A winter writing retreat

I’ve written before about how I don’t typically stick to a rigid daily writing routine. I generally work my writing into a crammed and constantly changing schedule of teaching, editing, committee work, housework, pet care, meditation, errands . . . .

But I’ve also written before about how wonderful it is to have the time to devote to writing, to set aside hours in a day over days or weeks at a time and make writing my only job.

And now that my fall term of teaching is over, I have a few weeks to do just that, so ladies and gentlemen, I’m going on retreat!

Actually, I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying home, where I’m going to do an in-house retreat.

I had the idea late last year, when I was at my Buddhist center, attending a teaching on maintaining a practice and setting up personal retreats. That teaching was focused on dharma practice, but, busy mind that I have, many of the notes I took were about how to convert the advice to my writing practice.

I was especially taken with this idea of making time sacred, of adopting a mindset in which any time — even five minutes — can become a “retreat” if you embrace that time fully and maintain a focus on the practice. And while it’s hard to do that in a writing practice (how much effective writing can one legitimately get done in five minutes?), it’s something I’ve kept in mind over the past year as I squeeze in my writing around all my other time-obligations.

Which is how I’m managing my writing retreat over the next few weeks. Some days I’m dealing with appointments (the vet, the chiropractor), and some days I’m doing readings, and some days are just house days. But every day, whatever else is happening, I’ll be dedicating at least a few hours to fiction.

A lot of that time will be spent staring at my Wall of Fiction, I'm sure.
A lot of that time will be spent staring at my Wall of Fiction, I’m sure.

The past few days have been my vacation. I’ve played some computer games, screwed around on the Internet, slept late. But come Monday (when my grades are due and I’m officially done with the fall term), I’ll be waking up early, brewing a pot of coffee, and retreating into my little study downstairs. I’ll be writing for a couple of hours every morning. I’ll often be writing late at night. And if nothing else is on the calendar, I’ll be writing all day.

I might even put on a tie.

It’s winter break, folks. It’s time to get to work!

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

4 thoughts on “A winter writing retreat

  1. I had been meaning to ask this, Sam, and maybe I did at some point and have simply forgotten (that is entirely possible!). Someone once said that whatever we write is inevitably didactic, and George Orwell went further and said “All art is propaganda”. I was struck by the violence in ‘Hagridden’ which, although not described in a matter-of-fact way, seemed simply to be ‘what happened’. You, as the author, neither relished it nor shrank from it, and it was simply a necessary part of the ‘drama’ of the book being played out on the page. Yet by inclination you are a Buddhist, and Buddhism is a pacifistic philosophy. On the face of it, there is absolutely no expression of horror, not even the mildest ‘tut-tut’ from the voice of the author, in the work.

    I assume that in your writing you attempt, as I do myself, to allow things to happen because they happen. ‘This happens’, rather than ‘Isn’t it terrible that this happens’. Where does your/our own morality sit? Where does that author’s philosophy sit? Do you – do we – as I suggested in my review of ‘Hagridden’, make an amoral narrative a moral position in its own right? Is an amoral position more powerful, in a way, than trumpeting our agenda? Or is this simply what we ‘ought’ to do as honest authors?

    I would be interested to hear you kick this around a little.

    By the way, this is an interesting post today, and another valuable insight into your discipline. Mine is, I confess, simply to write when I can. My equivalent of putting on a tie would be to put on make-up, and that I will never do! 😀


    1. Funny you should ask. My publisher has requested a series of “insight” posts, and that relationship between my subject matter and my dharma practice is on the list. I’ll be getting to it shortly!

  2. Thanks for reminding me that I need to get busy and write more. However, my break does not start for another week. Right now I have to turn in my scores for a contest in which I am a judge.

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