Tag Archives: restless writers

How to plan a one-day writing retreat

sunsetIt’s almost summer and another year has gone by where our ‘small but writey’ group has not taken a proper writing retreat—something we have traditionally looked forward to almost as much as Dyment’s buttertarts.

Retreats have been one of the ways we’ve tried to stay motivated, inspired, and productive. But as many of you know, the days get busy and each of us struggle with squeezing writing time into an already packed life.

This often makes the idea of a retreat seem impossible. But it’s not! The Restless Writers are trying something new this summer—we’re planning our inaugural ONE-DAY retreat.

 

Check this out. You can do it too.

1. Start small

Consider the following three elements: time, space, strategy. Start there and leave everything else behind. I mean, everything. Netflix included.

2. Rethink your definition of a retreat

Of course we’d love to spend a month or more at a private villa overlooking the ocean while we write, but with families and jobs we’ll be settling on someone’s backyard. For the price of a potluck, we’re carving out an entire day to devote to writing.

3. Make it official

We’ve put it in writing. We have a most official agenda for the day, planned meal times, and a couple activities to keep us energized, like a short hike and a game of bocce ball.

4. Make a commitment

Set a goal for what you’d like to accomplish and craft it prior to the retreat. Commit to yourself and honor your time.

5. Be flexible and creative

We happen to be starting with the backyard format, but there are other options to explore such as the obvious coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores. But how about a picnic table at a community park? A cool hotel lobby? An empty room at the YMCA? A friend’s empty RV? How about your own car parked at the waterfront?

So, get your portable writing kits prepared and be ready to take advantage of mini retreat opportunities. Gift yourself a chunk of time! It’s not only an investment in your work but in yourself as a writer.

Writing groups everywhere!

Unite. Inspire. Dream.

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Filed under Getting published, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Retreats and conferences

Unless You Puke, Faint, or Die, Keep Going

In the last few months, I’ve dipped a toe in the query waters. After spending most of last year writing, editing and revising a children’s picture book, my fellow Restless Writers informed me it was time. Time to let my baby bird fly from the nest to see if any agent birds might be interested in what the tiny bird has to say.

This is my first foray into the vast query ocean and let me tell you, it is not a welcoming place. The water is cold, dark and pretty lonely. Hearing the word “no” and all its variations time and time again can leave you feeling like it’s time to hop into the nearest life raft, head to shore and happily hoard your writing for your eyes only for all of eternity.

Thankfully, I happen to have a secret weapon to defend against this line of thinking and help me forge ahead. Part cheerleader, part ball buster, this person is the Jillian Michaels of the query coaching world.

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The name of this coach you ask? Well, I can tell you they won’t like that I’m mentioning them in this post. They will not like it at all. So let’s just say their name rhymes with Leckie Has.

Good. Now that we’ve got that out of the way let me tell you how Leckie has helped me with the process of querying. In a nutshell, like Jillian Michaels, Leckie refuses to let me quit.

Sent out 25 queries and received 25 rejections back? Awesome. Send out another 50.

Me: I got a rejection email from such and such agent.

Leckie: A rejection from such and such agent?! Sharon, that’s fantastic. That agent is amazing. Now send a query to this one and this one and this one.

Back and forth we go and as we do, somehow, I start to feel like my querying efforts are all going according to plan. The more defeat the better. Leckie reminds me that repeated rejections are supposed to happen, they are part of how the query process works. If you are hearing the word “no” it means you are putting your work out there and this is the only way to get where you want to go.

Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t still have days where the life raft is calling my name but I know with Leckie on my case side, it’s futile to entertain these thoughts. Better to query and query again and once more while I’m at it.

 

 

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Guest Post: An Official Invitation

This guest post comes to you from Anna, an honorary member at our Spring writing retreat.

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One very cold evening this past February, I received an invitation in my inbox: “How would you like two full days of dedicated writing time where the only interruptions would be the songbirds (outside) and some free-flowing vino (inside)?”

Well, I am not really a writer, but I have always enjoyed the sound of songbirds and of course, have never been known to say no to free-flowing vino, inside or out! So of course, I said yes and this past weekend enjoyed a weekend as a guest member of the Restless Writers at the Andrew Logan House in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

What a privilege it was to join this super talented, generous and just plain nice group of women. There was such a feeling of peace and yes, as corny as it sounds, harmony.

In the words of one restless writer, “you decompress the moment you step in the door”.

We left everything behind (except of course for the copious amounts of food, drink and other “writing” supplies) and we focused on the moment.

There was plenty of space – to be alone and to come together. We read, we wrote, we reflected.

We cooked for each other, told each other stories, ate and drank together, encouraged one another and shared awesome “gifts of wisdom”.

Maria madcocktailse us special Algonquin cocktails – they are rye–based and every single one of us despises rye.  Yet we soldiered on, bravely sipping the concoction, pretending we were grownups in another era, before finally accepting defeat and ceremoniously pouring them down the drain. They came with a great Dorothy Parker-style story, so we had to try!

Sharon shared some beautiful lemon cream tulips and wisdom learned from her late Mom, advice she is still learning to perfect, about enjoying the deck liftulipse hands you, whatever it may be.

Beckie gave us special handmade quote books that included William Faulkner’s line, “If a story is in you, it has got to come out,” along with other thoughtful sayings and a few irreverent ones, such as the group’s mantra: write drunk, edit sober (Hemingway).

Andrea’s gift, a gratitude book, promises to start a new tradition, a brave attempt to capture in written form what this special group means to its members.

This past weekend, the birds did sing, the sun did shine, the wine did flow and the creative spirit was released (not to mention the visiting spirits from the graveyard across the street).

As Andrecakea shouted out spontaneously, “I’m happy to be here! Just for the record.”

Well said, Andrea! Thank you Restless Writers. I’ve never had an experience like that before. Even if the best lines in this post are the invitation, I’ll never forget it!

Anna

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We are never ever breaking up, like ever

Warning: this IMG_20141220_202552is a fluffy post.

As we reflect on the past year, it’s been one of discovery, friendship, and productivity for the Restless Writers. We’ve made friends with inner nuttiness, embraced angels, found love, and drum-roll please… completed manuscripts, short manuscripts and long manuscripts–twenty five months in the making.

Our final meeting of 2014 has been described as epic. Best. Meeting. Ever. And it had nothing to do with the bite-size gingerbread arranged perfectly in its own gingerbread bowl. It was about us, as writers, and what we have accomplished and shared over many months and many bottles of–you guessed it–Prosecco.

We’ve been on this journey together for more than a few years now and it keeps getting better. Like some secret society, we’ve solidified this journey; we’re officially etched in glass and we are never ever breaking up, like ever.

Here’s what we look forward to in the new year:

  • One of us will have a new YA novel on submission.
  • One of us will be querying for the first time.
  • One of us will be getting our shit together.
  • One of us will be making space for creativity.glasses

You know who you are.

Look out 2015. Here we come with stories in hand!

BJas

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Doing the best we can

doingitallThis month marks the Restless Writer’s 5-yr blogiversary with almost 36,000 views.

We’re not perfect bloggers, writers, or people for that matter. We may not post as often as we’d like to but we do the best we can. Each of us are at different stages in our writing lives, doing what we can, when we can, and how we can. If it means finding inspiration in our life stories, our kids, or our cats—that is what we do. Whether it’s producing chapters (or cookies) for our meetings—that is what we do.

It was Einstein who said it’s our human responsibility to do the best we can, it’s what keeps us happy, keeps us engaged, and gives meaning to our lives.

Do your best. Go the extra mile. And do it for your characters too. More importantly, don’t beat yourself up for what you haven’t done (or written), and celebrate the things you have!

How to be the best you can be, in writing and in life:

1. Figure out what you want and what you want to write.

2. Take a small step each day to get there.

3. Ask for and be open to critique.

4. Find a role model.

5. Take risks.

6. Be healthy (so you are ready for anything).

7. Be yourself and honest with yourself.

8. Try new things.

9. Treat yourself (well, duh, we have mastered this one. It’s called butter tarts).

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Fighting writer’s block

Oh the dreaded writer’s block. Just the word “block” itself is enough to make any writer cringe – like saying the word ‘castration’ to any human male. It’s physically painful, mentally stressful and emotionally draining.

And it happens when you know you have something brilliant brewing inside you. You can feel it churning and hear its silent screams of agony pleading with your brain to get out of the way so it can take over control of your fingers and guide them to a perfect, eloquent expression that will alter existence as we know it. But there are simply too many luscious words to choose from and your brain is overwhelmed by the possibility.

Well, I say, “Block, be damned!” Instead of fighting you, I will embrace you. Instead of fearing you, I will call to you and dare you to enter my being. For I am writer. Hear me roar (figuratively in your face using my onslaught of carefully chosen words and cunning turns of phrase.)

And how will I do that, you may ask? How do I dare speak so boldly to the invisible one who appears without sign or warning? How will I fight an immortal foe who has plagued every writer in history of writers? How will I conjure such brilliance in the presence of one who appears all powerful?

With the element of surprise, that’s how. I will take the unexpected road. I will diverge from my usual routine. I will break the walls around me and step outside my comfort zone. I will release my secure blankey of the known and explore unchartered territory. Simply put, I will try something new.

And how do I know it will work? How can I speak with such confidence? Well, just think of those times when you can’t for the life of you remember someone’s name, or the name of that damn song, or that friggin’ actor from that friggin’ movie. Your forehead strains. Your mind hurts as you beg in vain for the name to appear on your tongue. And when it doesn’t come, what do you do? You walk away. You let it go and move on, until a time when you are completely immersed in something else, or just about to fall asleep, and the name uncontrollably – with a volume that startles even you – blurts from your lips.

That’s what writers need to do too. Lose the block by becoming immersed in something else, in something that takes you outside of your usual approach to writing – like writing in a different style; writing about a subject that is foreign to you; writing a different genre. It will help you let go of the stress you have built up and explore a new path if only for a little while. You might even surprise yourself by finding something new you are good at, or at the very least, breathe new life into your current composition.

Here are some ideas. Pick one and let it surprise you with what you may discover about yourself:

5 ideas to step outside your writing comfort zone

  1. If you’re not a poet, write a poem. If you are a poet, give yourself a challenge to write a completely different style of poetry.
  2. Open a book to a random page and make the opening line of your new piece the sentence your finger touches. Or write one based on a random tweet. Lots of great material there. (This one is thanks to @thegrahammilne.)
  3. Write about a first experience (e.g., first sexual experience – these are usually juicy with awkwardness)
  4. Write the opposite of what you usually do (e.g., write a fictional story vs a non-fiction essay)
  5. Set the timer for 30 minutes and don’t let your pen stop moving. Write any and all words that come to your head regardless if they make sense, come in full sentences, or are the same word repeated over and over again for the full half hour (in fact – that might very well tell you what you should be writing about.)

We write to discover more deeply who we are and what it means to be human, but this discovery can become stilted when our reliance on our usual writing routines and styles becomes more powerful than the freedom we demand as artists to express ourselves.

Try it. Have the courage to let the element of surprise be both your guide and your weapon – and tell us at Restless Writers how it went.

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Filed under Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas

The time and space to write

Image from Write by the Lake, Taylor’s Wave http://woodsgood.ca/Taylor/

The Restless Writers share something very similar: the burning desire to write. And let’s face it, an equally burning desire to escape the familiar. Announcement: we just booked our first-ever literary adventure—beyond the home office!

The most common problem writers have is not writing. But this fall, we’re giving a gift to ourselves: a writing retreat. Not a conference where our time is allocated to instruction, awkward introductions, and scheduled meals, but private time, where we can connect with our literary vision and avoid the distractions that intrude on a writer’s day.

We all have manuscripts on the go and our characters are screaming at us to spend some time with them. We’ll be answering their call from the comfort and privacy of a Bed and Breakfast on the sunny shores of Lake Huron. That is, until we qualify for the Berton House Writers’ Retreat or perhaps Writing Immersion in Sustainable Tuscany or even La Muse in France. Yeah, dream a little writer’s dream, you get the picture.

While writing demands solitude and focus, it doesn’t have to mean isolation and deprivation (note to self: it can mean 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets). Our upcoming adventure will supply us with an ambience conducive to creativity, plus fellowship and inspiration. Our retreat promises to contribute to a sense of luxury well-being and provide us with the opportunity to learn while propelling us to reach our writing goals—individually and as a critique group.

This is new to us and already we’re bursting with ideas for our upcoming retreat. Here’s a good resource if you’re exploring this idea too, the Writing Retreat Guide: a guide to writers retreat centers and events, for writing groups or your own renewal and exploration. Give it a try, and may the time and space to write be yours for the taking!

Have YOU experienced a writing retreat? Any advice? We’d love to hear about it!

BJas

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Filed under Author events, Group meetings, Inspiration, Motivation, Writing ideas