I didn't do it last year, because I was in a fit of writer's angst, but I usually go away for a few days in February or March for a private writer's retreat. A three-day weekend approaches (Thanks George and Abe), and I am heading out to Orcas Island to the Kangaroo Bed and Breakfast.
If the weather permits, there will be hiking. There will definitely be driving around, visiting the sheep lady, exploring art galleries and bookstores. And there will be writing.
I'm a little scared. I haven't had a fiction project in over a year. I have the finished but unpublishable YA novel, the fifty-pages into it second YA novel, some short stories that have never gotten past their premie births and a few ideas to body forth. In spite of the angst, I was executing a plan by not writing for all these months. I wanted to get all the crackling out of my head and get back to a place where I can hear my own voice. All of the writer's groups, retreats, conferences, workshops had seeped into my inner ear and perched there, waiting, just waiting, for the instant I put fingers to keyboard. When the idea of writing entered my head, they would pummel me with a cacophony of loosely-aimed opinions. My fingers would hover, maybe type a few sentences and then still.
Time, I thought. I need time for the noise to fade away.
I'm not sure that they are completely silent, but it's time for me to try writing again, hence the private retreat.
Orcas Island in the off season is a paradise for anyone wanting to spend quiet days in a beautiful setting. The island is virtually deserted, except for the locals, and is loaded with places, alternately, to sit and focus or to be distracted. This will be the third private retreat I've given myself on Orcas. The first year I stayed at the Anchorage Inn. The room was huge, elegant, full of comforts. A huge four-poster bed with down comforters, a wicker rocking chair with soft woolen blankets, a gas fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the water, an efficiency stocked with yogurt, juices, home-made granola and fresh baked coffee cake, a hot tub by the water and no other guests besides me made for a great four-day weekend. I think I wrote four chapters of Giving It Over on that trip. Two years later, I stayed at the Otter Pond B&B. Since I was the only guest, the proprietors gave me an upgrade. I really enjoyed the B&B, but the writer in me was distracted. I couldn't settle into the zone. The static of all the support I was getting as a writer kept pulling my fingers off the keyboard.
In between trips to Orcas, I've gone to other of the San Juans and once to The Resort at Mount Hood. Mt. Hood was a great destination. The Resort was so newly remodeled that it sparkled. I went snow shoeing and ate brunch at a buffet so enormous and colorful it looked like a rose-parade float. I also sat and wrote in front of the six-foot fireplace in the lobby and enjoyed long bubble baths in a deep tub. The writing was somehow not satisfying.
So, the first retreat was the best. I belonged to a small, intimate online writer's group with a handful of people I trusted and respected. Those people stayed with me all the way through the writing of my first novel. I miss them and often wish we could all go back to those days. My self-confidence dwindled over the years. Everything I did to find my way served to obscure the road signs.
Now, more than year away from all writing-related activities, I'm about to see what I can do. I feel like anything could happen. I hope to find that I've returned to days when writing is dangerous, where the edge of the jungle comes all the way down to the shore and eagles are ready to tip their wings and catch an upward current.