Thursday, March 4, 2010

Things They Don't Tell You About Writers' Retreats

Been resident at two writers' colonies or retreats, each for two weeks. They were great in their ways, particularly the first one, Ragdale in Lake Forest, Illinois, but there can be a downside to going.

1)They tell you they serve one meal a day. True. And the rest of the time you and 15 other writers create unholy messes of burnt, crumby, spilled, sticky everything in the house kitchen. Because it made me sick, I cleaned out our house fridge and the OTHER HOUSE saw this, got their old bowls and canisters of rotting food and BROUGHT IT across the yard AND PUT IT IN OUR CLEAN REFRIGERATOR. Got depressed facing a dirty kitchen every day and tired of playing maid. I could do that at home. Went home.

2)The meals were great and the cooks were very special people, but in both places we were expected to dinner at exactly the set time, no matter how deeply we were involved in our writing. They rang the bell a hundred times and when I didn't come downstairs they yelled for me and then came and collared me.

3)You have to wash and blow-dry your hair and dress in real clothes every day because you are among other people. Also you should be friendly, kind, appealing, funny, generous, etc. For some people this was wonderful. As an introvert I found it exhausting.

Can't deny, though, that I made some fabulous breakthroughs at Ragdale in 2005, such as starting to write poetry again, and for that I am ever grateful.


  1. My perfect retreat is staying home on a day that Tom's at work and Ross is at school, not bothering to get dressed, and letting the phone go to voice mail. :-)

  2. MY favorite retreat-fantasy involves being inspired to write AND being served 3 meals a day. Alas, you've popped that bubble.
    There was even a time when a hospital stay seemed OK (again: those 3 meals) but now that I have yet another medical issue I'm scratching that fantasy-retreat as well.
    I'll just keep writing in my yellow chair.

  3. That seems really negative for something you got for free.

  4. Not free; at that time copay of $35 per day, x 14 days. And it was the fellow writers, not the colonies themselves, who were the slobs and needed mommy to clean up after them.