Writing In Community-Why Retreats Are (Not) Needed–The Cons

Writing retreats, if not taking seriously, are vacations! You are basically wasting people’s time otherwise! If you don’t write at home, in your dedicated writing space, what makes writing in place where you have to pay to be at will be any different? Let me tell you why you should think twice before you into a writing workshop:

  1. Time. Writing is labor and time-intensive. It just is! If you can’t figure out how to write when you need to at home, why would you want to divert from your daily routine in order to write? These spaces are reserved for people whom want to write, and need the space to do so! Consider the value of your time, and everyone else’s before you attend.

2. Scheduling. Most writing retreats operate on and in certain time constraints. You have to be there at a certain time, to leave at a certain time, and while you’re there? The expectation is that you fully participate in your chosen or assigned workshop. If you aren’t there to learn or participate fully in your craft, why waste time and money?

3. Focus. One of the reason (even if it is the most basic) why you shouldn’t go on a writing retreat is it will require you to focus. It will require you be steadfast in the same resolve that got you there in the first place! You decided to invest in your talent by way of a retreat. One of those ways you pay it forward from that investment is focus. This 5-letter world will enable you to accomplish all you planned to do in this particular arena! Without it, nothing can be done! Be mindful that even though retreats can be restful (and should be!), you came there on and for a mission. Use your time wisely, and invest where you want to best reap maximum benefit.

If you desire to write, to be a writer, you are going to have to get comfortable writing! Whether alone, in groups, or if no one else will read it. Nothing can be read if you don’t write it first. If you won’t write at home, save you money, honey. A retreat is not what is needed–redirection is.

Doing The Groundwork: Why Workshops Are Necessary

To date, I have spoken at length about what it means to attend a writing retreat. I understand, though, not everyone is able to attend on of these. I mean it is a pandemic on top of everything else! But, there is a high chance, dear Oracle, budding/indie writer that you can attend a workshop! And here are some reasons why you should:

1. Cost. Depending on the length of the workshop, topic and genre, it may be entirely more affordable and feasible to attend a workshop than a retreat. If you can spend $100 on an hour workshop than $300 on a retreat–where you may sleep rather than write!–spend less money.

2. Location. It’s the pandemic! Not a lot of people are traveling for these types of artistic ventures. But, there may be a writers’ workshop that you can be apart of that meets locally or virtually! There as a writer’s workshop that I used to attend that was hosted by my girl Amanda Wells that met once a month! In her space, she offered snacks, gave a space to write and a place to just decompress to write! And it was free! Look for these types of supportive places in your city. Social media is a great place to look (Facebook, especially!).

3. Learning and Networking. Sometimes writing can feel as if you are atop a mountain with no way to get to the village below. Workshops foster writing in community! Workshops encourage writers to bounce ideas off one another, gather support and even become aware of those that write the same genre as you do!

Don’t dismiss the opportunity to build out your writing network! You would will never know whom you might need, whom might need you and what opportunities may be garnered because you were at the right place at the right time.

#HappyWriting!

Retreat Or…Retreat?

 I am both a fan and suspicious of writing retreats. I believe in the right context these types of investments are invaluable. As a writer, you must understand that is only one component of your hobby or career. The mechanics and development of your skills as a writer are totally dependent on your willingness to take them both seriously. This can be something as simple as learning a word a day to build your vocabulary, or following your favorite writing/writer-focused podcast (shameless plug for THE WRITERS’ BLOCK on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify! Check for the red and black logo!). But,  the cool think about retreats are they provide a way to build your writing community as well! These groups and collectives can be your secret weapons to keep you motivated to write! The best thing about workshops is how they can be so specific! There is a retreat or a workshop for any and every part of writing! For every genre, every struggle, every hang-up, and every resource! There is a retreat! Don’t discount the importance of your writing community! Being a writer does not make you omniscient to all things writing related–or impervious to criticism! The reason I am and can be suspicious of writing retreats is because they can be money grabs, and or totally unhelpful! If you spend your hard earned money on something that will help you, there is an expectation that you will get a desired outcome! There are some facilitators of these workshops or retreats whom have no idea how to facilitate them! Or prepared to answer any questions! Cardinal rule of searching out workshops and retreats is to do your research on the facilitator! Email them and ask questions! You are a writer as well as a consumer! Don’t be caught in a space where you have invested time, energy and money and come out worse for wear. Be careful, my oracles. Be wise. Be careful. Invest wisely in the development of your craft and career. The responsibility of the development of your craft is up to you.

Build The Foundation For The Haunted Houses

Shameless plug: Buy The Reformatory by Tananarive Due. You’re welcome.

If you have been following this space for some time, you know that my first love is horror writing. Now, do I consider myself solely a horror writer? No. I don’t. However, you all know that a writer girlfriend of mine is Tonia Ransom, and never fail to remind you all to follow her podcast.

Which you should. Right now. Click here.

With that said, I got the chance to interview the incredible woman for the third season of The Writers’ Block (which you can find on Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Spotify). Look for this logo:

In that interview (date 8/13/2020), Tonia and I spoke at length about the skill and crafting of a good horror story. The thing which I thought was most amazing was she suggested those who want to go into horror writing to take a screenwriting class! She said a good scary story has a knowledge of tension, tone and setting.

I had never thought about that!

Even with the interview she did with Tananarive Due on her podcast (date 9/19), one of the thing Tananarive Due expressed how she had created an entire fictitious city for her books: Graceland, FL. In that city all types of magical, supernatural things happen to children (think about last week’s post about The Base, The Roux and The Legendary). What has dynamic about the interview with Tananarive Due and mine with Tonia is the idea of building a world with all the things you need in it. Having the freedom to give your characters what they need. Even with Tananarive Due’s story she submitted to Nightlight she mentions how the story took place in Graceland–the same place as The Reformatory.

A good horror story uses tension, tone and setting as its basis as its foundation. While we know not everything will scare everyone, there are some thing which are synonymous to the human experience which will and do!

Remember, that what you want to create, you are free to do so! You have all you need to build the story that you want. You do this by using all the tools at your disposal. And I do mean all of them! Don’t be afraid that it’s not perfect! This is the purpose of having and making drafts! The goal is to get what it off your head into a medium by which you can read it!

Fear the words and worlds you don’t create…not the ones you do.

Get to it.

Encouragement Pages-10/05/2020, As You Go Along-Part 1

Writing requires a completely different set of knowledge. Writers have the strangest walking around information! Yet, you need this type of knowledge. When writing fiction, you will need to be able to draw from this fountain of information formed and gathered through your own life travels and experiences. The strangest thing about being a writer is how you will incorporate all of those experiences–real or read–as they may manifest into flaw for your protag, a strategy for your villain, or a skill for your underdog!

Get to it! You can do it!

Happy Writing!

With Love & Ink,

JBHarris

Encouragement Pages-10/2/2020

I want you to understand that you are in charge of your imagination. You tell it what to do, where you want to go, and what you need the story to say!

You are the writer. You control this world, because you created it.

Create in confidence and write in power.

With Love & Ink,

JBHarris

Encouragement Pages-09/09/2020

There is a power to storytelling. There is a skill to storytelling as well. This is one of the skills you must develop as a writer! Storytelling is an art, a skill, and a talent.

Begin to develop this talent.

Embrace this flexibility of your talent–it is needed and you will never regret it.

With Love & Ink,

JBHarris

Encouragement Pages-08/31/2020

Let me tell you a secret.

You write better than what you think you do. You can write longer than what you think you can. How do I know this? People do what they deem important.

If writing is important, you will write. Nothing will stop you.

If writing is not important, you will not write. Nothing could compel you.

Yes, you will only get better at writing, by writing. It is that development of tenacity, that desire not to quit, which will build the confidence you need to keep writing.

Keep going. You (will) write better than what you think you do.

With Love & Ink,

JBHarris

Encouragement Pages-08/28/2020

For the good of your imagination, begin to be grateful.

Gratitude is a super power for all those in the arts! Remember to be grateful for the time, the space, the gifts you house, and even the people whom support you in all you endeavors.

Be grateful for the people that follow you on your socials, and those whom will. The simple act of being grateful will enable you to stay in that creative space so much longer.

With Love & Ink,

JBHarris

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