There are a lot of benefits you can find as a writer when you are willing to try writing with the support of a writing community. Many people seem to think that writing is a creative art done in isolation. Growing up, I had that image of a writer as being an imposing figure with a foot on their desk, tumbler of whiskey in one hand and lit cigarette in the other, as they stare out a window. I imagine some variation of this is common for others when trying to picture “a writer at work.” While the collective conscious is now aware of the dangers of smoking and too much whiskey, I don’t know if the idea of a writer as a lonely creature has necessarily changed in people’s minds all that much.
I’d like to offer the opposite of a writer working in isolation–a writer working in a community.
Okay, so I’m not denying the fact that when it comes time to get words down, there is an individual lift that must take place. But all the other aspects of the process, I’ve discovered (much to my introverted self’s disappointment), involve people. I realized this thanks to two incredible writing retreats I attended in 2022.
The week-long writing retreats were organized by three individuals acting as the leaders/instructors of the retreat. (On a personal level, one of the retreats took place in a CASTLE in SCOTLAND with AMAZING FOOD, where one of the leaders is a writer I admire very much. All a dream come true for me.) While there was plenty of time for us writers to sit down and do the writing, I was surprised by how much time we spent together as a group of 30-some individuals. In addition to lively discussions about craft, there were bonfires, a flurry of book recommendations, wild games of Werewolf, long walks to visit resident animals, and a lot of excitement about being with each other on a writing retreat.
All retreats are not created equal, I am sure. And residencies are different than retreats in many ways (the idea behind residency is more for the writer to spend the time as they choose; retreats have a bit more of a schedule/structure). And there is always a risk in attending a retreat that you’ll loathe one of the other attendees, or the instructor won’t be the gleaming goddess you imagined. Maybe they won’t cater to your dietary needs, or you arrive and notice everyone is distinctly different than you. I advise packing anything you might need to gain the most insight (notebooks and pens, books you’ve been meaning to read, etc.), while also packing your biggest reserve of self worth. Because even if so much of these retreat elements align in your favor, sometimes imposter syndrome shows up, completely uninvited, and you’ve got to send it packing.
Now that some of my retreat cautions are out of the way, let’s return to this idea of the power of a writing community I discovered thanks to attending retreats. In all likelihood, the retreat is going to be full of people, just like you, who care a lot about writing their stories. Just like you. Here are four awesome writing-community benefits I’ve discovered on retreats, reinforcing my belief that writing with the support of a writing community is better than writing in isolation:
These foundational retreats will be my guidance as I look to develop similar, supportive and collaborative writing events. I’ve seen the power that writing with the support of a writing community can give writers. (You can always check out my Events page to see if there is one coming up!)
As the writing community I’ve been gifted continues to be active and hungry to help each other with writing, I feel extremely lucky to not only have had the opportunity and privilege to attend these retreats, but that these people—my people—are now thriving as writers. Together.