Often you will attend a writers retreat with the express goal of finishing a piece of work. Indeed, when you apply to attend, you may be asked what you will be working on and what you hope to accomplish while you are there. Because my recent three weeks at Pembroke College in Cambridge, England, were spent enrolled in a graduate-level writing course, I was required to hand in a portfolio at the end with, among other things, a completed short story or novel excerpt.
Although accomplishing your goal can be very satisfactory, however, it may be ultimately detrimental to your smooth transition back to everyday life. Having left the idyll of an environment designed to foster creativity, it may be difficult to continue to work, especially if your departure from the writers retreat came at a stopping point in your project.
Instead, take a page from Hemingway, who reportedly stopped working each day in the middle of a sentence, and return home with the project unfinished. For example, when I left Cambridge, I knew I still had work to do on the chapter I had been working on during my stay and have since inserted additional scenes. Because the piece will have such a close connection to your experience at the retreat, you will be able to carry that inspiration and motivation through your return home.
Also, before you go—perhaps when you sit down to analyze your stay—set new goals for the next stage of the project or your next piece.
Alternatively, if you do achieve the goals you set for yourself during the retreat and completed your work, try to start a new piece before you leave. If you’re stumped on what to write, go back over what you’ve written in your notebook during your retreat for new ideas.
Finally, after you’ve been home for a couple of days or a week, pick up the work you did while at your retreat and read it through again. Don’t read it with a pen in hand or a finger poised over the cursor—just read. Enjoy what you’ve accomplished.
Then read it again, this time with a pen (or cursor). In other words, start polishing from a place of retrospect in which you can apply what you learned throughout the duration of your stay.
Any other strategies for retreat recovery?
Caught in the ’Net
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