|Sunrise at Tutka Bay Writers Retreat|
Like a note held long in a song, a pair of eagles glides effortlessly across a crisp September sky as sixteen writers prepare to leave Tutka Bay, refreshed and renewed thanks to a gracious couple who for the last three years have opened this little pocket of paradise to writers. The stillness, the energy, the community, and the restoration fostered at the Tutka Bay Writers Retreat will no doubt make Carl and Kirsten Dixon godparents to much fine writing conceived at their maritime hideaway. But the retreat sells out early each year, and even those lucky enough to snag a spot find themselves all too soon back in the daily grind, their transcendent experience already seeming a collective hallucination.
For writers, retreating is crucial. A getaway to an almost-island like the one at
is the perfect getaway, but it’s not the only way to achieve or maintain a retreat state of mind. Within our daily routines, we must covet retreat, which means simply that we must consciously balance away-ness with being, stillness with energy, community with solitude, and learning with practice. The retreat state of mind yields refreshment, opening, insight, and change, all critical to our craft. Tutka Bay
“Writing is utter solitude,” Kafka says, “the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.” But you can’t operate solely in the abyss, which this year’s Tutka Bay Writers Retreat leader Pam Houston calls “a very strange and self-absorbed place.” Writing is a dance between living and stepping back from that living, between falling into yourself and engaging in community and the literary dialogue.
Life is where our stories find us; retreat, be it for a week or a day or a quarter-hour, is where we find them. Though she writes fiction,
Houston says she never makes anything up whole cloth. Her stories grow from glimmers of experience – visceral, powerful scenes and images. One-third of her time is spent in teaching, one-third writing, and one-third in travel, which serves as a retreat of sorts when coupled with attentiveness.
The retreat state of mind involves paying attention. It involves spending time in what
Houston calls “the forest of not knowing.” Space and time away from daily demands restores balance. It encourages generosity with yourself and others. It reminds us of the value of patience, and of backing away. It calls us into solitude and nudges us back toward community and the restoration offered by good writer friends.
Because our business is words, writers are way too good with excuses. If only I could get away for a week or a month or a year, we say. Then you’d see what I can really write. But retreat is a state of mind. The daily grind that we long to escape generates the raw material for our work. Writing happens in living, and in getting away. It happens in solitude, and it’s enriched by community. Even when you can’t pull away to a place as remarkable as
, you must find and use the reset button in your head, where retreat is a state of mind. Tutka Bay