How to Build a Creative Life … or, Navigating Creative Disappointment … or, The Rallying Cry of the Working Writer

Update from MountainTop Writers RetreatI couldn’t decide on a title for this post (obviously). I am not normally indecisive—it’s just that each of the above titles fits. They are all part of the story of the working writer.

Here’s my story, at least for today: the upcoming Winter MountainTop (MountainTop Writers Retreat’s residency Jan. 30 – Feb. 2, 2020) is cancelled. We just did not have enough registrants to make this particular retreat weekend financially viable.

I’m disappointed, to say the least. I have put many hours of work—time, energy, and womanpower—into the newly launched MountainTop Writers Retreat, and I’m ready to share it with other writers. Drawing from my own experience as a writer in every stage of her writing life—from wannabe scribbler to occasionally published to published novelist to mama-writer to trying-to-be-a-sophomore novelist—I’ve worked to craft a retreat which will meet a writer wherever he or she lives. By this, I mean a retreat from which any writer, no matter where they are on the journey, can benefit.

Add to that a unique and tranquil setting—Earthshine Lodge in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina—which I long to share with others. This place is special, y’all: 76 acres of mountain and meadow at 3,000 feet of elevation, bordering one of the most beautiful national forests in the country. In every season, Earthshine makes you feel removed from the busy world … exactly where you are meant to be. Because of this, MountainTop Writers Retreat has the potential to be a powerfully generative experience for creative people.

I know, like so many of us, how one single experience can be the magic portal into something else. How time away with other writers, even for a weekend, can buoy your writing. It’s an investment in yourself and in your creative life which will yield boundless potential. I know this, because I’ve experienced it myself. When you invest in your writing life, when you arrange time away from your other responsibilities—and believe me, I know exactly what that means and how difficult it can be—you are saying to yourself, to your loved ones, and to the world: I am a writer. My writing is a priority.

But life is never predictable, and rarely fair. The vast majority of writers are not wealthy people, and investing in a retreat can be a challenge. There are work, family, and timing obligations which often get in the way. Traveling to and participating in a new retreat, especially, means taking a chance that interactions with other writers, time with visiting authors, and the accommodations themselves will meet or exceed your expectations. A creative life can often feel like a game of chance.

Let’s be honest: the attempt to become a published writer, an author, is a great leap of faith. The pass-fail percentages are unnerving. You have to love it—to believe in your story, and in yourself.

Over the last year and a half, my family and I have made difficult choices in order to strengthen my writing career. My younger child went to “real” school, which created a window for me to step away a time- and energy-consuming (and, frankly, thankless) teaching job—a job and students I happened to love. For me to devote time, for the the first time in over a decade, to my writing career. These have not been easy decisions. But during this time, and because of these choices, I have been happier and more productive as a writer than I’ve ever imagined. (Funny how loss and gain are often the opposite sides of a priceless coin.)

Like many writers, I am trying to grow a creative career: to do the things which not only enrich my writing life, but which also bring me joy—and in turn, bring joy to other writers.

This is why I launched MountainTop Writers Retreat, and why I hope it will be a success. The journey to making the retreat a success will not be an easy peasy walk in the park—but what real journey worth its salt, and worth the story, ever is?

I hate disappointing anyone. So the fact that Winter MountainTop did not make this go-round feels to me like a trip through an emotional and mental wringer: I am in turn sad I couldn’t make it work, embarrassed for the same reasons, frustrated at all the might-have-beens. Still, while I’m disappointed to the bone that the retreat did not come to fruition this go-round, I’m thankful for the folks who registered—who took a chance on a new retreat and a director (and author) who is still making her way in the writing world. I hope they will forward their deposits–and their creative hopes–to our next retreat.

Now. Onward. MountainTop Writers Retreat is pleased to announce our newest retreat: 2020 Fall MountainTop, to be held November 6 – 8, 2020 at Earthshine Lodge. Fall MountainTop will be much like Winter: private rooms in a private lodge, meals, roaring fires, and an optional itinerary of brainstorming and workshop sessions, yoga, hiking, and more. This will be shorter weekend, so it’ll be cheaper. Add the gorgeous colors of Autumn in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it will be a retreat weekend which can’t be beat. (Plus, you’ve got 9 months to plan for it.)

Details are still being finalized, so please follow us on social media for updates:
Instagram: @mountaintopwritersretreat
My author website:
My Facebook author page:

If writing was easy, everyone would do it. We do it, of course, because we have to. Because stories are the way we walk through the world.

I want to be on this journey with you. I hope you’ll join us in Fall 2020 at MountainTop Writers Retreat.

Thanks for listening,

Founder & Director, MountainTop Writers Retreat
Fellow Writer

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