This past weekend, I attended the iWrite Retreat in Heber, Utah, and to my horror and delight I started a story.
As in, I deleted the whole thing. And started over. And it was so painful and scary and disheartening. And here’s why: After I’d read everything I had written, it just felt like it wasn’t right.
That’s the worst.
Feeling it isn’t right? What the heck? It’s a story. It’s not a life-altering decision, like having a baby or getting married. Feeling the story wasn’t at it’s best, I made the hard decision to scrap it all.
I highlighted every chapter, and dragged it down, and put it in the trash. (Thank you, Scrivener, for having a trash can, where I can trash something and know deep down it’s not gone forever.)
Broken spirited, I wrote that first painful sentence, again. I crossed my ankles, closed my eyes and kept going.
When I peeked, I was half way done with that first chapter.
I squeezed my eyes again, and kept going.
And when I FELT like it was done, I opened my eyes, and there it was. A fresh, newborn draft.
I asked a friend if I could read it out loud to her. (Which I highly recommend reading your stuff out loud. You catch a ton of, shall we say crap? when you do that.) I began reading. When I finished, I looked up from my screen, and bravely asked: “Okay, what’s missing.”
We discussed points that could be improved, and I didn’t “edit” but I added words of clarification. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good-enough-for-now and I created chapter two, and repeated the process.
Then I read it out loud to her. And we repeated the clarification process, and I moved on. Hello, chapter three.
Well, by the time I completed chapter three, I had gained a few listeners. I’m not sure if they were truly invested, or just taking a break from their own writing, or felt obligated to listen because I’m loud and demanding and so big in spirit at these quiet retreats. I just dunno.
… in a library. That’s right. That’s me. (Hard to imagine that drama queen with a book in her hands. I know.)
By chapter four, I was more confident they were interested as the laughing was genuine and heartfelt and at one point, I thought one of the girls might pee her pants, she was laughing that hard. And I got to laughing because I tend to think I’m funny when I write and also because laughing is addicting.
Over the course of the three days, we did this. I wrote a chapter, then we’d have a reading session. We stayed up until 2:30am Saturday night to get to a kissing scene, recklessly abandoning sleep. I kept writing until they passed out, because the words were flowing and it FELT like I’d tapped into that something everyone calls THE MUSE.
On Sunday morning, I was half alive. We’re supposed to be checked out by 10 am, and after our cleaning and packing up was done, we found ourselves in another reading session, because I’d cranked out two more chapters. And we were laughing again, and I was so sad to say goodbye.
I drove home, wishing I was a dragon writer so I could keep writing, but instead memorize lyrics to songs to stay awake.
Thank you FUN and TAYLOR SWIFT for carrying me home. I should totally dubsmash Enchanted and Carry On, but I’ll spare the world that kind of obnoxiousness.
And my point of this post is to say: Never underestimate the value of a retreat. Be it iWrite or otherwise. Just go. Do it for yourself. Go be inspired, be productive, and when you do, just know how grateful that one extrovert is. She know’s she an emotional vampire, sucking you dry of your energy. But she is so thankful you put up with her. Because without you, she can’t find her muse.
Also, be brave enough to following those FEELINGS. Today, when I shared the newer first chapter with a friend who had read that original chapter, she looked at me and said, “It’s the same, yet different. Better.”
And the end story? I cut 21K words. Wrote 23K. (Can you believe that? Me, either!) Made new friends. Ate like a queen. Slept a total of 16 hours in 3.5 days, and it was 100% worth it.
Do you know of a writing retreat that is full of extroverts? If so, you totally gotta tell me. Okay?