. . . And it’s September! If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I took the summer off after a long stretch of freelance writing projects. I ended my break with a five-day solo writer’s retreat in Wisconsin’s north woods. By “solo” I mean a retreat without other writers, a getaway with a schedule and destination that I planned myself.
There are advantages to going solo.
Traveling to a specific destination with a project in mind guarantees inspiration.
I chose the north woods to gather ideas for a new, nature themed writing project. My destination, a quaint cottage nestled among towering pine trees just feet from a scenic lake (and with a screened porch!), provided the perfect environment to keep my thoughts centered on nature.
A new environment opens your eyes to unusual and even quirky details.
The northwoods has its own culture. Life is slow—most of the time. But in summer businesses rely on tourists. A love/hate relationship exists between the locals and travelers. The locals love the tourists’ money but hate the ways they disrupt the woodland’s peace and solitude.
On Labor Day, I saw long lines of people sitting curbside in front of restaurants and bars. They waved as cars went by. They must be waiting for a parade, I thought. Was I wrong! In the northwoods, it’s a Labor Day tradition for the locals to wave goodbye to the tourists as they exit, en masse, heading back to their homes in the south! That wonderful, quirky tradition might not make it into my nature-themed book, but I’ve tucked the idea away to use in the future.
You leave behind everyday distractions and maybe experience some new ones.
On Labor Day, watercraft—pontoon boats, jet skis, kayaks, speedboats, canoes— upset the otherwise peaceful inland lake. The pandemonium distracted my writing thoughts until I noticed how boats slicing through water changed the rhythmic sound of waves splashing on the shore. What I’d perceived as a distraction served to shift my focus to sounds in my environment and provided even more inspiration for my work in progress.
Solitude allows ideas to flow.
I began my retreat without expectations. Before leaving home, I had decided to let solitude to be my guide. I hadn’t planned what I would write. I had no schedule. As it turned out, I spent much of the retreat not writing but instead making notes and lists of ideas. Choosing to go solo provided plenty of time for ideas to flow, and I came home ready to write.
People don’t get in the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I like people. Some of my best friends are people! But sometimes people are a writer’s worst enemies. Writers’ conferences and organized retreats include critiques and times when writers gather to share inspiration and ideas. That’s all good, but people-time can diminish a writer’s ability to be totally into his or her retreat environment.
The best thing about a solo retreat is unplugging from all the people noise and immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, smells and culture that surround you.
My retreat ended with different emotions than those I’ve come away with after a writers’ conference. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with ideas and inspiration, I came home relaxed and intensely focused on my work in progress.
Have you ever taken a solo writer’s retreat?
How was your experience similar or different from mine?
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