When my kids were little, I used to dream about going on a writing retreat I'd heard of. It was on Whidby Island off the coast of Washington. As I read the literature, I would image the luxury of it. I'ld stay in a beautiful hand-crafted cottage where I would be invited to write all day long, all expenses paid. At the end of every day, I would enjoy the company other other women writers, celebrating our work together with a great meal. No cooking, no dishes and no responsibilities save the responsibility of being a writer. Nothing to do but take long walks, ruminate, and create books and stories.
Writers: close your eyes and imagine this for a few moments, if you will. Breathe deep into the joy of of the image and let it sustain you for a bit. This was what I used to do all those many years ago. It was merely dream then, of course, because what young woman with seven kids and very little means can afford to take even a few hours off?
After my kids grew up the excuse was a day job and commitments.
And after I retired it was: well retirement is a retreat all by itself, isn't it?
No, actually, it is not.
I was struck by something writer Nancy Werlin posted on Facebook recently: "I regret to say that in writing there is no such thing for me anymore as the shitty first draft. There is only the shitty slow draft."
It't true. I spent those years when my brain was faster and brighter devoted to other kinds of work. Now I am where I am as a novelist and that is that. I am slower. That's the bad news. The good news is that craft, when you nourish it over long years of gestation, is kind of like the human nose--it never quits growing. (How's that for Bizzare Mixed Simile of the Week?)
Over a year ago, I read another Facebook post--this one from my young writer friend Kekla Magoon (who was just shortlisted for the National book Award!). Kekla was encouraging writers to apply to Hedgebrook---that very writer's retreat that I had longed for when my kids were young. And even though retirement is it's own retreat and all that, I applied and was accepted.
Whooo--double---hooo! I am going to Hedgebrook where a little hand-crafted cabin and a group of other artists awaits me. I will have a month's worth of long slow days in which to nourish my last remaining child, the one who is taking her own sweet time to grow: my writing.
Wish me well and don't expect to hear from me for awhile. I am going on a retreat from the world to immerse myself totally in the world of writing.
Hedgebrook: their motto is "Women Authoring Change." How cool is that?