April 28, 2010

Finding a Mini-Writing Retreat

Kathryn Haueisen Cashen wrote an article recently for Writer’s Digest called “Create Your Own Mini-Writing Retreat.” She defines a mini-retreat as a quiet place where you can write uninterrupted for a short period of time. It’s a great idea. I sometimes get away from my home office to write in my car near the lake, but after reading the article, I decided to broaden my options and write at someplace new each week. But where?

I began the venue quest a few blocks from home at a McDonald’s restaurant. It was just before 8 a.m., and I ordered an Egg McMuffin and a large hazelnut iced coffee. (Those things are huge! Have you tried one?) I settled into a booth in the back near the restrooms, I booted the laptop and started to write. A Mickey D’s employee showed up with a broom. “Could you lift your feet, please?” she asked. “I’d like to get at those.” She pointed. I looked down at my moccasin-clad feet and realized that they were planted on a handful of smooshed, catsup-covered fries. “So, what are you writing?” She handed me some napkins so I could wipe the catsup off my shoes. She said she was a poet and suggested that maybe I could help her get published. Just then, a school bus loaded with kids on a field trip showed up. Everyone needed to use the restrooms, and my mini-writing retreat flooded with the sounds of raucous teenaged chatter and constant flushing. Not what I had in mind for quiet creativity, so I moved on to Plan B, the public library.

The third floor of the library is the quiet floor. There’s not much up there except old reference books and some nice, comfy reading sofas. It was still early, and I was the only one there. Perfect! I chose a sofa near a window and started to write. I heard the elevator door open. Coughing. More like retching. It was heading toward me. Did I have my cell phone on and could I grab it fast if I needed to? The cougher was a greasy-haired, bearded guy who smelled like cheap bourbon. His clothes looked, well, let’s just say they looked slept in. “You gonna be here long?” He eyed my sofa which I decided was his. "I don’t think so,” I heard myself say. He stared at me with glassy eyes. “I’m just packing up,” I added, already stuffing my laptop into its bag. I got out of there in a big hurry. So much for Plan B.

Plan C was the local nature preserve. I wasn’t dressed for hiking, but I knew about a path in the woods that led to a quiet picnic table near a stream. I walked the quarter of a mile, and before long, I was writing peacefully surrounded by all kinds of nature. Now, anyone who knows me would tell you that I’m a nature nut. All I need to see is the edge of an unfamiliar fleeting feather, and I’m off on a mission to find out not only what kind of bird it is, but also the sound of its call, its summer and winter habitats and its migration schedule. There were plenty of birds in my retreat spot, and I needed to get up close and personal with and Google all of them. I didn’t get much writing accomplished, but I came away proud of myself for seeing several White-winged Crossbills.

So, here I am in my home office writing a blog post. I haven’t given up searching for an ideal, or even so-so, place for a mini-writing retreat. I’ll try again next week. Maybe then I’ll go to the new trout hatchery or the "Streets of Yesteryear" exhibit at the historical museum. The possibilities for distraction there are endless, but sometimes it’s distractions that breed ideas for great creative writing.

Where would you like to write?


Anonymous said...

What a great post! Thanks for the laugh. I do write out sometimes, at the coffeehouse, and every now and then my critique group has a day of writing together at somebody's house. I really do dream about-someday--going on one of those weeklong retreats where they give you a bed, feed you, and let you just close yourself into a room and write. But probably there'd be plenty of distractions even there. :)

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Becky.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I dream about going on one of those weeklong retreats, too.


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

Thanks for sharing your adventures.

I'm most productive in my office. It's quiet, and I have everything I need at my fingertips.

Susan :)

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Susan.

My office has a northwest exposure, and it tends to be a dark room. I'm happy to have a laptop so I can move around on gray days.


Carol J. Alexander said...

Hi Jean,
I love it! You need to come write at my house. Just a few minutes of boys running, screaming, fighting, wrestling and constantly interrupting you will prepare you for any "retreat" you find :) Wonder how I'll fair when they all finally move out and I have peace and quiet? Home office? That's one place I write but it's not a 10x10 room with a view of the mountains. It's 17 sq. ft. behind the piano :)

Jean Fischer said...

Hi, Carol.

Your house sounds like an adventure in itself :) Do the boys leave mom alone when she's writing behind the piano?


Karen Lange said...

Oh my, so much for the quiet retreat! You did make me laugh, and I can relate. Okay, not exactly but there's been plenty of times when I thought I'd have peace and quiet to write and it just didn't turn out that way. Thanks for sharing this!

Jean Fischer said...

You're welcome, Karen. Thanks for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

Hello. Your experience at McDonald's made me smile. I've worked at a fast food place before and been the person who sweeps under the tables. It's not really the most fun job in the world. I'm glad the person was interested in your writing. Now that McDonald's offers free wi-fi, I think a lot more people will go there with their laptops and grab one of their new fancy coffees. (Who needs Starbucks?)

I ride the bus pretty much everywhere (since I don't have a car) so I write on the bus a lot with my earbuds in, which does sometimes work for me. I also like to write in the breakroom at work either before I come on or during my lunch, especially if I'm alone. It's rather quiet up there. I've written parts of my current novel-in-progress at around 5:40 in the morning while waiting to start work at 6am. (I'm a morning person).

Thanks for the post!

~Reneé Le Vine

quietspirit said...

I have been waiting for the weather to be consitently nice. Our church has a shelter house on its grounds. It is on a hill and away from the traffic sounds.
I thought about the library or a fast food place. Subway is serving breakfast now. Hmmm! That sounds like a winner. I'll let you know what I do.

Jean Fischer said...

Hello, Reneé.

Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my posts. It's always great to meet a fellow writer.


Jean Fischer said...

Hi, quietspirit.

Those sound like some good options. Let me know how they worked for you. I still prefer writing in my car by the lake. That's how I spent most of the day today. I get a lot done there.


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