Writers’ retreat participants talk about the retreat experience:
Have I mentioned how much I love to teach writers’ retreats?! It is like my favorite thing to do. For the following reasons.
1. I get to help people say the stuff they’d like to say.
2. I get to teach meditation.
3. I hear and see writing take shape.
4. I get to write, too.
You may be thinking: OK, awesome, great, sounds cool. For you. What about me? Perhaps I have no talent. I might be intimidated by all the “real” writers. I have never been to a meditation retreat center and it might be creepy. I could be the worst writer there, or in the world.
What do you say to me?
Writers’ Retreat FAQ
How long is the retreat?
They are usually about 7 days long. You could come for the whole thing, or just the weekend. You could come for the weekend, change your mind, and stay for the whole thing!
I’m not “a writer.” Can I still come?
Ahem. Yes. The retreat is for anyone who wants to write, anyone. Attendees have included:
- People who have never written anything–ever
- People who like to journal and want to spend the whole retreat journaling
- People who like to journal but might like to try another kind of writing
- People who have no experience writing, but have a story they’d like to get down on paper for a variety of reasons
- Writers who want to begin a new project
- Writers who crave the time and space to let their writing unfold
- Writers on deadlines
- Published writers
- Unpublished writers
- Screenplay writers
- Business writers
- Self-help writers
- And word lovers of every ilk
All are welcome. The retreat environment can support any kind of writing, as far as I can tell.
Do I have to share my work?!?!? Cause if I do, I’m not coming.
No, of course not. However, we gather in the evenings to hear 2 or 3 people read an excerpt of something they’re working on so that we can give them feedback. I bet a million bucks that once you see how it goes, you’ll totally want to share something. But you never, ever have to.
Here are the rules of engagement:
The writer can read anything he or she wants–something written that day, 10 years ago, 2 weeks ago. It can be a finished piece, a work in progress, or a mish-mash of sentences that may be something, maybe not. The piece can be up to 2000 words long.
After the writer reads his or her work, he or she is silent during the ensuing discussion. We don’t call the person by name, but refer to him or her as “the writer.” We pretend the person isn’t in the room, giving them a chance to be a fly on the wall for the conversation.
When the conversation is done, the writer is invited to request clarification or respond however he or she would like.
We are not reading as literary critics, but as readers. We don’t comment on structure, grammar, spelling, or form–unless the writer specifically requests. Instead, we answer such questions as:
What does it feel like to hear this work?
How would we describe this writer’s voice?
Where do we imagine the piece might go from here? (If applicable.)
Where did the piece really touch us, and where did we become confused?
And the like. In other words, we are letting the writer in on what it feels like to be a reader of this work, as mentioned. Most people dread this part of the retreat, but end up thinking it was the best part. I’m not saying you would feel that way, just reporting the facts.
How much meditation is involved? What if I’ve never meditated before?
We meditate for short periods throughout the day. I give thorough instruction and attendees have ranged from long-time meditation practitioners to those who have never, ever tried it.
What is the daily schedule?
Something like this:
9-10 Meditation and journaling
10-1230 Personal writing time
1230-230 Lunch, break
3-500 Personal writing time
500-530 Tea break
6-730 Dinner, break
730-9 Hear each other’s work
Every day is exactly the same schedule. This allows you to sink into the pace and really relax into your work.
I notice you teach at Buddhist retreat centers. Will I have to do Buddhist things (like chant, sit in full lotus, be recruited into the dharma or subjected to any creepy cultish vibes)?
I am a Buddhist and I teach at the places where I have gone most to practice and study. But no one has to do, say, think, or be anything religious in any way, shape, or form. Our meditation practice is a basic breath-awareness practice and involves no idolatry of any kind.
Is it OK if I sign up but sort of make up my own schedule while I’m there? I may want to write at different times, go on some hikes, or catch up on my sleep.
In this case, you should sign up for a personal retreat. I don’t want to sound bossy or mean, but this program is scheduled very particularly to relax the mind, enhance creativity, and help you meet your own voice. It is important to hold to the schedule so that each and all of us can find our groove. If people pop in and out at will, the vibe goes flat.
Is there time to do other stuff while I’m there?
Yes, during the afternoon there is a 2-hour break and that can be a good time to hike, nap, read, dilly dally about.
When and where are you teaching these fantastic retreats?
I’m so glad you asked. I’m only teaching a few more in 2010:
Oct 15 – 22
AUTHENTIC INSPIRATION: A RETREAT FOR WRITERS
Karme Choling Shambhala Meditation Center
Oct 29 – 31
RED FEATHER LAKES, CO
AUTHENTIC INSPIRATION: A WEEKEND RETREAT FOR WRITERS
$325 -$605, depending on lodging
Shambhala Mountain Center
Oct 29 – Nov 4
RED FEATHER LAKES, CO
AUTHENTIC INSPIRATION: A 6-DAY RETREAT FOR WRITERS
$710 -$1505, depending on lodging
Shambhala Mountain Center
You didn’t answer the most important question.
Uh-oh. Definitely email me and I’ll answer it.
Seriously, check out the awesome participants in the video (from the most recent writers’ retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center in the Colorado Rockies).