Last year we had our first ever Writing Retreat at Lake Arrowhead. It was such a hit, we’re doing it again – and we wanted to let folks hear directly from some of last year’s students about why a self-directed writing retreat in the mountains of southern California is an experience every writer should have.
What did you enjoy most about the retreat?
Heidi: I had been looking for this kind of opportunity and was excited to find it here. The location was great, and the opportunities were well balanced. It was fun to spend time with a diverse group of writers.
Pam: This was the first serious block of time that I have ever had to actually write. I made an effort to stay “off the grid” except right around meal time. It was an experiment for me. It made me want to write all the time — alas, it is hard to escape life on a regular basis. The discussions were wide-ranging and dealt with multiple genres and challenges. The environment was non-threatening and made for sharing.
Ron: I loved the great variety of places in which to “set up.” You can stroll the grounds and buildings with your little laptop or notebook until “just the right place” appeals to you. Choose to be alone, or with others. Outdoors, indoors. Enjoying the fresh air, or in an air-conditioned room stocked with snacks and refreshment.
How did the retreat help your writing?
Heidi: It let me take the time to write without having to feel guilty or worry about taking care of all the little details of day-to-day living. I was able to interact with people who found writing important and understood the challenges that come with writing.
Pam: I finally found the path through my novel by ‘blowing it up’ and putting the pieces back together. The ability to set up a space and not have to pack up every night allowed me to put up a huge number of sticky notes and constantly rearrange them. The ability to add ‘sticky note questions’ without dealing with them immediately made sure that insights and ideas were not lost.
Ron: The retreat had the effect of maximizing my “writer’s diligence.” Writing never felt like work—not for an instant! During the retreat, I managed to finish two short stories, begin a third one, and to push ahead on a novel I’ve begun.
What advice would you give to someone who’s never attended a writing retreat before and wants to make the best of their time?
Heidi: Be open-minded and willing to experiment. Bring lots of supplies for the way you write best: paper, pencils, pens, laptop, flash drive, dictionary, etc. Also those things that help you think: snacks, research material, prompts, etc. Set realistic goals and don’t worry if you don’t meet them. Just write.
Remember to take time for yourself and recharge. It isn’t necessary to write 24/7 while you are there.
Pam: Come with a ‘Plan A’ and a ‘Plan B’. I never had to use my ‘Plan B’ but it was there in case I felt that ‘Plan A’ was going nowhere. Set daily objectives ahead of time and then revise them on the fly. We always think we can get more done than is really possible. Plan to enjoy the surroundings — there are a lot of things to do to free the unconscious brain to be more creative. Come with a willingness to share and be courageous. There are only supporters here. Mostly come to be free of your regular life and to make your writing the number one priority — at least for 4 days.
Ron: My best advice would be to take a few moments before the retreat in setting a few realistic goals for yourself–goals that, if achieved, would make you feel your time was well-spent. Whether it’s just wanting to log a certain number of writing-hours per day, or finishing a story or two (or more!).