Monday, August 29, 2016

Knowing When to Retreat

I was lucky enough to attend a two-week residency at the Golden Apple Studio two summers ago. My sister, a well-respected and talented artist in her own right, and her successful, and very handy-to-have-around-the-house-and-residency husband, own the retreat and built it from the ground up. Golden Apple sits on the Atlantic Ocean in Maine, and if you ever have an opportunity to attend, you won't be sorry. You can find more information at

Here I am at the Golden Apple Studio artist residency.
Wait a second; that's not me. That my old, dusty, manual
typewriter find (thanks to my daughter, Dennae).
Well, I had the old and dusty part right. 
I had a dual professional purpose in attending. I needed to work on the first book of a second series I'm writing, and I also wanted to try out the new camera I'd just been given by my insanely generous brother. Not only did I manage to nearly complete the book, but I also took in excess of 1400 pictures. My third reason, though, was personal. I wanted to spend time with only my muse (along with new friends, family, and food) to re-evaluate the direction my writing career was heading and to decide if I needed to make adjustments. But if it were not for my sister's and brother-in-law's generosity (also insane) in inviting me, I would never have been able to afford both the tuition and transportation to attend in the first place. And that, my friends, would've been a great tragedy. I learned so much more during those two weeks than just what I was able to complete on my book or accomplish with my camera. So much.

Residencies, retreats, weekend getaways--there are several names used for those occasions when artists of all kinds carve out the time needed to recharge, rest, reinvent, review, and work on projects that need completing or begin new ones. I expected, and experienced, all of that. What I didn't expect, however, was how four strangers from different backgrounds, ages, experiences, world views, religions, and lifestyles could bond as we did. I may never see any of these women in person again, but I feel tied to them in a way I never could have felt if they were merely LinkedIn contacts.

I was one of two authors in attendance, and we were joined by two artists. Our days were spent in our individual studios, with breaks for breakfast and lunch and a wonderful communal meal at the end of the day. We were free to wander into the other studios to observe what they were doing or to stay holed up and work until our stomach growled and the upcoming meal was announced. I did some of each. During the two weeks we were each invited to present to the other three artists and our hosts, Shelley and Greg, a mini program showcasing what we were all about as creative artists. Both Yvonne, the other author, and I read from our manuscripts. The artists, Anne and Erin, showed us past and present work from their portfolios. I was blown away by how much I appreciated work in genres I would never have taken the time to ponder before. Believe me, it was humbling.

I've not had a chance to return to Golden Apple, but I hope to someday. In the meantime, I'm planning to create my own retreats on occasion. As with most people these days, and authors are no exception, life has a way of sucking out all the energy and creativity from our souls. What little time I have left at the end of the day is too often spent playing mindless games of FreeCell on my Nook, rather than working on my latest chapter (or writing a blog post, for instance). From time to time, I need an uninterrupted period of time when I can let loose my creative urges and do what I hope I do best--write.

Let's face it. We all need a respite once in a while. A weekend at a hotel is one way to enjoy a mini retreat. Sharing a room with a colleague saves money, and working side by side keeps us on track. Hotels often have lounges or cafes that would work just fine when the urge strikes to get out of that room. My personal favorite would be a week in a cabin deep in the woods where only the birds can witness my struggle with the written word.

How about you? Have you been on a retreat? What would be an ideal getaway for you?
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