Writing Retreat Report

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The view from the top of the hill on my long hike.

My little cabin was as lovely as ever. It’s amazing to me how quickly I can get into the rhythm of solitary life. It didn’t feel like I was working a lot, but I did work a lot. It felt slower paced than the fall retreat, but I think it was because the work I was doing was less intense and took more thought.

Here’s what I did:

  • re-read two chapter drafts (one rough, one with writing partner comments)
  • made a list of what to fix on the Arc chapter
  • made a list of what to fix on ER, but decided it needed major reorganization
  • marked each section with a letter, revised outline a zillion times, moved all the text around to make it match my new outline
  • filled in some blanks in the chapter
  • checked some footnotes

My ER chapter draft (the final one I had to write) was done enough after the weekend, that I was able to clean it up enough to send to my writing partner this past week.

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I met this little guy while I was hiking the Bunny Trail

On this retreat I took a few longer breaks–a 90 minute hike up and down some big hills, and a lively dinner out with a friend. Those “reward” breaks motivated me to push through times when I was wanting to curl up with a book of fiction instead of a book of criticism, or with something written in the last decade rather than something written five centuries ago.

I’m beginning to think I need a writing retreat every weekend! (but maybe once a month will suffice)

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Writing Retreat (prep)

Where I get to write for the weekend.

Where I get to write for the weekend.

Here’s where I’ll be working from 4-9pm Friday, 8am-7pm Saturday, and 8am-noon on Sunday. I’m hoping to crank out a lot of work (and I can change locations from the desk to the table to the bed to the porch), and to relax a little in the California oaks. There are trails all around, and the retreat is on a working farm. I’m not planning to go visit the pigs, but it could happen. I am, however, planning on some little hikes, and glass of wine on the porch. For much of my life I’ve thought the scrub oak landscape and brown hills (I refuse to call them “golden”) ugly. But they’re growing on me. It’s just about the perfect place to get away, and it’s only 10 minutes from civilization.

The desk and table area.

The desk and table area.

Where I get to cook and do dishes.

Where I get to cook and do dishes.

Not bad for an outhouse view.

Not bad for an outhouse view.

The view from the porch.

The view from the porch.

Planning the Writing Retreat, Take 2

I’ve been working on a couple chapters to prepare for my writing retreat. As I work, I keeping coming across all this research that will be helpful to have on the trip. If I try to take everything on the list in my head, I’ll need a bigger car to transport it all.

Luckily (I think), the cabin I’m staying in is a 5 minute walk from the parking lot, a walk that involves crossing a creek. I’ll have help getting materials to the cabin, but it’s likely I’ll need to trek all my stuff out on Sunday by myself. So I’m limited to what I can carry. I say “luckily” because I can easily imagine myself diving into a bunch of research and spending the whole time reading rather than writing. As we’ve discussed at Dame Eleanor’s, research and reading is a necessary part of writing, but this weekend, I’d like to get through some of the tough writing tasks needed for my chapter revisions.

I haven’t quite decided yet, but I may limit myself to two or three books and whatever pdfs I have on my computer (being able to search documents and having to read from the screen save me from getting sucked in to reading whole articles). Still, I’m tempted by some book chapters and books that I’ll need to use at some point.

While I’m thinking, I’ve got to get packed–clothes, food, and a flashlight and whistle to warn away the mountain lions.*

What would you take? What kind of balance would you strike between writing writing, and the research part of writing?

 

*I did get an official letter of warning from the farm where I’m staying: “Our purpose is to inform you, not to frighten you. Having appropriate information is important. That being said, we are hopeful that you will keep your reservation here at Working Farm.” Comforting, no?