A couple of days ago I returned from a seven night Kindling Words West retreat in Marble Falls, TX. The Retreat at Balcones Springs offered cozy cabins and beautiful scenery, and our workshop leaders Nancy Werlin and Karen Romano Young provided guidance on how to find “unseen visuals” in our stories that could help transform our writing.
The goal for our morning workshops was to work on visual poems and other graphic representations of our stories, but Nancy and Karen encouraged us to follow our own path as much as we liked. As it turned out, I got caught up in this (not great) watercolor painting. I started with a random tree, added to it each day, and ended up understanding so much more about my protagonist and her relationship with nature. (Also, I got to live inside her brain in a new way, for she is an artist who works with pencil and watercolor.)
The bulk of each day was spent in silent retreat, and this was my main work station from 10am-5pm. Working on a bed is a little unorthodox, I know, but it turned out to be a good shift for my brain and body. (And strangely enough, I never napped!)
We didn’t spend all our time working. Each morning we had the option of yoga, and during the day there were always opportunities for long walks. We encountered bluebonnets and other wildflowers, live oak and mesquite trees, insects, snakes, lizards, and for one group, a herd of wild boars! I really, really need to remember that when I’m blocked, a good walk can shake things up nicely. (I’ll steer clear of the boars, however.)
I so appreciated all the time for writing (without the usual distractions), and I treasured the opportunities for communion with other writers. You artistic types out there — give yourself the gift of a retreat! It doesn’t have to be Kindling Words (though I strongly recommend it). You could take a day alone, or gather with friends for a weekend or longer. No matter how or with whom you arrange it, I really urge you to set aside silent work time.
For those who make a regular habit of retreating, what sort of activities, formats, locations, etc., inspired you?