I’ve earned my living writing and editing for 20 years—everything from grants to copy to biographies and memoirs to children’s books. Most meaningful to me artistically have been the many creative nonfiction essays I’ve written as a columnist or editor. Last but not least—because the money is great—I write a stream of advertorial articles and e-books for alternative health websites.
A diversified skill set and saying yes to paid assignments has worked for me. I earn a generous income for being immersed in my love of language while enjoying the flexible schedule I crave.
That said, focusing on writing for money instead of just the art and joy of it can exact a price. I spend so many hours hammering out words that I lose inspiration to work on that blog and novel. My fierce original voice gets stuck in my throat.
Watch a toddler at play, or a child swallowed up in the ethereal underwater world of deep concentration, or a musician lost in a piece of music, and you will see fierceness. Fierceness is an essential element of our humanity, what some now describe as “flow.”
As we grow up and put on armor against the world, we can lose our fierceness and suppress our voice. Adults sometimes poke fun at teenagers as they contort themselves to blend in, while thinking they are so original. Meanwhile adults often assume we’ve outgrown striving toward invisibility . . . that drowsy conviction that we’re expressing authentically when we’ve forgotten how to be original.
We get swallowed by the habitual patterns and repetitive messages that tell us, as writer and author Laura Davis puts it, that we don’t have what it takes, that we don’t have the time or the talent. Or that what we have to say doesn’t matter.
None of this is true. But seeking to reclaim our fierce original voice feels risky, exposed. When our voice gets buried so far down in us, we’re not even sure what will happen if we try to use it. Will it crack and break? Will it make any sound at all?
Be assured, it will! Your fierce original voice is your birthright, the light along the path to your truest self, and a writing retreat is a powerful way to ignite it. First, a writing retreat gets you out of your daily life and into a new and unfamiliar setting, which is golden. More important, a writing retreat is a way to say “yes” to yourself and “no” to the repetitive tapes about not being good enough or having anything important to say. The power of this message cannot be overstated. This message of “yes” becomes a compelling invitation to emerge from the hypnotic depths of daily routine and come face to face with startling insights and invigorated creativity.
Finding your voice is perhaps the most central of all reasons to attend a retreat. More central than getting work done, more powerful than immersing in specifics of craft, and more lasting than the great tips and connections you’ll enjoy when you surround yourself with other writers. More than any of this, it may just be the clear sound of your fierce, original voice that you’ll value most from your retreat.
So while you’re stringing together as many words as you can for the very worthy purposes of mortgage payments and grocery bills, bear in mind that you should also preserve your connection to your voice, which is the fuel you need to tell the stories you care about most. And a writer’s retreat can be a powerful way to restore that fuel.