WHAT IS A WRITING RETREAT?

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Writing retreats are by not new, but they’ve taken on new purpose in our time and our culture because of our hectic pace and our around-the clock access to each other.

A busy, stressful, hectic life can be balanced by taking time away from your ordinary situation and giving yourself the gift of peace and quiet time apart to focus on craft and to discover how quickly the power of the creative can heal and restore.

Often people think of a retreat as a religious or spiritual undertaking. A facilitated writing retreat is an inner journey, an opening of the interior self. Retreat allows us to discover empty inner spaces and recognize of aspects of self previously unexplored. It’s what happens without the constant background of human activity.

It can take a while—a few days, even, to fully unwind, which is why most retreats are at least of five days duration, but many can be much longer. Eventually we move to slower physical, mental, and emotional gears, thoughts diminish, biorhythms and creative swells become synchronous. The analytical mind takes a rest while the creative brain takes center stage. Consciousness heightens. Awareness takes on breadth and depth.

The retreat program at Clearwater Writers is designed with a few things in mind. First, we take very seriously what we feel is a duty to provide a place of quiet and reflection. Rooms have no televisions or phones. Because of the very rural setting (we are in the mountains of North Idaho), there is no cell phone service (an emergency phone is on site). Retreat participants have no access to the Internet. What we have instead is a beautiful federally designated wild and scenic river. Dramatic, timbered canyon walls, a flock of wild turkeys, herds of deer, the occasional mournful call of wolf or coyote. Bald eagles, osprey, a pair of resident cats—one of which will do his best to hug anyone who stands in one spot for very long.

The accommodations are exquisite. Visit the Reflections Inn website to get a glimpse of the eight beautiful suites and the extraordinary surroundings.

Retreats are self-designed, meaning, participants should spend some time making concrete goals for themselves—a number of pages to be drafted, a certain percentage of a manuscript to be edited, research material to be plowed through. Each person must determine how best to spend their time. Retreats are facilitated, meaning a seasoned writing teacher is on site at all times for consultation, but no workshops or classes are included. This is part of what makes retreats so affordable. Attendees can set an appointment with the facilitator or drop in during open periods to discuss whatever it is they are working on, but the level of input from the facilitator is a choice the participant makes. In other words, support is readily available, but organized instruction is not.

The word most commonly used to describe the retreat experience is magical. We’ve had book publications, manuscripts come to fruition after twenty years, fears around writing itself waylaid. Expressing just what occurs during a writing retreat is a bit difficult. Part of it is not tangible. Suffice it to say that a writing retreat changes the writer, changes the person, changes a life. Giving power to the creative heals the spirit. It gives a new pattern to living in which creativity is the focus.