Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing Retreats

I've been reading about something called cloistered writing. If you can't get away to a mountaintop cabin, or a desert island for three months to finish a book (which honestly would freak me out), design a retreat for a couple of days to get some writing done.

Lately, my dominant work style is horrible. It's very much catch-as-catch-can style, full of excuses and time wasters. Giant holes that threaten to swallow up every idea and forward progress I've made. And guess what? I'm miserable. It's like my evil twin has taken over and I'm having trouble tossing her out.

My writing delight is when I've been disciplined and productive. I'm happy. Focused. Energized. In my skin.

Exorcism, anyone?

An important element with this idea of cloistered—or sequestered—writing time, for my life at the moment, is that even though it would work best to have a solid two days, it isn't necessary. You don't even have to check into a hotel. You just have to do a little planning and careful scheduling.

My biggest challenge will be to rule out distractions. For me, they can run the gamut from email to television to laundry. (I tried to make myself seem a little more together, and add exercise to that list. Truth is, I can think about my writing if I exercise, and it would not be in my best interest to skip that little discipline.)

Another change (ever notice how similar the words "change" and "challenge" are?) . . . none of my usual morning routine. I wake up, I'm on the clock. I suppose I can brush my teeth and grab a cuppa, but that's about it. I'm supposed to be writing even before I finish waking up. Hmmm . . . that could get interesting.

Just finished reading Elizabeth Adler's Meet Me in Venice. A great story with some POV and editing issues, but otherwise well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Well, I had the good fortune of doing it the old-fashioned way: 40 days alone in a mountaintop hut in Virginia, with no running water or power. Collected rainwater in a barrel, dug a latrine, built fires to keep warm. And wrote.

    Although somewhere around Day 23 I began to teeter on the brink of madness, and had to fight the urge to run down the mountain naked and screaming, I managed to get over that hump and hang in, and by the time I tromped down through the snow on Thanksgiving Day, 40 days after disappearing from my life, I carried with me the seeds of two books that would eventually get published. But short of extremes like that, which few people can carve out the time for, I like your idea of finding the cloister wherever you are.

    Eliezer Sobel
    author, The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist's Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics and Other Consciousness-Raising Adventures.

  2. LOL, Eliezer! When I said the thought of that kind of time might freak me out, I hadn't considered that the interim-result might look like.

    My dad has done similar things to write, but only a week or two at a time. He loved it.

    Glad you got over the hump.