Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Writing Retreats

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From time to time I’ve organized a writing retreat for myself. Once it was a cabin, another time a nuns’ retreat centre with meals provided, and later, space at the delightful, even bucolic, Gibraltar Point.

In each case I stayed about two weeks. In each case I felt each day as holy, as so fully centered in silence and work that I came to the conclusion that this was the perfect way to work on a project. Each day at retreat I’d sit at desk or chair or beach towel and write by hand, pages and pages. The writing was coming from a deeper place, with no internet, no family, no phone, no domestic concerns.I was writing close to twenty pages a day.

Wow. Twenty pages a day multiplied by 14 .... A draft of a novel. Or a re-write. Magic. I felt concentration grow in my body as the days passed. I would sit outside and stare at the water or at a bird puttering around and feel not a hint of impatience. This was the Self I craved during all the rushed and distracted days of normal life. This was the writer’s self, and clever me, I’d accessed it.

I decided I would become like Georges Simenon who’d rent a houseboat or a room for eleven days and write a chapter a day. Walk out with a complete book. That’s why his novels are all about 180 pages. I’d do this maybe three times a year (three drafts seemed about right, what with this heightened level of concentration) and leave the rest of the year to do other stuff. Brilliant idea.

I returned home from each retreat giddy with success and a great sheaf of manuscript under one arm.
But here’s the weird and dismal truth: of all the writing that I did at these three retreats, not ONE PAGE survived future drafts and made it into a novel.

I have no explanation for this. I’d love to hear from any of you who have used writing retreats.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Ann Ireland

Ann Ireland is the author of A Certain Mr. Takahashi, The Instructor and Exile. Her most recent novel is The Blue Guitar. She lives in Toronto.

Go to Ann Ireland’s Author Page