28
Mar 17

Five Things I Learned from My First Writer’s Retreat

I’ve written a little bit about my stay at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, but today I want to talk about the five things I learned from my first writer’s retreat.

My First Writer's Retreat

I had fantasized about attending a writer’s retreat for many years before I was able to attend one, and it was definitely a life-changing experience. I’m convinced that it’s something I should be doing once a year. In fact, I may roll my yearly writer’s conference budget into a yearly writer’s retreat budget. No offense to conferences, it’s just I think I’d like the open time to write more than I’d like to attend sessions on writing.

In order to make future writer retreats easier on myself (as well as to make it easier on any of my readers who may attend one) I’m recapping the five things I learned from my first writer’s retreat.

Five Things I Learned from My First Writer's Retreat #amwriting Click To Tweet

001: Bring a night light.

Anyone else a super weird wiener kid incapable of turning their brain off at night? No? Just me? Okay. Here’s the thing. In a past incarnation of this ol’ blog, I wrote about how I’m afraid of the dark. And it’s not really the dark that’s the problem, but it’s this writer imagination of mine. I can easily think of all the things that might be lurking in the dark. In fact, I can list roughly a BAJILLION things that might want to end my life, and only like 3 of them would be real. This is always exacerbated by spending a lot of time writing. When your brain is in overdrive from writing ghost stories all day, it’s really hard to shut it off just because you should be asleep.

The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow gives every writer their own bedroom, bathroom, and writing area. So, even though you’re in the same house as other people, you’re relatively secluded. And the darkness in Eureka Springs is just a little darker than it is in Norman, so naturally I left a bathroom light on every night I was there. Next time I’ll bring a night light.

002: Don’t be too hard on yourself.

If you haven’t read the “As I Write This” post, click on over. It’s a good primer on the writerly psychomachia that plagues me in every waking hour of my life. I struggle with impostor syndrome, feeling like everything I write is garbage, and worrying that I won’t ever do anything that’s good enough. And you know when my brain decided would be the best time to wrestle with all these things?

IN THE MIDDLE OF MY FIRST WRITER’S RETREAT.

(And also like every day.)

But take it from me. It’s going to be hard to not feel like you’re squandering your time and energy while you’re there. Because uninterrupted time is so hard to come by, I felt that I should be spending my days at the retreat working on the Next Great American Novel. And if I’m being honest, the majority of my thoughts aren’t Next Great American Novel so much as Spooky Ghost Story with Historical Flashbacks.

Don’t waste time worrying that you’re wasting time with the words that are coming out. Instead, just breathe that fresh Ozark air and get to typin’.

(Note: You will only find Ozark air in the Ozarks. If you attend a different retreat, then you should breathe that air.)

003: Healthy food is fuel.

I was ready to consume nothing but junk the whole time I was in Eureka Springs. I have some very unhealthy writing habits that were encouraged by a certain instructor. He was very fond of telling us about the amount of candy he would consume while in the process of writing, and I definitely picked up that habit. (For example, when I was writing my comprehensive exam essay for library school, I bought potato chips, cupcakes, soda, and frozen pizza to fuel my paper writing. I passed, but the whole next week I felt like I was going to die.)

While eating bad food during marathon writing sessions is a bad habit I’m definitely trying to break, it was relatively easy to eat well at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Jana, the cook, made some of the best food I’d had in a while. Here butternut squash and caramelized onion galette was amazing, and I absolutely loved the yellow dhal soup. Then, our dinner at Ermilio’s, while not the healthiest meal in the world, was definitely more balanced and nourishing than what I would normally consume while in writer mode.

(Also, lest you think that I’m not still a human garbage disposal, know that I had Diet Coke, Peanut Butter M&Ms, and Starburst Jelly Beans every single day I was there. I just didn’t eat them as a meal. So, see? I’m basically a health food guru as a result of my first writer’s retreat.)

004: Fresh air and conversation is necessary.

Like I mentioned, I have a tendency to get all up in my head with negativity. But the best way to combat that has always been to step away. Luckily Mari Farthing likes to go for walks too. So on both Friday and Saturday we set aside time to explore part of downtown Eureka Springs. We definitely got lost on Friday just because we are flatlanders and the loopy curves of Eureka Springs streets as they go around hills is definitely not something we’re used to navigating. They didn’t have to send out a search party, but it came close.

Another way we stepped away from writing was in the evenings. Each night we had a full-on slumber party-style gab session, complete with wine furnished by Bethany Stephens, and the best gossip that the five of us could manage. We stayed up so late just chatting about life and work and everything else. It was amazing. In fact, that conversation has led to SEVERAL blog posts that will be coming down the pike in the near future.

005: Headspace is key.

This ties back into not being too hard on yourself, but know that your headspace is everything. I mean, just generally in life this is true, but it’s doubly true at a writing retreat. I struggle with an anxious mind. At any given moment, I’m thinking of all the other things I should be doing instead. It’s hard for me to turn off the to do list mentality, and I know I need to live in the moment more. And that was the sort of headspace I needed to be in before I started writing. I finally got there by Saturday, but since my stay was super short, I wish I would’ve gotten there sooner so I could get more done during my first writer’s retreat.

If you’re like me, then I recommend turning your retreat into a vacation/retreat. To do this, take a day or two to head to the place where you’ll be for your retreat. Then, set aside the first day as a vacation do. Get a massage, go to a nice restaurant, and definitely relax. Slow your body and brain down so that the next day you’re ready to bleed it all out on the page. It may feel like a wasted day, but getting your head right is going to be the best thing you can do for your writing.

Getting your head right is going to be the best thing you can do for your writing. Click To Tweet

Well there you have it — the Five things I learned from my first writer’s retreat. Have you ever been to a writing retreat? Do you have any expert advice for other writers? DO YOU WANT TO PLAN FUTURE A TRIP TO THE WRITER’S COLONY AT DAIRY HOLLOW WITH ME?!


16
Mar 17

I’m Going to the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs

The Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs

Today I’m heading to the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to do something that I never thought I’d do — attend a writer’s retreat.

Writer’s retreats are things I dream about. Sometimes I catch myself perusing Air BnB for the perfect little escape off the beaten path. I think of all the things I’d like to work on when I finally have some solitude, or just a quiet space where I’m not nagged by chores or papers that need grading. And ultimately I never do it because it’s always expensive, because I don’t have enough free time to do it, or because I just don’t think it’s in the cards right now.

Well, that has changed.

The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs reached out to the Women Bloggers for a group of writery bloggers to come to a free retreat in exchange for some bloggy and social media love. So, in addition to the writer’s retreat experience, we’re also getting tours of downtown Eureka Springs and a haunted hotel.

This is basically my dream scenario. Pretty much the only thing I write about is ghosts. And pretty much the only thing I love more than writing about ghosts is seeing ghosts!

I’m also very excited to have the opportunity to do this with some really awesome women. Mari Farthing, Heather Davis, and Rebecca Loper will all be attending.

I’ve got a bag packed full of projects to work on. I want to focus on a short story that’s been banging around my head for a couple of years. I’ve only managed to get about 1,500 words of it on paper, but I’m optimistic that this will be the weekend that good things happen for that story. I’m also bringing a half-baked novel outline to keep on deck for when I hit a point in the short story where I need to back away.

And naturally, I’ll have my journal with me. I posted about In Your Own Words Journaling on Instagram earlier this week, and I’m definitely bringing those journaling prompts with me. I may use them first thing in the morning, or as warm-ups for working on other projects. Or hell, if I find that I’m unable to write anything else (God forbid) then I’ll hit my journal hard.

If you’re interested in following along on my trip to the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, I’ll be posting quite a bit on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. I may say something over on Facebook, but most likely I won’t. (I mean, I may share an Instagram post or two directly to my page, but that’s it.)

And of course, you know me. When I go out of town, I have to make a hashtag about it. So, follow #MarisawritesDairyHollow and you can keep up with all my shenanigans.

 

Have you ever attended a writer’s retreat? Anything special I should do in Eureka Springs?


16
Sep 16

The One Big Blogging Secret I Learned at #Megaphone16

This past weekend I attended Megaphone Summit in Arkansas. Allison drove me in her swanky as hell minivan, and together, I like to think we really conquered Fayetteville.

This is the one big blogging secret I learned at Megaphone Summit.

(Please note that here I’m using the word “conquered” to mean “ate too much damn cheese and then fell asleep real early in.”)

Wanna see what I brought with me to Megaphone Summit?

On Friday, we ate too many cheese fries at Farrell’s. Then, on Saturday Allison won a brewery tour with Hogshead Tours, and she brought me along to Columbus House Brewery.

The fine folks with Hogshead dropped us off at Hammontree’s for a dinner of fancy grilled cheeses, where we got in some much needed girl talk and more beer.

The weekend was so jam-packed with information and experiences, that I was pretty much dead on my feet by Sunday. I wish that there had been a 2-hour break on Saturday afternoon where we could all just sit down and sip coffee while talking quietly so I could’ve gotten to know more of the attendees there. (Two-hour coffee breaks are why they don’t let introverts organize blog conferences. Though, I guess I did that once.)

The weekend was full of inspirational and informative talks from a lot of different bloggers and blog-adjacent professionals. Thanks to those sessions, I now feel fairly comfortable with FTC regulations, XML sitemaps, and the Adobe Light Room app. (Seriously, if you aren’t using it, it’s a freakin’ game changer.)

I finally met Rachel in person, I got to see Cassie again, and Stephanie gave me a big ol’ hug. I was super excited to hear Jackie talk again, and I have to say that she basically hit me on the back of the head and reminded me to be Marisa, which was exactly what I needed to hear.

I wish I could give you a complete rundown of all the sessions, but I feel like my head is way too full of the information I learned. Couple that with the fact that I waited a whole week to write this post, and, well, you see why I’m not being super specific. But that’s the beauty here. See, the big blogging secret I learned isn’t a specific thing that anyone said.

The Big Blogging Secret

The big blogging secret was implied by every last damn person who spoke, if not stated outright. You have to just do what you want to do.

You have to just do what you want to do. Click To Tweet

You have to stop asking for permission.

You have to go for the thing you decided you wanted.

You have to harass the gatekeepers until you get where you want to be.

You have to be relentless.

Basically, the big blogging secret is something we should all be doing in our everyday lives.

On Asking for Permission

I realized a couple of years ago that I’ve spent a lot of time asking for permission, at least in the metaphorical sense of the world. I kept buying books on writing, hoping that every time I cracked the spine on one of them that I’d finally be where I wanted to be as a writer. I spent a lot of time enrolling in adult education classes that I wanted to make me interesting so I’d somehow be worthwhile. I let ideas simmer in my head until they completely fizzled out, simply because I didn’t think I was qualified to do anything with them.

And all the time I was surrounded by people who had the confidence to go and do exactly what they wanted. In some cases, I was in awe. In others, I was pissed that someone who wasn’t as good as me would even try to go after something. (I’m quite petty and jealous. It’s something I’m working on. So is Jackie, if you haven’t read this post already. It’s good stuff.) But even so, I never went after the things I wanted.

Megaphone Summit was a reminder that I have to just do shit. Full stop.

#RealGoodGutPunch

Lately my life has been full of what I’m going to call “real good gut punches.” Those are the moments that make you realize something, the pieces of art that hollow you out a little so you can hold more, the people who metaphorically hold you like a baby before you can even realize that you needed them to do that. Lately I’ve felt like I’ve had a couple of real good gut punches, and Megaphone Summit was definitely one of them.

#Megaphone16 was a #realgoodgutpunch. Click To Tweet

(If you make a connection between gut punches and me mentioning that Allison and I ate too much cheese, I will light your hair on fire.)

And maybe that’s just the thing. The big blogging secret was a real good gut punch. But maybe the even bigger blogging secret is that you need a real good gut punch every once in a while.