Happy Valentine’s Day! This is the eighth post of my winter writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.
The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?
If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:
February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!
Click here for more info. You do not have to be a writer to come. Just a seeker…
by Yve Sturman
I’ve always been a little bit strange. I’ll admit it. I was always that kid going the other direction on the school field trip. The kid that was a proverbial thorn in the designated chaperone’s side. If we were in the woods, I’d find my own path. If we were in a museum, I’d wander off alone into exhibits tucked away in dark corners. Back then, I was driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure. Fear was the last thing from my mind. I had this same sense driving down the long winding driveway of Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana in June of 2013. Recapturing that feeling made me grin like an idiot. This was a feeling I lived for, a feeling I loved.
I was there to spend a week writing with eleven strangers and one author of a book that I had picked up in a moment of personal crisis several years prior. In a moment of adventure fueled bravery, I had sent Laura Munson some samples of my sporadic writing. I had kept quiet track of Laura over the years and had read about her Haven writing retreats. They had always been “on my radar”. “Maybe I can do that one day?” I dared to wonder. Now just a few short phone calls and several plane tickets later, I was slowly rolling toward the main ranch house in the steady deluge of a Montana downpour. I was equal parts nervous and excited. “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I thought.
Those five days spent hold up next to a roaring fire as the Montana rain softly fell outside, were to prove life altering. I rediscovered a voice within myself. My voice. I was writing with wild abandon and I was doing so amongst the company of eleven other adventurous souls. Every single one of us grew in those five days. We could see it in each other. We grew braver and bolder within each other’s company and we became bonded in a way few will understand. I left Montana much closer to the adventurous spirit I once was.
I may have physically left Walking Lightly Ranch, but I carry Haven with me. I still write freely with wild abandon. I sit with my coffee and my laptop and again wander off into dark corners relishing what I find there. I grow and stretch myself with each keystroke and I have found my voice to the point where I have started to tell my own story in the form of a memoir. It’s a story I needed to tell and it’s proving to be quite a journey. A road paved in healing and light. A road that requires me to be brave and work hard. The “writer’s experience” Laura calls it.
I recently returned to Montana. I spent a few days indulging my inner adventurer. I got lost in Glacier national park and emerged with several new stories to write. I reunited with Laura. We talked about many things but my favorite moment was sitting across from her at a kitchen table. As we chatted, I had a moment of realization. We were talking about what it means to write and the trials and tribulations faced by writers seeking publication. In that moment I realized that my fire for writing now burned hotter than ever. I wanted this challenge. I was once again forging my own path. I had rediscovered myself and I was ready for this journey, wherever it led me.
by Betsy Gibson
My Haven Writing Retreat came at just the right time for me, and I was certain that I would take what I’d learned and start to examine my life in exacting detail. I’d figure it all out in writing. I’d become more relaxed, more disciplined and more focused than I’d been in years. And if I got lucky, maybe I’d find something interesting in my voice. Profound, even! Yes!! Maybe I could even become the next “OH, I LOVE HER!!!” writer (notice that I am not so presumptuous as to say “author”). Stranger things have happened.
Well, a year has now come and gone, and I have failed to examine my life. I have figured out nothing—or nothing profound, I should say—and I am not one bit more relaxed, more disciplined or more focused. What happened? After all, I had thought about my Haven Retreat every day for the past year. I was still excited about the prospect of “figuring it all out” through writing. So then, How had I not acted on those thoughts? The thoughts that urged me to write. BEGGED me to write. The thoughts that said, “Come on, just pick up the legal pad and start to write!!”
Something was seriously wrong. I started to wonder how and why I had seemingly just thrown away such a wonderful, life-altering experience. I spent a good deal of time furious with myself for not fulfilling my newest “life assignment” (I view the act of writing daily as an assignment- -as a Total Type A, I love having “assignments” and tend to look forward to working on them and completing them in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something positive). At some point, though, I realized that being furious with myself was not the most positive course. So, rather than focusing on how I had wasted an entire year on “not writing”, or on writing things that resembled what I imagined the periodic rants of a very moody teen girl might have looked like, I decided to write something real. Or to try to write, I should say. Yes, maybe that would be my ticket to understanding my dismal failures when it came to my writing life (and my failures when it came to my inability to change from a Type A, always busy, always stressed former NYC lawyer to the completely Zen-like and utterly calm and seeking soul that I had planned to become through my writing). An ironic thought, yes. But maybe it would work.
So I wrote. I started with a lengthy Facebook post. I didn’t mean to, but I just couldn’t stop myself. Yet the post, too, had all of the markings of a teen girl caught in the midst of a rambling barrage of words. It was the worst thing I had ever written, and I (wisely, I think) deleted it soon after I had posted it. Why was I writing like this? What was going on?
When I looked at the Facebook post after its completion (and deletion), I had the answer as to why I had been failing myself in my writing life. And in my “life life”. It was amazing! In my post, I saw a totally overwhelmed woman who was juggling two tremendous life changes at the same time, with other severe stressors lurking in the recesses of her mind. I saw a woman who didn’t “fail” by virtue of not having fully examined her life during the past year, and who didn’t “fail” by not writing (or by not writing like a rational adult would write). No, amazingly enough, I did not see a self who had failed at all!!! I saw a self who simply had not had the time she’d needed to fulfill her goals. Thank God for small favors. It wasn’t “me”, it was the whirlwind of life all around me that had prevented me from proceeding according to schedule.
I realized, for the first time, two things through reading my stream of consciousness, “subject/ verb tense error” filled post. I realized (or was reminded) that I am, first and foremost, human. And therefore, not in the least bit perfect. Not even close. Even more telling, I realized that I am currently, and have been for the past year, fully invested in something much bigger and much more important than myself. The subject matter of my post made it clear to me that I was wrong to bemoan my inability to fulfill my particular goals. Instead, my focus over the past year had been exactly where it should have been: on the people I love and love taking care of. My focus should never have been on myself. Or on any sort of detailed analysis of my life. And I realized, in reading the post, that I hadn’t wanted it to be. That explained it. Instead of working on myself the year after my Haven Retreat, it had been my time to step up my work in the incredibly important job of fully immersing myself in my role as mother, wife, sister, daughter, daughter in law and friend. Other people needed me during that year after Haven. More than ever before. And my focus needed to be on those other people, each of whom I love unconditionally and without hesitation and without whom I would be lost. So right now, thanks to that horribly written, now deleted Facebook post, I understand why I have not been able to reach my (overly lofty) goals. I’m no longer plagued by the daily nagging questions: Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I get all of my various legal pads together and try to weave my story into something cohesive? It’s because it’s simply just not my time yet. But when my time comes,
I’ll get there. And in the meantime, I have decided that I will write what I can, when I can, where I can. If that writing is akin to a teenager’s (or even a preteen’s!) emotional diary entries, then so be it. If it is akin to a Trust Indenture, so be it. If it’s in the form of a Facebook post or an email to my mother or sisters, well, at least I’m writing SOMETHING. I may be working in the “Haven Lite” mode right now, but at least I now understand why. And my time will come. I know it. And Haven will be with me as I put pen to paper and finally begin my journey. Of that, I am sure.