I'm back from the Fortress of Semi-Solitude, the writing retreat graciously hosted by relatives of my good friend Kelly Fineman. For about a week, Kelly, Angela and I give ourselves over to writing. We write. We also read, prepare and eat simple meals, take a few walks in the woods to keep our blood flowing, and wind up each day with a movie on DVD. But mostly, we write. During this time, I also unplug from the internet, TV, and radio. I have no idea what's going on in the world. (And so, if anything exciting happened to you in the past week, please mention it in the comments below, because I won't be able to go back and read all the blog posts and tweets I missed.)
Often while on retreat, as I did this year, I even write in longhand. After the flurry of launching a debut novel in 2010, I really needed to slow down. I needed to sit staring out the window and listen for the story, giving it time to come to me, writing it at its own pace. I needed that space for ideas to develop, the knowledge that I would not be interrupted because I "only have an hour to write today" or "have to get up early for work tomorrow" or "must answer the phone" or "need to go get the clothes out of the washer." I had cleared this space in my calendar, and I took full advantage of it. I finished a draft of one project and worked on a few other projects. Mostly, I just let the writing happen.
The retreat was flanked by other writerly activities: the Hudson Children's Book Festival, where I signed books, and the New England SCBWI writers' conference, where I took several craft-oriented workshops. Those activities nourished me in different ways. Today, I'm catching up on laundry, mail, and other chores. As I stand ready to plunge back into the chaos of regular daily life, I hold that silent calm, that listening, in my center.