There is quite literally nothing, for a writer of any stripe, like being on retreat. Especially after these 13+ months of living and working during a global pandemic. Because of this, I was even more delighted than usual to serve as the Guest Host at Earthshine Lodge’s Spring Academic Writers Retreat in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, April 13 – 15th.
Being truly “on retreat” as a writer means (or should mean, if the retreat is worth its salt) the following: dedicated and private writing space, dedicated and private writing time, comfortable accommodations, a peaceful setting, ease of experience–whether this includes a helpful itinerary (or none), meals provided, or interactions with others. Most important: being left the heck alone.
Yep. I said it. A writer on retreat, even in a “typical” year, goes on retreat to be left alone … in order to write.
At the Spring Academic Writers Retreat last week, we hosted faculty members from North Carolina State University.
Their purpose: to utilize the short time away for faculty development, and for time to WORK–to write grants, work on papers, brainstorm combined projects, and more. They held Zoom meetings with their graduate students, and even fielded calls from home.
Our itinerary (always optional, at least when I’m the host): guided, informal conversations; goal setting, and reevalution; two breakout sessions and/or workshops centering on common writing issues like inspiration, pitfalls, and more, and strategies to help; and yoga, meditation, and a guided hike, for good measure. Earthshine Lodge’s 76 acres of gorgeous mountain property, which border The Pisgah National Forest, are a haven.
Really, what I wanted more than any sort of itineraried set of tasks accomplished was for the writers’ personal goals to be met–goals they’d set professionally, but also personally. These could have included brainstorming conversations with colleagues which they’d been saving to have in person, a number of pages or paragraphs written, or even sitting by an evening fire in the quiet, cup of tea in hand.
A good retreat allows for all the above, but it also allows for sparks of magic, saving graces: the moments you don’t know you need, or have been longing for, until they happen. A laugh over a good meal, a remembered story, a breathless hike to the top of a view yielding miles of mountains. A lean against a lodge railing, chilly spring breeze lifting the hair from your face.
For my part, I found myself rejuvenated just by witnessing
the writers’ retreat: They were colleagues, but more, friends who hadn’t been able to spend time together because of the pandemic. Watching them interact and enjoy time together and away while at the same time being incredibly productive was impressive, and fun for me to see, all at the same time. I so hope they return.
And I am thankful to be part of Earthshine Lodge, and hopeful for future retreats at this unique and beautiful spot. If you’re interested in a future writers’ retreat of any sort, we can craft it. Contact me here, or email me privately at thewritingscott at gmail dot com and we’ll get a conversation going. You won’t regret it. The mountains are magic.
More photos below …