Escaping to the Woods: A 2021 Writing Retreat

A couple of weeks ago, I escaped from the routines of my everyday life and disappeared into the woods for four days. As the video above explains, the intention of the trip was to shape a small writing retreat for myself. I packed up some pens, notebooks, my laptop, and printouts of a poetry project (along with some books and art and mediation supplies).

The goals of the retreat were low-key:

  1. Disconnect from social media, the internet, and other distractions that fill my time with mental clutter.
  2. Rest, relax, and rejuvenate through reading, walking among the trees, and meditation.
  3. Write or create things, if I feel so inclined.

Going in, I wanted to put zero pressure on myself to meet any specific word counts. My time was completely open for me to utilize as I pleased. Ideally, I would write and create a few things (maybe finish some more poems) — but if I ended up doing nothing more than kicking back reading books (such as Sarah Kay’s gorgeous No Matter the Wreckage), then that would be okay, too.

Ultimately, this retreat turned out to be exactly what I needed in that moment. The mixture of work and ease was a blessing — and I achieved more than I thought I would be able to achieve.

By which, I mean to say, I  completed a poetry project.

Tentatively titled, Necessary Poisons, this is collection of poetry that I’ve been developing off and on for several years. Starting out as part of a group challenge, called The Poeming, in which over 50 poets were each assigned a book by Stephen King from which they would create 30 found poems in 30 days. My book was an incomplete epistolary novel, called The Plant.

The poems that came out of this project are pieces that I might not have written otherwise without the puzzle-like restrictions of forming found poetry from someone else’s work. These poems are dark and gritty, dealing with explorations of identity and womanhood. Two previously written poems from this collection were published in Yes, Poetry.

At some point I’ll write more about my process for finally completing the collection — but during the course of this retreat, I was able to organize the order of the poems and write and edit the final pieces that completed it.

I’m not sure I can ever fully express the feeling of when that final poem clicked into place within the collection. It was such a moment of awe and wonder and gratitude — and I hope that won’t be the last time I’ll be able to experience that moment.

The next steps in the project will be to write up the author’s note and then to start sending the collection out to chapbook publishers in the hopes that it finds a good home.

I’ve returned to my daily life — and to some of my old habits. However, I feel so grateful and privileged that I was able to gift myself that trip. It was so good for my mental and spiritual health — and such a boon to my writing life.

I need to find some way to commemorate that experience and the moment of finishing a work, so I can look back when times are hard and remember that, yes, I can finish things, and yes, I can feel proud of them.

I wish you the same feeling of accomplishment joy in whatever creative endeavors that you are pursuing.

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