Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Expectation Violation: Just Don’t Do It (Pelee Island Book House #2)

So last time, I talked about this grandiose idea of the SO MANY WORDS I was going to write on my writer’s retreat. I mean, what else are you going to do on a writer’s retreat but write, right? My hyper Type A-ness was definitely at work in the weeks leading up to the retreat. I was going to finish revisions on a novel, write a good part of another. Totally!


Um, yeah. No.

A writing retreat is many things. Equal parts awesome and frustrating for me, for many. Why frustration? Simply… frustration comes from unmet expectations. About midway through the retreat I came to a realization like a car speeding off a cliff. There was no possible freaking way I could do all that writing. Even in a week where, presumably, I had nothing else to do.

So, if I can give aspiring authors a piece of advice for attending writing retreats that probably seems at first blush counter-intuitive, it would be this: have no expectations.

Actually, that’s not entirely correct.

Here’s the type of expectations I’ve learned to avoid:
  •          I’ll finish ___ ,000 words while I’m there
  •          I’ll finally get that revision completely done
  •          I’ll bang out a whole short story (or three!)
  •          I’ll spend all my free time typing
Instead, consider these types of expectations:
  •         I’m going to meet some interesting people
  •         I’m going to learn something new about craft
  •         I’m going to try something different
  •         I’m going to go with an open mind
  •         I’m going to give myself the freedom to think about my story in a way that’s different in a new environment.
See, when you set expectations like the second set, there’s progress being made that isn’t set by a stringent set of “I will do exactly X.” Most times, when goal setting, specifics are important. I believe writer retreats are an exception. They’re nebulous and, ultimately, you’re not really sure what you’re going to get. I’ve been to a few retreats and even those which were held at the same place with a similar structure had a vastly different feel from year to year. So trying to plan out specifics before you get there is kind of like drawing a map in the sand on a windy day.

Self-doubt among writers is a real struggle. Something that spans the gap of age bracket, genre, career, and status. If you’ve gifted yourself with a retreat, don’t ruin it by violating your own expectations, and spending your time mentally whipping yourself for ‘wasting’ your time. Ultimately all that does is fuel the self-doubt fire.

Instead, try this. Enjoy it. Write when the moment strikes you. Give yourself the freedom to let your ideas percolate, take a walk, enjoy the scenery. When you figure that out, the retreat doesn’t have to be any parts frustration. It can be entirely awesome.

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