I drove up through the Hudson River Valley, my Ford Focus humming along with the words of Russo’s Straight Man as I laughed at the story and marveled at the lush green of the mountains and the antique slant of the farmhouse.  Rhinebeck, The Omega Institute was my destination.2013-08-17-15-53-10

I was on my way to a weekend writing retreat with Laraine Herring, and I was nervous and excited . . . and weary.  I was mostly weary. I needed the time away.

I had decided to splurge on this retreat because I needed to give myself space to focus, to reset, to regain – all things I do in writing.  So here, I was for two gorgeous days of writing, yoga, and amazing food.

And the retreat – led by an ever-compassionate but ever-single-minded Laraine – gave me everything I needed from that time and space: the ideas to push more deeply into my writing than I ever had before, the space to let myself settle, the shaking (quite literally) that work me up to things I never knew I thought.

While I was sitting by the lake after our first morning of intense writing practice, I had this image of the water as a face – a placid mask of sorts – that tucked behind it so much pain, so much life, so much story.  That image guided me through the rest of that retreat, and it’s been the central image of all my writing since – that need to step beneath my own masks to find the truth, the real story I so easily cover over.

It is not too much to say that this retreat changed my life.  It was – in a very real and solid way – the thing that took me back to writing.  A year later, I quit my full-time teaching position at a college and began my journey to today – where I sit on my farm and write the hours away.

I took away from that retreat 5 very important lessons:

1. Writers need time away. No matter what our daily lives are like – whether we write all day or squeeze words into the crevices of other responsibilities – time away to just focus on our writing makes us better writers.  The time and space help us focus and go deeper into our work than the typical day allows.

2. Writers need firm prompting. Some of us get daily writing prompts via email, and some of us meet regularly with a group of writers. But there’s something about getting face-to-face with someone whose entire purpose is to help you write more honestly and profoundly that makes us rise to the occasion.

3. Writers need freshness. A new place, a new leader, a new set of writers with whom to interact – all of these things help a writer grow and explore.  There’s nothing worse for an artist than becoming an imitation of herself, and a writing retreat can urge us into new forms and words that expand our work and our person.

4. Writers need structure. A writing retreat has a schedule – times and places where you are expected to be.  This structure helps writers find the discipline to get to the page, even if that discipline will look very different when we return home.

5. Writers need self-affirmation. Just the act of signing up for a writing retreat empowers us to claim our identity as writers and stake out space for our work.  It’s easy to put our work aside for “more important” things, but when we commit money and time to a retreat, we affirm – to ourselves and others – that our work is important, valuable, and worthy.

So it’s for these reasons, that I’m excited to announce the inaugural God’s Whisper Farm Writing Retreat here at our place on the edge of the Blue Ridge.  The retreat will take place from July 18-20, 2014, and we have space for 25 writers to join us.  The cost is $75 and includes 4 meals.

All the details about the Retreat are available at our God’s Whisper Farm website – http://godswhisperfarm.com/writers-retreat-on-the-farm/ – and you can sign-up there as well.

I hope you’ll consider joining us for this great event full of quiet and words and the gentle push of community and time together.

So head on over to the farm site and get signed-up.  You deserve the space and time to focus and writer . . . you really do.

What’s the best writing retreat experience you’ve had?  Or if you haven’t been to a retreat yet, what would you like to gain from one?