Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Day Three: Changing Perceptions

Good morning, dear readers,

When I was initially accepted to this retreat, I was enthralled by the thought that I would have a week to spend on my writing. I’ve never had a week to spend entirely on my fiction, writing away without any distractions. Guess what? I don’t now, either.

I’ve had to change my perception of what this type of writing retreat is really about, because there’s a lot more than writing going on. To be honest, I get more writing done at home. When I’m working on a novel at home, I don’t break for long, leisurely lunches and dinners. I don’t have long discussions about writing with a bunch of like-minded souls. I don’t take another two hours out of the day to meet with a mentor and go for a long walk. It’s all about writing. I grab some popcorn or something so I don’t starve to death, hug my boyfriend and the cats, and then sit at the computer for hours on end.

At first I was disappointed that I haven’t been more productive on this retreat. Yes, I’ve had an idea for a new novel, which is exciting. And I’ve discovered that the first one hundred pages or so of Dragonfly Summer will have to be cut or drastically revised…disappointing, but not overly surprising. What I haven’t done is produce dozens of new pages of work. Then I remembered what Vern said on our first night here about not caring whether or not we wrote a word, and I finally understood what he was talking about. This retreat is about being rested and rejuvenated by the time I get home. It’s about reconnecting to my creativity. I could decide not to meet with Susie, or stop taking walks. I could rush through the meals and hurry back to my computer, and shun the activities each evening. But I’d be missing the point.

When I get home, Susie Moloney is not going to be living next door. Vern Thiessen will not be in the kitchen cracking jokes. This wonderfully kind, funny group of playwrights will be too far away to go out for lunch and talk about writing with me for hours. The beauty of the Catskills will be a distant memory, while the bleak months of a Winnipeg winter will be all too real. So I’m going to take advantage of everything this experience has to offer me, without worrying about page counts or the number of words written. There will be plenty of time for that when I get home.

Last night, Susie compared writing to a romance. In the beginning, everything’s sexy and it’s the best feeling in the world, and you can’t get enough of it. Then you get to the middle, and it’s become such a big part of your life that you can’t imagine going without. It’s your constant, your rock. She said that in writing, as in romance, there will be rocky times when everything is awful and you consider breaking up, but that if you stick with it, those times will pass. I thought it was a beautiful analogy. I’m hoping my writing and I will live happily ever after.

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  1. Anonymous

    hey holli, kyle here. i’m still finding time to check out the blog even while on vacation in toronto. haha. i’m glad you got an opportunity to leave winnipeg. 🙂

    in relation to this writer’s retreat, have you read Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk?

    i’ll see you at work, take care, and safe travels.


  2. Story Teller

    Hi Kyle! Wow, I’m honored that you’re taking the time to read this in Toronto. Hope you’re having a great time – sorry I had to miss your b-day. 🙁

    No, I haven’t read that book. Is it something you would recommend?

    Safe travels to you as well. We’ll be back to the ol’ grind far too soon.

  3. saysladonna

    Hi Holli. I’m so glad that you didn’t overlook this opportunity. It sounds like a great experience. I’m sure you’ll have lots more to write about when you get home and it should be much easier to quiet the noise because you’ll be so engrossed in your work. Enjoy your retreat. Good luck. 🙂

  4. Story Teller

    Hi LaDonna! Welcome to the blog. I appreciate your kind words. I was very fortunate to be selected for this retreat, so I certainly don’t want to squander it. I’m sure many writers would gladly have come in my place. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I’m hoping I write like a fiend when I get home.

  5. TS

    Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination.

    This isn’t about the end result (writing away) but the path that gets you there. Enjoy the journey!

    Any time we a absorb ourselves into foreign environments we always stretch ourselves. Embrace the unfamiliarity and grow! This is life, and it is wonderful 🙂

  6. Story Teller

    Thanks for your insight, TS. I completely agree. I’ve written that quote as the beginning to quite a few of my journals.

    It’s easy to feel guilty, because everyone else seems so inspired here. The playwrights are writing like mad, and Rod already finished his story. But I have to remember that I just completed a 440 page novel. I don’t always feel inspired after finishing a novel…the brain needs a bit of a rest.

    Take care, and thanks again.


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