Writing retreats are not new, but they’ve taken on new purpose in recent years because of our hectic pace and around-the clock access to each other and the world.
A stressful, hectic life will eventually create the basis for ill health, but a busy calendar can be balanced by occasionally giving yourself the gift of peaceful solitude. A writer’s retreat has the added benefit of providing time apart to focus on craft and, it turns out, 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. It can be. Certainly none who regularly go into retreat will deny that a sense of spirit gradually emerges. A facilitated writing retreat does end up being something of a journey, an opening of the interior self, perhaps because the act of listening to a teacher or seasoned advisor is the first step toward embracing possibility. Retreat allows us to discover both cluttered and empty inner spaces and to recognize the existence of aspects of the self that previously have been unexplored. It’s what happens when we reconnect with our natural rhythms, not to mention wildlands, 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. 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.
Our programs are 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. Retreats are self-designed, meaning participants come prepared mostly to write. A facilitator is on site to provide feedback on the writing and support. Each person must determine how best to spend the time, perhaps with established goals, and to take responsibility for how best to make use of the time.
Our 10-day residencies are a more structured, with generative classes and discussions about what consitutes the writer’s toolbox–or what some people call “craft.” This is part of what makes Clearwater Writers programs 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 and feedback is readily available, but organized instruction–except at workshops and residencies–is not.
Recently, we have added yoga practice to our programs, and hope to continue this into 2024.
The word most commonly used to describe the Clearwater Writers retreat experience is magical, and we are fully aware of the fact that our remote Western landscapes have as much to do with this as anything. We’ve seen books published, manuscripts come to fruition after twenty years, fears around writing itself waylaid. Expressing exactly what occurs is difficult. Some have said it’s a case of having been “given license” to focus on writing. Some call it growth. Suffice to say that choosing to participate in a writing retreat is an act of intention, and as we all know, intention is an energy conduit. Participants walk away with a pattern for living in which creativity is the focus, which is not only a healthier approach to day-to-day life, but also a much happier one, too.