The Writers Retreat That Saved Me

In September, through the good word of a writer friend, Michelle Wilson, I joined ANWA (American Night Writers Association). In so doing, the following month was their annual Pacific Northwest Region's Writers Retreat. I came at a stellar time, right? I signed up, paid my dues, and had butterflies. This being my first writer anything with several authors/writers.
But, upon the nerves was the expectation you get as the new kid in class. And that's exactly what happened on my first day there.

I sat alone, reading, waiting for the keynote speaker. But registration was for 2hrs, and I showed up on time. What was I thinking? Luckily, charming author, Leah Berry, introduced herself and we got to chatting. Then as she was called away, dead air again. Awhile after, I spotted Michelle Wilson, chatting just for a few before the keynote speaker was announced. Alas, let's get started!!


That crappy part, those initial minutes gone by speaking to no one while others caught up on seeing each other from prior years or whatever, really stuck out to me. Or when I fumbled over what my novel was about when asked, ate at me. I KNOW the story inside and out, so where was my head?? I felt like a dunce and a wannabe. Sure I can blame nerves, but those nerves are my own, so it's all coming from ME!

I went home (I live 10mins from the retreat, so I opted to commute rather than stay over night) with not only a pounding headache, but heartache. Even though we had a fun game getting to know others before the first day was over, I didn't want to come back.

I did NOT want to come back, and I didn't NOT want to be a writer anymore. I was over it. I can't explain why I was so hormonal about it. But I was, doing the whole screw everyone and screw this, I've had it! pity party. What was wrong with me?? In a few hours, years and years of writing was over?? REALLY??

Yes! That's how lowly I felt about being a writer!

The next morning, I drudged out of bed, got dressed unwillingly, and forced myself to go back. I even was late because of said force, walking in during the non-fiction panel questioning, and took a seat. Slowly, I started to feel myself be a writer again. I went to several workshops, thinking I wouldn't have the mentality to learn, but they proved me wrong. And I welcomed it. I also welcomed the new friendships I was making as well.
No other time after that first night, was I left alone, and it was so heartwarming. So heartwarming! The next day, we had our final keynote speech. Jordan McCollum did an amazing keynote speech each day, but her final one had me in tears. 

She said the adversary will put thoughts in our head to not use our God given talents, like writing. She said it happened to her when deciding if writing was the right path, and recognized it wasn't God telling her to stop writing, but Satan. I never thought all those moments I doubted my abilities/decisions could be from him. ALL THOSE MOMENTS for years! Including...the first day of the retreat.

Now I know it was Satan that didn't want me to go back, putting fear, self-doubt, and ineptness all over and in me. I was literally planning on staying home that day, but decided to go because I paid for it. And boy did I ever! I regained my confidence as a writer, made new friends, and learned tricks of the trade.

The writers retreat saved me as a writer. And I'm forever thankful for it.


Books read: Cold Betrayal by J.A. Jance (Detective work into unlocking a cruel polygamous family), I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around by Ann Wertz Garvin (therapist loses self in family dynamics, triangle love, and a new job), The Beautiful Balance by Michelle Wilson (finding your balance through God's lessons) ***** stars to each!
Reading: Shoe Addicts Anonymous by Beth Harbison, The Restaurant Critic's Wife by Elizabeth LaBan, and Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall:
Movies I watched: Alice Through The Looking Glass (not a lot of good reviews, but I LOVED it!!) and Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (I laughed NON-STOP)
What I'm doing tonight: eating all the candy my kids get trick or treating. (duh!!)

Questions to the Reader:
1. Have you ever been to a writer's retreat?
2. Do you often feel your talent shouldn't be used, too?
3. Promise never to give up??? (I'll hunt you down if you say no)

Love your guts,



Natalie Aguirre said…
I've been to some great writing conferences. It's scary to go alone but I have made friends and enjoyed them. Glad your first one turned out to be such a good experience. Good for you for dragging yourself back to it.
Pat Hatt said…
Sure knowing no one can be a bit off putting indeed. Satan needs to mind his own business lol
Bish Denham said…
Self doubt can be so crippling to any creative person. I'm glad you shut out the voices and went back to the retreat.
Christine Rains said…
You are awesome for going back! So wonderful to hear it went well after that. I've not been to a writer's retreat but I'd love to go, and yes, I've heard that rotten little voice often to say give up, but I'm stubborn. I'll never give up! :) Happy Halloween!
Chrys Fey said…
I've never been to a writer's retreat, but I'd probably feel the same way if everyone knew everyone. I feel so awkward in those situations like that, but I'm glad you went back!

Happy Halloween!!!

Oh, and thank you for your review of Seismic Crimes! :D
You nailed it. Satan wants to keep us isolated. Glad you went back!
Unknown said…
So glad you came back! My great loss for not reaching out to you! Take continue to have courage and keep writing, and come back next year! :)
H. R. Sinclair said…
Bravo for having the courage to try...and then go back when feeling so low. Good on ya. Congrats and happy writing.
S.P. Bowers said…
I haven't been to a retreat but I have been to a conference and I get the excitement/fear, and self worth/self loathing dualities going on. In fact I have a post for next week on that. Glad you went back!
I am so glad you found the courage to return. And even more glad it was worth the intestinal fortitude.
Congrats on beating that self-doubt monster and going back to the retreat!
...and I've never been to a writer retreat/conference...maybe one day I'll get the opportunity...hopefully.
Joan said…
Thanks for sticking it out! I was thrilled that you attended the editing breakout session. I was afraid no one would come. Was there a useful editing technique that i shared? Enjoy each day! See you next year, perhaps.
JoJo said…
I'm glad you stuck it out! Where was the retreat? Washington? Oregon? I couldn't tell if that was the Pacific or Puget Sound.
Jordan McCollum said…
I'm so glad you came, and came back! I needed to say that and remind myself of it as much as anyone, but I'm glad that the message touched you, too.
The Silver Fox said…
I just love the sound of American Night Writers Association.
Deb Graham said…
I felt just like that last year, then came home feeling empowered. A lot of people were new this year; reaching out is touch, but it was so worthwhile!
That's why I lend words of encouragement on my blog. You never know who needs it (did so on my post last Friday - October 28). So glad you went back Tammy and overcame your doubts and nasty demons. Get out Satan, no one wants you here. Praise God.
Last year was my first year writing as well. I remember those pre-competition butterflies. What I found instead were a band of cheerleaders who quickly took me in. I fly to the retreat from Utah and it is worth every penny (don't tell Terry but I'd probably pay double or triple what we did.)
I'm glad you were able to get over the jitters and feel the warm and accepting spirit of the retreat.
I've been on a couple of retreats... one for a bunch of women from church, and the other for our choir... and both experiences were amazing. But I've never been on any kind of writers' retreat or conference. Sounds like the one you attended was exactly what you needed to get you back on track again. I'm glad you were brave enough (Or cheap enough?) to return the second day. :)
Breaking into groups where everyone already has connections is tough. And I am very outgoing and talkative- once I feel comfortable. Until then, I am like you felt, awkward chick in the corner wishing I'd stayed home. Good job powering through!!!
Mark said…
Glad you were able to pull something meaningful out of the experience:)
M said…
1. I've been on retreats but nothing formally organized. Just me and a couple other writers holing up somewhere for a weekend. Still, yours sounds similar to some workshops I've attended.

2. I often feel I don't have any talent. That I'm a loser.

3. I can't promise that. But I do definitely understand that Satan will try to keep you from hearing things that will help you and empower you, which is why he didn't want you to go back to the retreat. He wants you to feel weak and defeated, to be separated and isolated from God and everything else that makes you strong and confident. So I'm glad you went back.
DMS said…
I have never been to a writer's retreat. I have attended conferences- but nothing longer than a day. I am glad that everything ended up working out for you. It can definitely be hard to be out of our comfort zones! :)
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