May is motherhood memoir month

When Writing is the Retreat

As a Mother’s Day gift a few years ago our middle son, Scott, asked if I’d like to take a writing weekend away with him. He’s a radio journalist in Seattle. Of course, I loved the idea, but somewhere between ideas and schedules, the details were difficult to work out, until now.

We planned to go to Deer Harbor in the San Juan Islands, but first he’d come down here (near Portland) and speak to Arielle’s journalism class. He did this last year on his birthday and now it was the day after his sister’s 17th birthday. By the time I worked out the details, and thought of all the time and energy we’d spend traveling, I felt tired and a bit guilty– taking him away from his sister and father. Everyone always wants time with Scott. I felt like I should share…

Scott writing in our living room

The solution: A DIY retreat at our house. We have a forested backyard, comfortable beds, and a gourmet cook–John offered to shop, make meals, and chauffeur Arielle to her activities.

I’m writing a novel, but Scott is working on a book about Seattle’s homeless. He began this project a few years ago when he was a reporter for The Seattle Times. On day one, after coffee, we began with an exercise on character building from Elizabeth deMariaffi, designed for fiction writers but useful for us both as a warm-up… and then a delicate wedding/family issue derailed me. Families are messy and having six kids spread over a 25 year span is just asking for it… Eventually, I put the issue aside as best I could and returned to writing.

And in the end the writing became a retreat in itself, a place of escape, an alternate world I can control, at least until it too takes on a life of its own.

During our weekend I didn’t accomplish as much as I’d hoped (I never do), but I got more done than if I hadn’t planned a writing retreat with evening readings, and an online workshop with Trace Skuce, including meditation and more writing prompts. We took an afternoon hike through my favorite canyon- always good to break up the sedentary writing life with some super-oxygenated fresh air. And getting outdoors helped me deal with wedding/family stuff. All three evenings we did readings. John joined in- he’s writing a fictionalized biography of his grandfather who was a doughboy in France during World War I, leaving behind a child, a story we learned recently from our newly found French cousins…

Could you do your own simple retreat? It doesn’t even have to be a writing retreat- it could be crafting or health inspired.

Decide what you will retreat from (abstain from doing) and / or what you will do instead– what do you feel like you never have enough time for? For me its always working on my novel and drawing or painting.

May is your month- a time for retreat of your own making.

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