Writing Retreat II

Blog No. 129

Last week I was fresh off the writing retreat and intended to write about it for the blog, but something came over me and I thought I was an artist or something, and I wrote whatever I did instead. Maybe it was the retreat itself, inspiring me to think of myself as a writer, but I think it was something else.

Last year, around this time, I was contacted by Christian’s wife. His birthday was coming up and he had spoken to her about the ideas we had come up with for taking a writer’s retreat. She thought it would be a good idea to set one up behind his back for his birthday. We did some collaboration over facebook, found a suitable place, and she made the arrangements. It turned out to be a great surprise and a swell time was had by all. There was some conflict when masking the plans, but all that is behind us and not worth going over. It turned out to be a fun, productive, weekend filled with writing, reading, lakeside fun, and a fierce game of monopoly. Everyone left with a decent word count (some higher than others) but it was an inspirational and exciting event that we looked forward to doing again the following year.

This year. The idea was brought up again, but a bit earlier this time. It seemed like everyone was itching for the same kind of retreat experience. We all had a lot of words to knock down and needed a bit of a getaway. The retreat sounded perfect. We did some searching, found what looked like a suitable place and made our plans. We went up in the last week of April, leaving on the Friday, coming home on the Sunday. It was a tight fit, but that gave us forty-eight hours (or so) of writing, discussing writing, eating way too much, and (for me at least) watching Calgary win the first round of the playoffs.

The days were cold and, though we were on the water, we didn’t spend much time outside. The waves crashed beautifully against the break wall though, showering the small yard and our imaginations. We diligently sat at the table clacking away at the keys, managing to get a good start on the Friday afternoon and evening. The next day I was woken by the sound of a lone keyboard. Christian, having two young children, was up early and hit the day hard. Mind you, I didn’t sleep late (eight-thirty is early when I don’t have to work) and Justin woke up shortly after, but Christian was, as always, the most productive of the group. I joined in after a lavish breakfast and started to feel the burn on the previous nights writing. By mid day I had progressed slowly and, with Christian still working away, decided to go for a walk with Justin, braving the cold winds and dark day. We came back refreshed, but I still struggled to get back into my writing mode.

Throughout the rest of the day I sat in spurts, breaking it with lunch, a bit of reading, and dinner. Each time I sat back at the keyboard, I managed to get a bit more written, but it was a struggle. Sometime in the early evening, I hit another stride and was able to advance my story by a big leap. I managed to solve a problem I was worried about before I got to the part in the plot. It flowed naturally and, through a haze of a headache, I put my protagonist through a harried situation, forcing him to grow from the experience. Then the game came on and all my focus was shot.

In the end I managed over 7000 words in those days. I enjoyed myself, but the struggle I had with writing was discouraging. I managed to write a bunch more than I had the previous year, but I intended to do another 10000 word burst to match the one I did when I first came up with the story. Some people told me that the issue was working on a single project, but I think I wasn’t in the right frame of mind (or something). The time flew by and in the end I did alright, but something was missing from the last retreat. I think it was winning that game of monopoly.

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