All I can say is “wow.” Today I completed a four-day writers retreat with New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs. As I write this (Thursday night), I’m sitting on my bed at the Hilton in Eugene, Oregon. OK, I’m exhausted–but I’m also exhilarated. I got some good work done, which you can read about on my personal blog right here.
Here are a few things that come to mind regarding good and bad behavior at writers retreats.
- Do be a person who invites feedback and thanks people for it. Be open. Doesn’t matter how far along you are, you’ll get something in return.
- As a total newbie, don’t be afraid to show what you don’t know (which will be just about everything). Leave defensiveness at the door and come in ready to sponge it all up. We had a newbie in our retreat, and she was right in there with the rest of us. I couldn’t help but respect her.
- Sometimes we get insecure. Live with it. There will always be writers who you feel are better than you are. Most likely, these stellar writers are worried about their prose as much as you are about yours.
- Do not arrive with your finished manuscript — or one that you think is finished — with no intention of improving it. What’s the point?
- Do not hog the spotlight. We don’t need to know every darned thing about your work-in-progress. Stick to what’s pertinent with regards to the exercise at hand. On Tuesday I stepped out of the room for a few minutes because one retreater could not stop himself. I wanted to yell, Can we get on with it now?
- If you happen to be a person who combines both point one and point two then know that most of the rest of us are going to think you’re a jerk who’s only there to receive accolades. Pleease.
- You might encounter a sour puss who’s quick to say things like, “I really don’t see why you set the story in Italy. Why don’t you set it in England?” Ignore this person.
- Please leave the pinched I’m-better-than-you face at the door. Everyone was a newbie once, and this isn’t a competition. The instructor isn’t going to give you extra pats on the back because you’ve been writing for longer than other participants.
- Don’t give lessons to the rest of us. If you’re not the instructor, don’t act like one.
- If you’re a lucky published or almost-published author, do not, I repeat, do not talk about “my agent” this and “my editor” that. No one cares.
- And pleeease, don’t bring everything back to yourself, don’t interrupt others, and just, really, remember that everyone’s equal in a retreat.
No worries, in case you’re wondering, I had a great time. There are always a few annoyances, but I have inspiration enough to last me months on the current revision! Tomorrow I’ll start the conference portion of my week. More inspiration, more new writer friends!
Have anything to add to my list?