Writing Retreat Gone Terribly Awry
I have been working on this book for some time now. To enhance my focus on the content, I scheduled a writing retreat. I scheduled this 3 months in advance, so I could really be ready to rock. My goal was to be at a private place where all I could do was write-a writing vacation, per se. I had a gift certificate for a hotel 40 minutes from home.
The gift certificate was for a 2 night stay which was the perfect amount of time away. I scheduled myself to be gone Tuesday 10 am through Thursday at 7 pm. I was so excited to have uninterrupted time to write, focus and really be productive. I wanted to hunker down and get into my most creative mind. I spent the week prior sifting through my 5 boxes of journals where I could determine which stories would be good to develop characters and which would make the cut for the retreat. I settled on a large corduroy bag from DSW that I got for free when I bought at least 75 dollars of off market shoes, packed my bag and was ready to go. The plan was to focus on the sales writing during the day, take a brain break, and do fiction writing at night.
It was Tuesday, Go Time, and I was getting ready to leave for the retreat. My departure was delayed because of a marital spat with my beloved husband who decided to schedule a very important doctor’s appointment, that I needed to be at for 12 noon on Thursday. This would mean my retreat, that I have been looking forward to and planning for 3 months would need to get cut short. The doctor is very difficult to get an appointment with, so, we couldn’t reschedule, so we had to keep the appointment. This just means I really needed to be on my game and make the most of the time away. I was still miffed at my husband’s careless mishandling of my schedule and the “oops I forgot to tell you..” nonsense and was not in the mindset to write when I got to the retreat.
I thought the 40 minute drive would shake this, but it didn’t. When I got to the hotel, I agreed to have lunch with my hotel sales contacts. I was hoping this would ease me back into it...it did not. I had such a lovely lunch with them, listening to their stories about their families, their dead mom’s jewels, the need dates of the hotel and in general talking about my book. I genuinely love these women. I felt lucky to have had the time with them that day. In hindsight, I should have gone straight to my room and wrote a rant about how pissed at my husband I was, while it was fresh and my writing juices were flowing, but I did not.
After lunch, I went to my room. I sat down to write. I stared at a blank page with the ever present cursor flashing at me—taunting me--saying “WRITE—DUMMY--WRITE”. I panicked. I have heard of this before--WRITER’S BLOCK. I had never had writer’s block before and didn’t believe it existed. I judgtngly thought, “well if you’re really a writer, you’ll be able to write about something, but blank page and blank mind--me--NO WAY”. Boy was I wrong, I had it. I was experiencing it. It was absorbing me.
I panicked. I marched down to the market and got a bottle of wine. Grapes will surely loosen my brain and get it juiced. I drank a glass--then another glass--still--nothing--that cursor stared at me just double birding me with it’s flashing middle fingers like it owned me--and for that moment, it did. I switched gears….I opened a journal. I started reading. I found a journal from 2004. Apparently, I was obsessed with some nerd named Matt in all of 2004. Literally--from January 2004 til New Year’s Eve 2004, I wrote and obviously thought, non stop, about Matt. Why isn’t he calling? I like him so much. We had such a great weekend together. Why is he talking about that girl in Seattle so much? Why doesn’t he email me back? Why haven’t I talked to Matt in a while? Should I send him a birthday card even though we haven’t talked in 5 weeks? I like Matt so much--we had such a great weekend. He was so fun with my friends. Why was Matt getting another girl’s phone number right in front of me? Do you think he wants to be exclusive? And on, and on, and on...and so it went….Matt Matt Matt. (in the voice of Jan Brady, “Marcia Marcia Marcia”) I drank another glass of wine to jar my memory of whatever happened to Matt..I still can’t remember.
I was left to ponder why I ever liked him to begin with, and I felt like a junior high girl reading another junior high girl’s diary--which it was--this was my diary of my early 30’s. I found another journal--this time, it was about some guy named Alex? Apparently, Alex was keen on me, and I on him. Unbeknownst to me, he had a girlfriend. After several dates, of not kissing and” just hanging out”, and having very long welcome and goodbye hugs--and not the kind from your friend who doesn’t know he’s gay yet, but the kind where you know the other person likes you, I learned he had a girlfriend. One of my friends told me. I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me that before”? He said “We thought you knew”. I did not know. I was pissed and jaded from the Matt year so I went on another date with Alex. He paid, we had fun, and in the car in front of my house as he dropped me off, I gave him the best kiss he’s ever had in his life. When we completed our oh-so-passionate kiss...I said, “There, now you can tell your girlfriend you cheated on her you ass hole”. I got out of the car and never saw him again. I can’t even remember what he looked like or his last name.
After 2 journals of lost loves and being tricked by cheaters, I stopped reading. I drank another glass of wine, watched THIS IS US and ugly cried myself to sleep. I woke up the next day with a renewed energy and was ready to take on the day--day 2 of my writing retreat and I hadn’t written a goddamn thing yet. I worked out, took a shower, and got to it. I focused on the sales writing and had a good go about of it. I zipped up that corduroy DSW bag and shushed those man journals. I will save those for another time when book one is done. I wrote so much that I had a kink in my neck from bad posture so I thought, “maybe I will get a massage”.
I went to the spa, laid in the “relaxation room” which wasn’t very relaxing. As I sat with my eyes closed, in the soft orange recliner and the native American flute playing in the background I heard every single.sound happening in this spa. Blow dryers were blowing, doors were slamming, ladies were chatting--it was anything but relaxing. Luckily, my massage person came to get me. A very nice, old man, with a hump back, said “Mandi, are you ready for your massage”? I said “Yes sir” I thought it was so cute they allowed super old men to volunteer to bring the patients back to their masseuse. It reminded me of the retired old guys on the USS Midway that want to talk airplanes and war with you--except this guy was in all black, with a hunch back and a limp. He sure was nice. He took me around several twists and turns, through the pool, into a couple rooms and we ended in what looked to me like a broom closet. And then he said “Ok, disrobe and I will be back in a couple minutes” WAIT--WHAT? Is the janitor giving me a massage? Are they letting the retired colonel massage me in the very last treatment room they have? Should I ask for his certificate? In the spirit of just “going with it” and really wondering what was next, I went for it. I dropped em, got into that bed and laid there, head down. It didn’t get any better. His nails were long--like really long--like Kardashian fake nail Instagram post long--and pointy. I could feel every corner of his finger nails and I couldn’t help but wonder: “were other people’s flesh caught under his nails?” I tried to relax, and let that thought subside when out of no where a gummy, lip smacky, type noise came from overhead and out of the Janitor’s mouth. You know, the noise really old people make when they eat without their dentures in, that moist---smack smack smack between bites--well it was happening, above my upper back. I wondered, “is he going to drool on me? Please, for the love of this green earth, do not drool on me”. He did not. The massage ended quick, thank goodness, I went back to my room, showered, and wrote more.
I actually got inspired while I was getting the janitorial rub down to write a little more. The next day was no better. I had to meet my husband at that God forsaken forgotten doctor’s appointment. I was an hour away. It started pouring rain. The golf cart man picked me up. Somewhere between my room and the car--my phone went missing. I am not normally a phone or keys lost kinda gal, but today was my lucky loose my shit day. He went back in the golf cart to look for it. I retraced my steps--in the pouring rain looking through puddles and grass ditches for it. He found it on the path--thank goodness another golf cart didn’t run it over. I started my journey home--in the pouring rain--got to the appointment a little late, but I didn’t miss anything. Although the retreat was a bust, I feel grateful that I got a really good story out of it and some unique writing material. I also learned that I can not write 2 books at one time, to pick a writing retreat location in the woods without any distractions at all and, the most important lesson of them all, ALWAYS…. ALWAYS ask for a female masseuse.
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