This past weekend I attended a writing retreat in Lake Arrowhead. It’s the second time I’ve attended (the first time was last year; you can read about it here: http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2014/05/writing-driving-and-metaphor-for-life.html) And being away from home, out of my comfort zone, meeting new people made me realize a few things about myself that are true regardless of where I am and who I am with.
- I’m not fancy. Our breakfasts and lunches were serve-your-self style. Pick up a plate, move along the line, and select your own portions. Dinner, on the other hand, was a sit-down, four-course, hours-long event. And while I did appreciate the fact that I didn’t have to cook, serve, or clean-up, I felt much more at ease during breakfast and lunch, when the silverware came wrapped up in a napkin rather than at dinner when there were multiple forks, knives, and spoons on the table.
- I’m in awe of words. Being surrounded by other writers, and having the opportunity to read their work, really touched me. 26 letters. That’s all we have to work with, yet, those letters have such power, and the ways in which they can be combined create such compelling writing.
- I get ideas in the bathroom. At home, I find myself often getting ideas while showering. I can zone out, go through the motions of what needs to be done, and in those moments an idea may come to me — an idea for a new personal essay, an idea for a revision, an idea for a new opening paragraph. The same thing happened in Lake Arrowhead. I had workshopped a personal essay on our first day, and I was revising my essay based on the feedback I had been given. I was trying to find a new way to begin my essay. And that new way occurred to me while I was brushing my teeth.
- I’m shy. I may be able to write about personal topics (i.e. my sex life — see my essay at XOJane.com, http://www.xojane.com/sex/sex-drugs-and-rheumatology), but I still feel myself blushing when praised. I’m also not one of those people who can easily approach a stranger and immediately proceed to have a lengthy conversation. It takes me a bit of time to warm up to new people.
- I need quiet time. Each night before dinner, there was a “social hour” — a chance to have a glass of wine (for me it was water) and mingle with the other writers. Each night, I excused myself early from the social hour and sought the refuge my quiet room offered. For me, it’s quiet, alone time that allows me to recharge (rather than a drink and chatting).