Last year, I had a great experience at a writing (in this case, writing/running) retreat. I wanted to give myself that experience once a year, the time away, the total focus on just writing and being, the freedom that comes when everything is stripped away.
Next week, I am heading to Taos, New Mexico for a retreat hosted by Jen Louden. When I signed up, I felt that jolt of excitement and anticipation for the unknown. A retreat! For women! In a beautiful place! A chance to disconnect for a week — a whole week! Time to write!
This week, I’m mostly just feeling scared.
I haven’t been in a super consistent or even positive place with my writing lately, and it’s weighing on me. I start doubting my ability to “be a writer.” What will I have to say? Will I be okay setting the novel aside for a week just as I’m finally starting to make progress editing? What will the other women be like? Will I be surrounded by prolific authors and successful people and wonder at my place in it all? What if I hate it? What if it’s the worst time ever to be away from work? What if, what if, what if?
I know that these doubts are normal, that they’re whispering (okay, sometimes screaming) at me through the cracks caused by not knowing what will happen. As I’ve shared in this space before, I definitely like “knowing” — putting pieces in order and being able to control and organize and picture what will happen. I think that means my not-knowing doubts sometimes feel especially strong as I try to fill in the gaps of what I don’t know.
Part of the fear, also, is the vague knowledge that I will uncover parts of myself that feel raw and tender. Even if I don’t know the details of what will come out, i know that there will be tears. That it will be hard. Which, of course, is the entire reason for going, and it’s scary to consider dropping myself into that discomfort—on purpose—to better my writing and maybe even myself.
It’s a simple equation, though: discomfort = growth. As is unknown = scary.
So, this week I will try to control what I can: packing, prepping, doing research for the days on either side of the retreat I’ll spend in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. I purposefully booked my flights with some buffer room to spend on my own exploring, as a preparation before and a decompression after. I will do my best not to overthink the parts that I can’t control, that I can’t know, and try to let the week unfold in front of me, showing me the way, rather than forming expectation and forcing it to match.
I’ll be back in two weeks to let you know how it goes.
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