Last weekend I facilitated my very first writing retreat. Pleasance Silicki and I planned a weekend swirled with healthy meals and writing sessions, walks through fields and yoga under trees, fireplaces blazing with light and dinner tables full of laughter. Everything went so well, and I felt overflowing with gratitude.
A couple of years before, I hadn’t facilitated a single writing circle. A couple of years before, I didn’t think I had anything to give. A couple of years before, I wondered if I’d ever truly grow up.
After everyone had checked out of their rooms in that restored farmhouse on the Chesapeake Bay, I walked along the beach to say thank you. Thank you to my mentors and teachers and the women who came that weekend, and to the sky and the trees and the stars. Then I asked, “What is the next brave thing I must do?”
Two hours later that Sunday afternoon my minivan came to rest on the pea gravel in our driveway. My husband and sons helped me unpack leftover cake, quiche, and tea, craft supplies and blankets. On Monday I booked a massage and a yoga class, on Tuesday I wrapped up notes and finances, and by Wednesday the retreat Pleasance and I had been planning for 7 months was over. The ties that had held me to these women and that creative effort seemed to dissolve into air.
Returning to my solo writing felt lonely. Separate. I felt capable of taking care of people, yet incapable of writing a book. I felt happy and easeful during the retreat, but clenching and serious when at my desk.
Thomas Mann once said that "a writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." Writing is not only translating a vision into words, or entertaining a reader, or capturing something ineffable — it’s the voice inside that says, Who are you to think you have something to say?
I have been given so much in this life. Ten fingers and a healthy body, parents who encouraged me, a beautiful college education, time to write, a magic typewriting machine, a husband who supports me. Racially, economically, socially — I’ve been given all the privilege that would facilitate success. My only oppression is this monster of self-doubt.
If I can take care of others, I must take care of the innocent creative spirit inside me. I must grow stronger than the devil dog of doubt. I must transform the energy of the faithless, snarling demon into a she-warrior of confidence, self-trust, and creativity.
How I will do this, I do not know. But I know this is the next brave thing I must do.