We had our second ever writers retreat on the weekend: two nights in a shared house at Boomerang Beach.
The relaxed environment and like-minded company allowed the creative energy to flow. We all felt inspired, received incidental support with our writing when we needed it, and had uninterrupted hours of writing.
That’s one of the best things about a writers retreat: it gives you physical distance from home. Many of us have busy lives with family, work and caring for others and this writers retreat took us away from those demanding environments and allowed us to free our minds. We noticed the things around us and make connections that would otherwise be missed, such as tuning forks and echidnas.
Let us explain…
One of us was working on a story, and in it there was a street named Red Gum Drive. We noticed that a street close to where we were staying was Red Gum Drive. A few of us walked down to the street to see what might inspire us, and as we were walking we looked at the shapes in the trees and discussed how they would make beautiful metaphors in our stories. On person pointed out the shape of a tree and another said it was a ‘tuning fork’. When we were back at the house, one of us picked up a book that another had brought called The Writer’s Room: Conversations about writing by Charlotte Wood, and randomly picked the interview with Amanda Lohrey. In this chapter, Lohrey refers to the need to use a ‘tuning fork’ to find your voice and tone in your writing.
The person reading could only remember three or four times in her life where she’d heard the words ‘tuning fork’ before, and here it happened twice within a space of an hour. She read the paragraph out to the group and we had a fruitful discussion about voice and tone.
This might not seem like a major revelation, however it highlights the importance of allowing space and freedom to let the mind wander and be more observant to the things around you.
The echidna was a similar experience. When a few of us were walking back from the beach we heard a rustle in the bush next to the track and saw a little echidna foraging in the dirt. One member of the group had brought her Spirit Animal card deck to the writers retreat, so we noted that we would look up echidna in the cards later. A local woman appeared and commented that in 15 years of being there, this is the first echidna she’d ever seen. We got chatting and mentioned we were here on a writers retreat. She said that her mother, Martyna Parsons, had written a book called Through the Eyes of a Child.
When we got back to the house, we got out the Spirit Animal card deck and read from the book for the description of ‘porcupine’. This is what it said:
When we began to read we all screamed with excitement. ‘Through the eyes of a child’ was the exact title of the book that Martyna Parsons had written, and was completely unknown to us until twenty minutes prior. Once again, this was a connection that would have been missed in our usual busy lives.
When we allow these connections to happen, the quality of our writing improves. We have new ideas to inject into our stories, and we make our plots and characters take interesting turns that would have never been considered previously. When we absorb new things, they come out in our writing naturally and appear more authentic. The smell of the ocean, the way a tree grows, the spikes of an echidna foraging in the grass: these will be in the back of our minds, ready to be drawn upon when needed.
On Sunday afternoon it was hard to say goodbye and head back to our day-to-day lives, but it had to be done. At least until our next writers retreat!
On closing, I’ll finish with this warm and joyous photo from our Saturday night dinner.