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S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Give Yourself A Creative Retreat

Last week, I met with three writer-friends online for a Creativity Retreat. It exceeded my expectations, which were high to begin with, given that I was meeting with people who were treasured critique partners, outstanding writers, and friends I've known for years, one very nearly since I first put fingers to keyboard.
Dianne has novels for sale (go buy them!), and Adam has a short story out (get that here), but I've seen unpublished works from all three and, trust me, you'll want to read them when they're published.

The Idea Was Simple
Gather online to amp up our creativity. This was not a time to talk about the industry, or publishing, or critique a particular manuscript. It was a chance to pick the brilliant minds of our fellow authors for help in identifying our creative "veins of gold" and tackling our worst writing problems. And cross-pollinate by simply bending our minds to a common task.

It. Was. Awesome.

The Execution Was Even Better
Originally I thought that something like Skysa would be best to host our get together - online chat, whiteboarding, a way to share documents, etc. Plus, I'll admit - I'm a video phobe. I'll Skype, but only under duress, and I find it often glitchy, not conducive to natural conversation. However, we started out the retreat using Google+ Hangout (video chat) and it was FABULOUS. We never did use Skysa, because the Hangout was like chatting around a table eventhough two of us were in the US, one in Hawaii, and the last in Thailand.

The Agenda
We made up our own. I organized, polling each person to see what they were looking for up front and directing some of the activities, but mostly we self-directed during the retreat. We also exchanged a chapter and introductions before-hand, just to get a feel for each other's work.

FIRST HOUR: An activity where we brought a list of 5-10 books or films in the genre of our current WiP that we loved, or that really moved us (I first discovered this exercise in a workshop given by the amazing Kat Falls, author of Dark Life (buy it; it's awesome). The idea: figure out what these stories have in common and how we can enhance those commonalities in our current work. Whatever we love about these works, that is our "vein of gold" creatively speaking that we should be mining for our best work.

SECOND HOUR: Discussion: what is your most vexing writing problem at the moment? Each member brought a problem and the group discussed it, making suggestions, brainstorming how to tackle it. Some were specific to a craft issue, others were broadly related to a current WiP obstacle.

THIRD HOUR: Go where the pain is; go where the pleasure is. - Anne Rice What stories are you dying to write? What stories are you afraid to write? Why? We didn't get through all four of us with this one, because of time, but this was the most personally helpful of the discussions for me. Fear is always my personal demon, the one I'm fighting to move forward, and having face-to-face discussions about it with my fellow (incredibly talented and helpful) writers was invaluable.

I encourage you give yourself the gift of a Creative Retreat! Design your own, fit it to meet your needs, find the right people. It was well worth the time invested, and I can't wait until we have a chance to do it again.

23 comments:

  1. That sounds like a great idea. I would not have thought of doing an online retreat, so I'm glad to hear it was productive.

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    1. The whole world is online now - it's kind of amazing what that means. :)

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  2. What an awesome group of people! I know all of them except Rebecca, but now I'm off to meet her.

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    1. You (or your kid) would love Rebecca's MG stories! :)

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  3. That sounds like fun. I've heard that you can actually get more writing done when you meet and talk (and write) with other people, because you end up feeling more motivated to produce more writing that you can talk about with them. I've never done a writing retreat in the way that you described, but it definitely sounds cool, especially since I can't afford (though I WISH I could afford it) the fancy retreats and workshops that are held in different parts of the world.

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    1. Fancy retreats and workshops are fun and exhilarating, but this was so perfectly tailored to what each of us were looking for, I think it was even better - not to mention cheaper and taking less time!

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  4. That sounds like a great idea. It's not always easy to do a writer retreat in person, especially with everyone living in all different places, but this sounds like a great solution to that problem. Definitely something to consider as a more regular thing for more writers on-line! Thanks for sharing the experience and the structure of it.

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    1. Just what I was hoping for - that more writers would be inspired to try it! :)

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  5. It sounds awesome. Hopefully one day I'll have the time to do the same thing -- the time + writer friends with decent webcams, or find a way to meet them in person, because at the moment we sit there pixelated and it's not half as fun when you can't see people's expressions.

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    1. Exactly! I wasn't in favor of the video thing, but I was surprised how well Google Hangout worked. I think if you can get to a place with good WiFi, it can work. Good luck!

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  6. Last week I went to Vegas and partied it up. I guess that kind of refreshed me (although it isn't much of a retreat).

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  7. I LOVE this idea. While I enjoy conferences, so much of the content is subjective and doesn't apply to everyone. Something like this can be tailored to cover exactly what attendees need. Thanks for the tip!

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    1. So much of the conference circuit has to be broadly focused, to appeal to a range of participants - and often to people just starting out their writing careers. This is a great way to create your own mini-workshop-getaway for when you're further along in the journey. I hope you get a chance to do it! :)

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  8. Sounds like a great idea Susan. Thanks for sharing how it worked out.

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  9. What a wonderful idea! And it sounds like it was a great time. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Awesome people makes for awesome times. Though online whiteboarding sounds sort of fun. But then I like to doodle.

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  11. Thanks for organizing the retreat, Sue! And I can't wait to do it again! (hint, hint)

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  12. Wow, this sounds fun and helpful! Really cool idea to do it online.

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  13. This sounds amazing! What a cool idea!

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  14. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers