn’t know each other and I learned more about his book than I had known.

Sunday’s schedule was harder to manage. I lost some steam and didn’t feel as motivated. But I definitely plan to set up writers’ retreat weekends once a month from now on.

* Note consolidation: I have dozens of scraps of paper with notes including essay ideas, story topics, character concepts, and quotes overheard and written down – from funny comments that people have made to insightful statements, all of which I intend to use as dialogue some day. I have dumped these into a bin for years, and finally spent several hours putting them into several organizational documents: I have a list in word of Blog and Story ideas. I use OneNote to organize magazine article ideas, character sketches and research topics. Goal planning, long-term projects are all in Evernote. I just recently started using OneNote to try it out and actually watched a lecture about how to use it effectively. And since they bought WunderList (which I love and used to pay for), I thought I’d give it a try to see how OneNote will eventually incorporate the functions of Wunderlist. There are so many choices in how to organize notes for writing and I have found it to be so difficult to choose which one is better.)