The Porches, a lovely spot in rural Virginia on the James River. Many times I've taken myself there to work without distractions, in a private room with a solid desk, and lots of peace and quiet. I got some good writing done that I look forward to continuing. I also edited a piece and submitted it. And I drank some good wine.
Also, I slept.
Trudy Hale, the owner and operator of The Porches, once told me that many writers arrive, set themselves up for good, focused work, then spend two days mostly sleeping. They are always surprised by this, and wonder why they're sleeping in or napping every day when they were so geared up to work. It's simple, Trudy says. They're tired.
Sometimes we need to be in a peaceful environment away from our usual distractions to realize how tired we really are. Our bodies go into a different mode and take advantage of the time and place to get some much-needed rest.
My reaction to this, and the reaction of other writers I've spoken with, is usually frustration, even guilt. On this trip, I intended to get up at seven, write, eat breakfast, writer, lunch, write, etc. But on two days, I woke up late, did some writing, had lunch, then napped, almost until dinner. I was annoyed with myself, and felt almost as if I should have forced myself to work.
Here's the thing, though. When my body was telling me it was fatigued, and I insisted on trying to write anyway, the writing was crappy and felt like drudge. My brain wasn't focused. It didn't want to work. It wanted to rest. So napping was the best thing I could have done. This is something I already know about myself, but I have to keep re-learning.
I believe in food sleep for many reasons, and one of them is simply that it enables me to write better. If you're like me, and find yourself dozing at a writing retreat when you think you should be writing, I'll share with you three reasons why getting some sleep at a writing retreat is not only a good thing, but it's also beneficial to your writing:
1. Sleep helps keep you healthy. When you get worn out, your immune systems gets run down. Resting enables your body stay balanced and helps prevent a cold or flu taking you down just when you're trying to work.
2. Sleep allows your subconscious mind to process information and ideas, which enables you to write with more energy and focus. Writing is a highly subconscious endeavor, as is all art. Your brain needs time to do some work in the background to replenish your conscious resources. Sleep is the best way to free your mind up to do this.
3. Sleep enables you to return home more refreshed and relaxed than when you left. Ideally, when you re-enter your regular life, you'll feel like you accomplished some good writing and feel less stressed. Retreats like this are a break for the mind and body as well as a time to be productive in your work.
A writing retreat is not necessarily about producing as much writing as you can in every working hour. It's about having the time and energy to prioritize your writing in a way you can't in your everyday life. You should feel good about being there and enjoy the experience; that way, your writing will be fresher and more focused. You'll also feel good about continuing your work with a rested mind and body.
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