Sunday, October 12, 2014

Chicken Soup for the Pen

 Fiction writing can be a rough ride. You have no musicians to rehearse the symphony with or actors to make you grin and blush. Worse, you face an absurdly competitive market, not to mention your own super-secret fears that you should already have a book, an agent, a better draft, a more productive schedule, a less effective set of rationalizations, or whatever bums you out.  Maybe you need some sort of retreat?

Writing retreats happen in exotic places (Maui tops the list) or pedestrian ones (your local coffee shop). Retreats can involve coaching and critique or simply an escape from grass needing mowing, kids wanting feeding, or bills awaiting payment. Every so often, you need the metaphorical chicken soup as much as the critique. One balances the other.

The best retreats feed both mind and soul. This means that the menu must include some beauty, some spirituality, and at least a little awe. In fact, the power of an imposing environment can prove surprisingly useful in balancing a writer’s mind.

~ Humility.
     In 2014, it takes gumption to write fiction. Competition is fierce and reward scant. You need a healthy ego to write anything at all. But you also need a healthy reminder that unspoiled nature is so vast and incomprehensible that you’re like one grain of sand. That makes you feel so small. And that reminds you that you’re part of something huge. How much can one rejection or one missed writing afternoon really matter? The best writers combine confidence with perspective.

~ Faith.
     It’s discouraging to struggle with the same paragraph, have your critiquers request yet-another revision, receive one more rejection, or simply feel that no matter no long you sit before your laptop, the magic isn’t going to happen. That’s when an infusion of beauty can restore morale. This might be mountain snow reflected in a lake, a sliver of moon, or even a crimson leaf. Such things remind you that awful as it might seem right now, tomorrow’s another day. You’ll want to get up. You’ll want to write. You won’t be able to stop yourself.

~ Inspiration.
     Every writer achieves this differently. Maybe it starts with the characters. Perhaps the themes. Annie Proulx says it’s always the setting for her. No matter how disciplined you are, how open to plot, metaphor, or psychological insight, the realities of working, flossing, commuting, and clearing the kitchen can demolish energy and originality in insidious ways. Every so often you need something so glorious that it steals your breath. When you can breathe again, you’re ready to write.

Isn’t it wonderful that the internet, the burgeoning interest in creative writing, and the numerous credit and non-credit options out there mean that you needn’t write all by yourself all the time?

Tip: Find yourself hosts as generous and thoughtful as Patti and George who graciously sponsored a mountain miracle for writers.

Treat yourself to a writing retreat.

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