J is for…Journey

When I started the challenge I told myself I didn’t want to “cheat” and use adjectives for any of the letters, so nothing like “jolly revisions” or “jubilant beta readers” to fill a post. (Note, not sure this is actually cheating but it was a standard I wanted to follow.) J proved a challenge, however. For awhile I was going to write about the time I made freezer jam, but even I could not figure out a way to tie it into my writing.

I was inspired by a post from Pen in Her Hand about “El Cheapo” writing retreats – writing retreats you can do at home. This is an excellent idea and I can’t wait to try it. The post reminded me of a trip – ahem, I mean a journey – I took with a friend a year and a half ago. My friend was working on a book for one of her courses and I was blasting through the first draft of a novel.

We piled into the car and drove up the North Shore of Minnesota, one of my favorite places in the world. Lake Superior stretches to the horizon on your right as you drive through birch forests and pines groves dotting ancient mountains. It was the off season and we stayed at a tiny resort right on the water.

The first few hours were odd, complete with a grunting woodsman who had the master keys to all the cabins (including ours) and an old woman in a red coat who was peering in the window of our cabin as we pulled up “Are we going to get murdered?” we asked ourselves. (We did not, as I am most definitely not posting this from the ghost realm.)

Instead, we settled into an easy rhythm. I wrote in the cabin during the morning while my friend wrote at the lodge. We came together for long lunches in the nearby town of Grand Marais and then went for a walk. Then back to our writing for the rest of the afternoon, capping off the day with chats over wine, cheese and other goodies.

It was rejuvenating. I finished the rough draft of my novel during those few days. I stayed at my keyboard and with the story because I knew my friend was doing the same. (Also because there was a bottle of wine waiting for us at the end of the day.) It was creatively draining in other ways – it’s not something to do all the time – but this journey proved instrumental in giving me the final push to finish an important stage of the manuscript. The wine (and especially the friendship) was nice, too.

12 thoughts on “J is for…Journey

  1. What a lovely story! I think your retreat beats my retreat for scenery. Doing a retreat in an off season setting sort of qualifies it for El Cheapo. I’d like to try that, perhaps at Lake Tahoe in Northern CA. How true about the wine and conversation bribe at the end of your long day.

    Thanks for mentioning me!


    • Thank you! And again, thanks for the inspiration. Have you ever looked into retreat centers? We have a bunch in the upper midwest that are usually tied to religious or spiritual groups. (Fortunately, the ones I’ve visited have a broad view of what “prayer” or “meditation” are and never seem to care that I’m there working on a novel.) I’m heading to one in a few weeks that has tiny, private cottages (hermitages) – rates are super reasonable, bring your own food, no internet/tv distraction, plus lots of nature. Bonus – the mosquitoes shouldn’t be out yet. Happy writing! Glad I connected with you through this challenge.


  2. I keep thinking something like that would be ideal for me. I am becoming more and more resentful of interruptions in my day. I don’t know if I would REALLY like it, but it is a dream that one day I will be able to afford a week or two retreat to write in some lovely setting.


    • I hear you about being increasingly resentful about interruptions. I highly recommend the retreat idea – and you don’t even need to do it for too long. The one I wrote about for this post was 3 days long, which was about right for our first one, as I think we would have been creatively drained if we’d stayed for too much longer. Hope you get a chance to try a retreat soon!


  3. That sounds lovely. I get what you mean about having people around you who are doing the same as you, even just one person. And unplugging with no distractions (except the wine) sounds like a great way to get things done.


    • Totally! My workplace (within academia) often does day-long writing retreats on campus, usually on a weekend day from 9-5. Meals are provided. I tend to let myself become distracted when I write (tricky edits? hm, I could work through them OR cat videos on youtube!). When I’m in a room of other people who are also writing, it helps me to sit in the chair and actually work through the problem rather than delay.


  4. Oh, yes! When one knows a friend is suffering along with them and they can look forward to relaxation and imbibement at the end of the day, most any task is more easily stuck with and accomplished. From the picture, I’d say that place was breathtaking! But all I know of Lake Superior is the Gordon Lightfoot song about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
    Visit me at: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B of Tremps’ Troops
    with the A to Z Challenge


    • It is absolutely gorgeous – lots of rolling waves, rocky shoreline, birch & pine forests, endless horizon. The MN side of the lake abuts the Sawtooth Mountains, so there are tons of plunging rivers & a bunch of scenic state parks. One of my favorite places! Hope you get a chance to visit someday. Oh, the Edmund Fitzgerald – a sad song about a very sad event. Thanks for reading!


  5. It’s great when a close friend shares a passion. You can not only be inspired but also challenged and encouraged. Great post! I loved Minnesota during the two years I lived there… some beautiful places that can inspire the brain to create!


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