Writing friends, writing communities and writing retreats
What’s this episode about?
Welcome to the final episode of the third season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full episode and/or scan the show notes below for the main takeaways.
Today I will look into the often neglected social aspect of writing and inspiration. I will talk about the benefits of finding writing groups and being part of a writing community, why writing retreats are awesome and what types there are, and how to use all that is available online to improve your writing practice by achieving your writing goals and meeting new like-minded people.
Find your writing tribe
Most writers are conflicting people – they want to have enough alone time to create their writing masterpieces but also, if left alone for too long, they will get into their heads and worry themselves into writing block or procrastination, avoiding dealing with the difficult, complex feelings that come with creativity.
Recently I read a piece from Irish author Fionnuala Kearney which described her journey to finding her writing tribe after quitting her job to be a full-time author. She worried about how solitary life would be and how she would cope with the lack of human contact after working in a busy office. Every change is hard, even if it’s a desired change. And we humans tend to idealize things up until they happen, then reality hits us and we have to embrace it to move forward. So in the beginning Fionnuala Kearney said she did write in isolation but not long after, she found herself in an online community.
Here’s what she says about it: “To discover that though the life of a writer could be lived in isolation, it didn’t need to be – to come across other people in the same position, other people with the same desires and dreams, other people living it – it was transformative.”
And that is a good point, it’s easier to keep others accountable than yourself so it’s only logical to find another soul struggling like you and swap responsibilities. Motivating one another will lead to consistent, increased productivity and an overall happier writing practice.
Writers rarely view each other as enemies, as rigid corporate competition. There’s a lot of support going around because writing is hard and we don’t want to be alone when it gets most hard. Even if you think about the creation of a novel, or an academic paper, or a copy-writing job, we write alone but the whole process involves teamwork – there are critique partners involved, beta readers, editors, publishers. Getting our writing out there in any shape or form is a group effort and doesn’t leave much room for loneliness, once you get swept up in the process. And working with like-minded people gives us a sense of belonging, which creatives need to stay on top of their inspiration.
Creativity breeds creativity, as I’ve said before, and there’s nothing better than to lift up others and be lifted up in return.
Writing retreats are great
Imagine the benefits of devoting a period of uninterrupted leisure time to pursue your passion. That is possible at a writing retreat. Let’s imagine for a moment that the pandemic doesn’t exist or just maybe think about the future. If you could go write anywhere, with anyone, where and who would you choose? Writing retreats are essentially writing holidays.
If you go for a writing retreat, the benefits you will reap will be well worth the time you put in. If you’re stuck with your routine or facing writer’s block, a change of scenery might be just what you need to gain a new perspective. Being far away from your everyday life with its everyday troubles frees up mental space for you to focus on your project or writer development. If you’ve been writing but face particular challenges in your practice, going on a retreat with a tutor, mentor or other writers can help you troubleshoot that and pick up new writing skills. You might discover a new voice and set out on a completely unexpected writing journey. For many writers, it’s an impossible dream to spend an uninterrupted period of time concentrating on a work-in-progress, and sometimes it feels like achieving a flow state is an indulgence that will never be available. But a writing retreat can give you exactly that, with the benefit of maybe putting you in touch with people who experience similar difficulties and understand the struggle.
There’s a few types of writing retreats, devised by writers to suit those who have different needs. It isn’t what you maybe think at first – picking up all your stuff and going off alone on a creative journey. That would be heaven for some writers but hell for others, so there’s options to suit everyone’s creative practice and needs at the time. So, I’m going to outline the main types but I’m sure there will be other niche retreats that I’ve missed. If you know about an interesting one, message me, I would love to know.
If you’re a writer who enjoys group dynamics and would like to spend a concentrated period of time developing your skill in a particular area with an experienced tutor, a tutored retreat will be great for you. There, a group of participants takes part in workshops and exercises led by an experienced writer or coach. A typical day might start with breakfast and tutored workshop after, some writing time, lunch, another writing workshop and maybe an evening activity after dinner. If you have a project to work on and need something with a lighter touch when it comes to tutoring, a guided retreat might be a better option. It is for people who want advice and inspiration on their writing in progress. These retreats usually have sessions with a person who acts as a guide or a mentor and offers some in-depth feedback on your writing. Apart from these feedback sessions, the other time is pretty much for you to reflect on feedback, write and edit as you see fit.
If you like the idea of a retreat but the idea of meeting new people doesn’t sit well with you, don’t worry, there’s options for you too. You can go for a solitary, or self-guided writing retreat, which is you giving yourself the opportunity to engage in focused time away from your everyday life. This can be in another country or city, or close to home depending on your circumstances and budget but will offer you many of the benefits of the other retreats. Distance from your usual surroundings will give you a fresh perspective on your work and rejuvenate your creativity.
I have been announcing little bits about my upcoming romantic thriller The Lavender Phantom but today’s announcement will top them all. The book is now available for pre-sale. It took two years to write and get into shape but there it is now, on Amazon, with a release date. It’s coming on 9th of February 2021 and you can secure a copy of the book anytime from now to the launch date.
There will be a pre-sale giveaway and a cover reveal event soon so if you like things like that, come sign up to my books newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on www.laineydelaroque.com/books.
New reality, new opportunities
Moving on, for most of this episode I have asked you to ignore the fact that we are still in a global pandemic, and while there’s some hope around vaccines coming out and rates dropping, the reality is that we are all pretty much stuck. But, a global pandemic can take our freedom but it can’t take our creativity. Just look at all the NaNoWriMo buzz happening around social media and you will have a glowing example of how writers are still writing.
But times are hard and it’s important we account for that. A life without the writer contact we’re used to, be it a writer friend meetup at a local cafe, a writing group in the pub next door, and cancelled retreats and conferences, can dampen inspiration and motivation. It can wreck chaos into your successful routines, tearing them to shreds with unpredictability. But don’t worry, I got you.
There’s still plenty happening online for you to sink your teeth into and wait out the pandemic gloom. First things first, writing has never been so global. If you’ve always wanted to try something but an ocean or two were in the way, chances are, there’s an online alternative for it already. You should give it a try.
On the topic of learning something new, if you’re curious about things outside of your usual writing practices, give online learning a go. Website www.futurelearn.com collates content from universities around the world, with leading authors and academics from the most famous and obscure of places, providing a vast library of knowledge. You could start learning anything from writing poems, song-writing, psychology to aid your character building, history and much, much more. It’s free so give it a look if nothing else.
If you don’t have the energy to learn at the moment but still want to keep up with your writing in the company of other writers, turn to YouTube or writing podcasts. The latter one you’ve evidently found already as you’re listening to this but there are plenty writing-focused podcasts which can better your writing. Writing Excuses is a long-running one with tons of useful information and regular writing prompts, or writing homework, as I like to call it.
On the YouTube side of things, there’s many authors who do live writing sprints where you can join in. Some examples are author Mandi Lynn and the collective WordNerds but there’s plenty more. Just type ‘writing sprints’ in the YouTube search bar and you’ll be presented with a myriad of options.
sO, TO SUMMARIZE…
Writing social connections of any type can keep you writing when times are hard and motivation is low. They can provide much needed inspiration just by being themselves and sharing the burden of the hard task that is confronting the blank page.
And that’s it for all the wisdom I have at the moment around inspiration and how to foster it. This is the final episode of this season. Listen to the 4 previous episodes for more insight into inspiration and writing. The next season will begin on 8th December 2020. I’ve decided to practice what I preach so instead of a week between seasons, I will take two weeks. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by NaNoWriMo, the podcast and the book editing and publishing, so instead of burning out, I will take some time to figure out my next steps and catch up a bit on things, maybe get ahead even. So I hope you’ll understand and stick with The Pen Garden.
If you want to be up to date on Pen Garden news, subscribe to the show and sign up to my newsletter. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. As a bonus, all of them feature a cute animal and a book recommendation.
If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.
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