Sound the Retreat!

June 9, 2014 by Sara Davison


There are reasons why many successful female authors are advanced in years. One of the main ones is that wisdom and life experience add a depth and richness to writing that is difficult to achieve at a young age. An even weightier reason, though, is that it’s incredibly tough to be both a writer and the mother of young children. We may be in the process of gaining some of that precious wisdom and life experience, but the main, overriding element we bring to the table at this point in our lives is guilt.

The writing retreat is an incredibly valuable tool in the process of producing polished, marketable material. Getting away from it all, literally retreating from the noise, chaos and confusion that is our everyday life, is an incredible opportunity to rest, refresh, and rediscover that creative spirit. You know, the one that’s been at least partially suffocated, if not completely flat-lined, under layers of homework, lunches, driving kids from appointments to friends’ houses to sporting events, heart-to-heart talks, parent-teacher interviews and constant electronics use monitoring.

If you are able to set all of that aside for a few days to get away (preferably far away) from home, the results will astound you. In this completely decadent atmosphere of quiet, peace, long walks, leisurely meals, quiet, naps, hours to yourself just to write, and quiet, you will be amazed at the words, sentences, and entire chapters that pour forth. Problems with plotlines, characterization, pace and tension can be resolved. You will likely gain a new appreciation for your calling as a writer. Your relationship with God, the source of all that creativity, will deepen.

If being the operative word.

I recently attempted one of these mythical, magical weeks away. My kids—one pre-teen and two teens—should, theoretically, be able to take care of themselves for seven days without me, right? I mean, my husband was there in the evening and all night long. All they had to do was get up, get themselves dressed, eat a bowl of cereal, toss a few lunch items in a bag and catch the bus.

My absence wasn’t the problem. Their reliance on my presence was not the problem. Technology was the problem. I’m old enough to remember when you could leave the house and no one could get a hold of you for a few hours (or days). I’m sure that occasionally caused difficulties, but for the most part, I truly believe the world rarely ended or was irrevocably altered by that short stretch of radio silence.

Couldn’t we have left well enough alone?

I lost count of the number of texts I received that week, usually in the wee hours of the morning. I need a permission form signed. I forgot I have a test today and can’t go to school. I have a stomach ache and can’t go to school (usually just a variant of the previous statement). We missed the bus. No matched socks. No clean underwear. No good food for lunches. We love you and miss you (actually, that one I could live with).

Suffice it to say, I was not nearly as relaxed that week as I had hoped to be. I wasn’t quite as productive, and not as many problems with the manuscript were resolved as I would have liked. The guilt I felt over spending too much time on the phone trying to trouble-shoot with my kids instead of writing was matched only by the guilt I felt over spending too much time on writing instead of being on the phone trouble-shooting with my kids. Like I said, it’s what we mothers bring to the table…

Still, some work was done. My friend and I did take long walks and enjoy good meals. We luxuriated in the peaceful surroundings and were refreshed. The creativity flowed, if occasionally in fits and spurts. And when the phone wasn’t vibrating or buzzing, we really did revel in the quiet.

Best of all, my kids missed me and gained a new appreciation for what I do to make their lives easier. And they did, in the end, do what I expected them to do; they stepped up and figured out their own solutions to problems and impressed me (and themselves) with their ability to be self-sufficient and independent. So I will make the attempt again in a few months, and this time I just may leave my cell phone at home.

Somehow I think the world will manage to keep on spinning just the same.

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About this Contributor

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Sara Davison has been a finalist for three national writing awards: Best New Canadian Christian Author; Best Column – Single; and Best Novel – Mystery or Suspense. Davison is a member of three different writers’ groups, two of which she helped to found. Her favourite way to spend the days (and nights) is drinking coffee – a running theme throughout her novels – and making stuff up.
Website: Choose to Press On
Twitter: @sarajdavison
Facebook: Author Sara Davison