A great escape

autumn newbie
A tiny frog hides in the center.

Creativity. Butt in seat. 10,000 words. Quieten your inner critic.

My bullet points of consideration from a weekend surrounded by creative people.

Participating in this retreat didn’t necessarily mean their abilities rubbed off on me. There was much to learn, though, especially about confidence. Self-assuredness differs from bravado, even though it’s a subtle delineation. I got to soak in all the atmosphere and information over the weekend at a Creative Retreat in a secluded valley alongside the Jack’s Fork River in southeastern Missouri.

Bunker Hill defines the concept of “backwoods.” Our creative purpose didn’t suffer from any pre-conceived stereotype of that concept, though. What the resort may lack in refinement is more than made up for in tranquility.

The participants consisted mainly of educators, a sage lot whose collective expertise I might normally find intimidating. A facilitator took us through brainstorming exercises meant to overcome “writer’s block,” which my cousin defines as when writers’ imaginary friends stop talking to us. I found the groupthink process enlightening and hope the insight gained helps keep my fingers active at this keyboard, no matter how much work I have ahead of me.

A critique of my as-yet unedited novel provided productive, if not somewhat overwhelming, feedback. The learned advisors’ suggestion to start over induced an automatic gag-reflex, although I was able to quickly recover. The book does need more action, dialogue is not my strong suit, and the details in my head should sometimes stay there instead of the page.

There’s definitely much left to do on it. The beauty of the setting softened the blow of their words. Constructive criticism will help me grow, and my fragile ego won’t crumble. Thirty years now after the first time I was told, I have yet to accept how much my skin still needs to thicken.

My hands shook slightly while I read some of my work during the “open mic,” that old self-conscious feeling never quite defeated, with so many seemingly wiser listeners in the silent room. We had a great weekend. Other participants sought the same solace my sister and I did … a break in the routine with an aim of bettering our craft. We met fun people whose brief company we enjoyed and learned along the way.

Ghost stories told around a beach-front campfire that night rekindled Girl Scout and church camp memories but luckily eluded my dreams while in Old Cabin 3, rumored to be haunted but unspecifically so. Only acorns fell on the roof from massive oaks overhead, and no crazed lunatics scratched on the shingles or window panes. We survived that legend.

What a great way to spend a short get-away by the river. The lazy current pulled the fallen leaves away softly, nature fading summer but renewing our spirits. It made me want to write even more. Self-doubt be damned.


  1. Your description of the weekend retreat was so vivid I felt I was there myself. Wait a minute: I was there.Just wish I would’ve gone to the beach for the bonfire and ghost stories. It was great to meet you and get to read the beginning of your novel!.

    • Thank you, Donna! I am so grateful for your input and wisdom.
      Back to the reality of ball games, laundry, and a daily commute – with as much editing interspersed as possible. 🙂

  2. Weekend retreats like this terrify me. Performance anxiety, forced (or strongly encouraged) creativity, expectations from others I can never live up to…oh my goodness. It’s too much!

    Good for you that you conquered that open mike fear and got out there. I’ll live vicariously through you. 🙂

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! Attending the retreat was a first for me, so the whole experience was a pleasant surprise. It was somewhat intimidating but worth the anxiety to do the reading. We can ultimately do anything we set our minds to do, no matter how cliqued that may sound, regardless of any perceived scrutiny. Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s