Tag Archives: Writer’s Retreat

Writer’s Retreat—North Woods Style

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Imagine a quaint little white cottage settled beneath towering pine trees set only a few yards from a quiet inland lake. I’m on a writer’s retreat in northern Wisconsin. I’ve spent most of this getaway sitting at a table on the screened porch, sipping coffee and tapping away on my laptop. Works in progress seem less daunting here. Deadlines don’t rule me the way they do at home. The only interruptions are the welcome sounds of waves gently lapping against the shore and the cry of a loon echoing across the lake.

water

This morning a heavy mist hugged the water trapping the sweet scent of pine in the air. After breakfast I went on a walk. God’s little blessings were everywhere: an eagle riding the wind above the lake; fish surfacing, creating tiny rings in the mirror-like water; butterflies resting on the last of summer wildflowers, determined chipmunks gathering acorns under an old oak tree (I remembered to slip a few into my pockets for the squirrels back home.) . . .

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Northwoods Country seems to attract those who prefer a solitary and somewhat quirky lifestyle. I’ve decided this place would be the perfect destination for someone who writes cozy mysteries. In the little towns around here I found “characters” who fit that genre.

I met a chatty lady who summers in a cottage near here. She gave me a lengthy tutorial on juvenile bald eagles. “Did you know they are terrible landers?” she asked. “They sometimes plop down at the edge of the water and then wonder what to do. You should see! They spread their wings wide open and just look at the sky.” She also told me about a twelve-point buck, “big as a moose. He shows up down there at the very end of Shiller’s Road. Comes out of the woods at 6:38, almost every night.” (She keeps a record —6:38.)

At Cathy’s Ice Cream Shop, I enjoyed two generous scoops of ice cream, Raspberry Chocolate Chunk and French Silk. No other customers were there, so Cathy, a plump, little darked-haired lady, sat and talked with me about the “Big Wave.” It’s an annual event here on Labor Day when the locals stand along highways leading out of town and wave goodbye to the “summer people”. Cathy says the goodbye is bittersweet. Tourists and those with summer homes on the lakes provide most of the income for shop owners like her. Still, it’s a happy day when they leave and peace and quiet return to the woods.

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It’s evening now. As I rest on the porch, the lake turns glassy clear reflecting the trees and sky. The setting sun creates hues that remind me of carrots and candied ginger. My words slow with the waning day. It’s been a good one, productive . . .

There’s nothing like the north woods for a writer’s retreat.

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Five Benefits of a Solo Writer’s Retreat

cottageview. . . 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.

©WKOW, Madison WI

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.

36c5257939994791c1e5d19f5d14c794l-m0xd-w640_h480_q80On 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.
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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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