So, I have a “big” birthday coming up (yeah, you know, I’m turning 29 again – wink wink) and I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a party. For my 40th, I had rejected the party idea and chose a nice vacation instead. For this one, I knew I wanted to do something special, something I would remember forever, and something that would not be wildly expensive and over in 4 hours. The notion of a writing retreat has always intrigued me, but the ones I had heard about were either too extravagant, too yoga-ish, or too workshop-oriented. But then I discovered Haven writing retreat and I knew I had found my birthday present.
Initially, when I told friends I was going on a writing retreat in Montana, my reasons were simple: I need to start writing more, I’m creatively stuck and I need a kick in the arse. But, now that I’ve recently returned from my five day adventure at the Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, I know my answer has expanded. I also know that this was an experience that is truly difficult to put into words – ironic (and frustrating!) for a writer.
I’m trying to wrap my head around what this retreat was all about. Of course, it was about writing and we did plenty of that. We were given writing prompts each day and from these exercises, we learned so much more about our craft. We also had an evening workshop when people could optionally share their writing and obtain feedback. Everyone was so generous with their thoughts that I think we would have stayed there all night if common sense for needing sleep didn’t dictate otherwise.
In addition to loving those writing sessions, I also know that the 11 women who traveled from all over the country (and one from Canada) to be at this beautiful and safe Haven all needed to be there. I think the common thread for all of us was that we needed a space away from something — from kids, from an ex, from a memory, from our present, or maybe just from our own heads.
I believe we all found that space in Montana with which we could breathe and confront what we possibly wanted to write about. For some of us, those topics were very painful and scary. For others, they found the comfort and confidence to experiment with a story or an idea. No matter what the reason, we were all seeking something and I believe we all found it.
I also believe we were surprised to experience such immediate and strong bonding. For me, the most fascinating part of the retreat was what happens when you put 11 people together who are strangers on Day 1 and by Day 2, are hugging, crying, supporting, and encouraging one another. I don’t have a strong psychology background, but I’d love to hear the analysis as to why something like that happens. We wondered if that happens with every group that comes on this retreat. And, I wondered if it had to do with our facilitator Laura, who has a true gift to lead, teach and simultaneously love her participants with a pure affection. I do know with great confidence that we all felt safe that we could open our hearts to each other. That kind of trust can only be fostered from someone who also shows her vulnerability. Thank you Laura!
I also came away with the affirmation that I was grateful to have participated in something like this. I feel like recommending it to every person I know, writer or not.
I was challenged to go beyond my comfort zone in so many ways:
Vegan food. I wasn’t sure how I’d do without regular servings of beef and chicken. And yet, for some reason the only thing I kept craving was a Diet Coke?
Talking in a group – not my favorite thing to do at all, but I pushed myself to speak up more.
Reading my writing out loud – scary, but then it ended up being so NOT scary when I did it.
Horses – I’m terrified of horses, but I hugged one on this retreat and I think he may have hugged me back.
One day during one of our writing sessions, one of my new writing friends outstretched her arms to all of us and said boldly (just kidding, no adverbs allowed):
“I love us!”
I think at that moment she realized that this was a special group of writers that were feeling privileged to be together. I also believe that every one of us realized the same thing as her, whether it was right at that moment or at some point during our retreat.
I love us, too.
If you want to experience the magic of a Haven writing retreat or to learn more, click HERE.
NOTE: This was NOT a sponsored post. All opinions are my own!