I returned from my first writer’s retreat filled with inspiration, motivation, a sense of accomplishment, and warm feelings. The retreat, which took place from Nov. 14-21, in historic Salem, MA, was intended as a reunion for those who attended the 2014 Writer Unboxed Un-Conference last November in Salem.
The John Edwards House, a rambling, three-story home built in 1846, was the site as 12 writers gathered for a week of writing, sharing, laughter, and cooking. My biggest takeaway was this: if you are going to attend a writer’s retreat, do it with people you already know. The comfort level already established leads to deep conversations and uninhibited sharing.
Two common rooms became the headquarters for writing. Many of us arrived with specific goals, such as to write 10,000 words or to finish a work-in-progress. Most of us achieved our goals, but we got so much more out of this retreat.
The kitchen was the communal gathering place, where we shared our personal stories of life, love, loss, redemption, and pride in our achievements. There were heartwarming and heartwrenching moments. Fellow public policy junkie Gretchen Riddle and I even solved all the world’s problems over coffee each morning.
I had intended in this blog post to share with you some lessons and there were many. Among them were: set goals, take advantage of the opportunity to share with and learn from other writers, set aside specific times to check in with loved ones, and leave work behind. I didn’t do such a great job on the last one.
More important than the lessons learned were the bonds of friendship, which were strengthened during the past seven days. We writers are a peculiar lot. Nobody really understands us except for other writers. The opportunity to engage in intense dialogue about our writer challenges with people who “get” us and to tap into deep emotions were the greatest benefits of the retreat.
One more lesson I learned, and it’s perhaps the greatest one, was not to miss the chance to have fun. We did readings one night, told stories, attended a reception at a colleague’s lovely home (thanks, Brunonia Barry), and even had a sing-along one evening capped by an epic renditon of Bohemian Rhapsody by Amy Rachiele and Theresa Guzman Stokes. Our voices may not have been ready for prime time, but the fine guitar work by Sean Walsh and Lancelot Schaubert made us sound passable.
The point of a writer’s retreat is to get writing done, but you are missing out if you do not take full advantage of the opportunity to commune with other writers.
I want to thank everyone who attended and especially Therese and Sean Walsh and Heather Webb for their organizational work. I can’t wait for the 2016 Writer Unboxed Un-Conference.