Pulling Back


Life is a giant tug-of-war. We do our best to have routines and schedules, certainties that anchor us each day. But kids get sick. Cars break down. Power goes out. Even with routines, things happen that demand urgency, attention and time.

This is likely why no two writers have the same work schedule. Some need big chunks of time to get into a rhythm and make any progress. Others write in snippets of fifteen minutes on the school pick-up line or in notebooks on the bleachers as their kids play sports. Few of us have the luxury of writing whenever we want, and for however long we please. Flexibility is key.

Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to step away from the day-to-day. Sometimes snippets are not enough. That’s why a writing retreat can be a boon.

This weekend, I’m attending a writing retreat with an organization I’ve belonged to for almost two years. It is my first retreat, and beyond the scheduled discussions, meetings and meals, I didn’t really know what to expect. I flew all day to get to Albuquerque, a city I’d never been to, and checked into a hotel by myself. No family, no pets, no responsibilities. I began to relax immediately.

There have been plenty of opportunities to write, walk, swim and rest. The town is charming, the staff accommodating and the scenery inspiring. But the most important thing so far is this: I’m surrounded by writers.

Writing is such a solitary pursuit. We must self-motivate, generate our own ideas and often fumble in the dark with no certainty that we’re doing any of this right. We figure out process as we go, dub our creations “garbage” and constantly doubt ourselves. And we do it all alone.

To be able to sit down and talk with others who go through the same exact thing, who suffer the same struggles you do, who get it, is heartwarming. We are animals. We need our tribe of cohorts to remind us to continue to pursue our goals. The love and support we’ve shared these past few days has given me the inspiration and energy to move forward with my work.

We write because we can’t not write. We push on through the struggles because we love the work. We grab writing time when we can. But if you have an opportunity to pull back from your daily life, become only a writer for a time and gather with other writers, take it. Even if you are an introvert. Even if you are just starting out. Energize each other and remind yourselves you are not really alone.

Though we’ll all return to our daily lives soon, the camaraderie I’ve felt here will travel home with me. Shared ideas will very likely improve my work. But the knowledge that I have a network of like-minded people I can turn to when I doubt myself will support me through my struggles.

Writing is something we must do alone. But it doesn’t mean we are alone.

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