If you have been up to speed on ye olde bloggy blog, you will know that this past weekend I participated in a writer's retreat hosted by the North Central Ohio Writer's group.
Here are the bulleted high points that I want to make sure I talk about, or at the very least so that I have them as triggers for future random meanderings.
- What Happens In Loudenville Stays In Loudenville (except the shit I talk about here)
- The Salon/Discussions
- Love Pancakes/Rage Bacon
- The Ball Shrinking Terror of Reading Works In Progress To People Who Write Way Better Than You
- Prompt This
- Writing, Because That's Why We're Here. Right? Write.
- Best Role Playing Session Of My Life
- Eight A.M. Twerk-up Call
- On Finally Owning The Title of Writer
To say I overpacked for this weekend would be an understatement. Not a terribly huge understatement mind you, but still something of a captain obvious moment. I didn't know what to expect and therefore didn't know what I would need. I think had I known, I would not have actually taken so long to pack. There were things that largely went untouched all weekend. What I really need could be boiled down to a simple list.
- Laptop or pen and paper
- My journal
- The required copies of my writings for the group sessions
- About 1/3rd of the clothes I actually packed
There were some things I was glad I packed. My D&D gear, for example. Also I was happy I packed Cards Against Humanity. That was a big hit during Saturday night's cocktail/game night session.
This is probably as good as time as any to get in to the fact that we all made a vow early on Friday evening. The weekend retreat was just that--a retreat. A safe haven from the worlds that we all came from. A place where we could all come and let our true geeky/scary/romantic/fantastical writer selves be who we aspire to be when we put words on to the page. The things I post on here are not going to be any violations of any of the trusts that I earned this weekend. I was granted access in to one of the most elusive and scary places imaginable--the mind of a writer. And whileI know how fucked up my own mind is (and now 14 other people know how fucked up my mind truly is), it was comforting to know that many of the things I struggle with are things that all writers struggle with. And that I wasn't alone in that. I know have at least 14 allies to call on when shit hits the fan, or you know, when I need a shockabuku.
So...no secrets revealed, but there were some amazing moments and things I would never have been exposed to had I passed on this retreat.
I had never really heard of a 'salon' (no, not the hair place). It was a guided group discussion. One person would pick a topic out of a hat er..bowl and start off a 15 minute group discussion about that topic. The topics ranged from Article Mills, to Free Speech vs Hate Speech, to how much warning to give a reader about the fucked up shit that may or may not be in your book. (I might have paraphrased that last one just a bit).
It was a really cool experience and I gleaned a lot of useful information from those who were further along in the path of actually making this writing thing more than just a sometimes blog. And I like to think that the things I offered helped to further the conversation.
After the salon session, we had the relax/cut loose/hang out/socialize portion of the evening. Some of us stayed up on the porch WAY later that others.
I figured that since I had to be up at and in the kitchen at 7:30AM, I should probably head to bed for a nice long 3 hour nap.
For the breakfast portion of the morning program, I was on bacon making detail. A soundtrack laid down by the Black Eyed Peas helped set the tone for me and my breakfast making partner. She made the pancakes. I made the bacon. At some point, someone mentioned how good the pancakes were. I can't remember who said it, but someone commented that the pancakes were so good because they were made with love. They were quickly labeled Love Pancakes.
I chimed in that the bacon was NOT made with love. It was, in face, made with rage. It was rage Bacon. The Rage Bacon doesn't care what you eat it with, it needs to be eaten. It gets angry the longer it sits on the plate. Through a strange twist of fate - the kind that comes from having 15 writers in a secluded cabin for three days - I earned the nickname Rage Bacon. It was just one of the many names that would be bestowed upon me this weekend. So to sum up...the best way to enjoy your breakfast of Love Pancakes and Rage Bacon was with indifference. If you came to the table with an apathetic appetite, then you were set.
After the breakfast clean up and fighting the hangovers, we all met for a series of group activities. Paired prompts, solo prompts. Anything to actually get us in to the mindset of actually writing. The first set of prompts that we got on Saturday were crafted by the group's leader. And I can honestly say that I dig every one of them and look forward to writing either a short story (or perhaps a book) based on those prompts.
There were additional prompts given Sunday. These were prompts that we wrote for each other. Tailored made with love and also anchored with the knowledge of what you learned about the person over the weekend.
I'm excited to write based on both sets of prompts. I know that whether I turn to them because I'm stuck on something in my current WIP, or whether I want to bang out a new short story, I know I have some kick ass prompts custom made for me.
Saturday evening came to the portion of the weekend that I think freaked most of us out on some level. We were asked to bring a portion from either something completed we had written, or something from our current WIP.
The thing that was amazing about this to me is that to a writer, each and ever single one of the 15 people here this weekend shared. A few in the group admitted later that it was the first time they had shared anything that was a WIP.
And here's the thing---it was all fucking great work.
This won't be the last I write about the retreat, but I'm getting tired and it's getting hard to focus when the prospect of sleeping in my own bed is so close at hand.
But before I go, I need to talk about something major that happened for me this weekend.
I became a writer. I put on that mantle. I owned that shit.
But Todd, you've been a writer most of your life. What the heck is so special about this now, at this moment in time?
No. Not true. I have written mostly all of my life (since I was 7 or 8). I joined the ranks of Writer this weekend.
You see, anyone can write. It requires no more training than what we all receive through our primary education. By the time you go from elementary to junior high school, you know how to writer. Going from Junior High to High School, we are told what to write.
So everyone knows how to write.
But not everyone is a writer.
Before this weekend, I always felt a little bit like a faker. There were people I knew who are kicking ass at this writer gig and doing what it takes to get their shit out there and published. Whereas my biggest achievement is that I'm stalled on 2 of my major works in progress and I blog on an infrequent basis.
Thing I learned this weekend? We're all on the journey. Anyone can write, but a writer is someone who gives them those tasty morsels to read.
Hearing my own voice as I read the story excerpt aloud. Hearing the claps of fellow writers (many of whom blow me out of the water with the level of their craft they have mastered) was enough to tear away the thin veil of doubt. I'm not just someone who writes things down.
I'm a writer.
More updates to follow, but for now I need to go to bed.
Sweet dreams my peeps!
a.k.a. Rage Bacon