Do you have your calendar handy? Go grab it, I’ll wait…
How many writing slots do you have penciled in? When’s your next class (first class?), weekend retreat, or workshop scheduled? Have you finally booked that AirBnb weekend with the two writers from your group?
I just returned from a three-day StoryStudio Ragdale retreat that I signed up for in January and carefully budgeted each month to attend.
Before you roll your eyes and complain you don’t have the cash or the time for a fancy retreat, I confess neither do I. I made the cash with a second job at Starbucks (don’t ask), and CHOSE to sacrifice other things from my schedule so I could attend.
What follows is just a smidge, the tip of the proverbial iceberg, if you will, of what I got out of my time there. I almost cancelled, but so glad I didn’t.
#10) Make Space for Yourself and Your Work
Literal space in your house. This can be a chair with a TV tray next to it. Bless it, claim it, use it.
Or don’t. The space is yours.
Don’t you deserve a chair?
#9) Yes, You Do Have Time to Write.
If you’re busy lunching with friends, or even working a second job, telling yourself you don’t have time, or you’ll make time soon, QUIT LYING.
For every book that almost got written, there’s a published author stopped at a red light jotting down ideas on a Starbucks napkin.
You don’t need to make time, you need to make choices.
#8) Replenish As Needed.
My week leading up to Ragdale was hellish: A death in the family, out-of-town guests, harried work schedule, funeral, eulogy. A tornado or large scale flood would have topped off the week perfectly.
All of my carefully laid plains to finish a synopsis, revise certain sections of my WIP, went out the window.
Instead, I gave myself permission to do what felt right. I even swapped one workshop for a two-hour nap.
#7) Let Go of Expectations.
I’m all for setting goals. That’s what made my first book possible. But instead of pressuring myself to perform in the evening readings, I allowed myself to enjoy the work of the other brilliant writers who shared.
Was I nervous to share something unpolished or less emotionally intense? Not really. I lowered my expectations and trusted my words.
#6) Write by Hand.
The research is in and writing by hand draws on different connections in the brain. It opens up other avenues. Plus, it’s quieter!
Our instructor required pen and paper in the workshop sessions, though computers were welcome any other time and place during the three-day retreat.
Plenty of current published authors aren’t above a legal pad and pen. Try it – it helps with #9 above.
#5) Don’t Compare.
Thirteen writers shared work generated by the same prompts. Guess what? No duplicates.
Completely different takes, distinct voices, a wide range of topics and themes. There’s room for us all at the table.
#4) Make Writer Friends.
When your partner tires of hearing about the latest problems your characters pose, or about the theme of your essay, writer friends will listen without vomiting.
They will offer insight, ask questions, care. It’s a fabulous universe to inhabit.
#3) Make Artist Connections.
Our group included a sculptor, a poet, essayists, senior citizens, new moms, teachers, published authors—an amazing array of creative output.
Creativity breeds creativity.
#2) It’s OK to Eat the Chocolate Chip Cookies.
This is a metaphor. Stick with me.
Linda, the Ragdale Fairy Godmother, prepares the most delicious, nutritious meals. Fresh ingredients, amazing flavor combinations (tortilla chip encrusted tilapia anyone?) and a wide variety for all three meals.
But it’s ok to eat a cookie if you’re eating healthy most of the time.
Strive for quality, but have fun, don’t put limits on what you’ll read or write. Surprise is good. Fun is good. Sometimes light is ok.
Easy to do when you’re surrounded by 50+ acres of wild prairie. Walking opens the creative pathways.
If it works for Mary Oliver, it will work for you.
Note: this isn’t a command to exercise. Lighten up. Go for a simple walk.
And just in case you’re still making excuses (see #9 above), I got up an hour early to write this post. I’m off to the day job (where they’re debuting my department newsletter, joy), then home to make dinner, do laundry, pay bills, fill out financial aid forms, walk, read, and write.
Care to join me?
*Bonus reminder – I’m human and thought I could get away with not proofreading a second time…argggghhhhh…you can never get away with not proofreading a second time.