Guest Blog posts, Uncategorized

“The Resurrection of Creativity and Personal Growth” by Leslie Archibald

We first had the pleasure of working with Leslie Archibald at our debut retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado, in August 2018 (long live #Breckenflash!). Now, with the distance of time and wisdom, Leslie beautifully reflects on her process, including breakthroughs, creativity fatigue, creating space. We are so looking forward to reuniting with her in France this June!

Breckenridge Retreat: The Resurrection of Creativity and Personal Growth

by Leslie Archibald

I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful not to allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only. – Clarissa Pinkola Estés

While I contemplated how to articulate what I wanted to say about writing retreats, I came across this quote, ironically, on social media (my biggest distraction). Like many writers, I work at a full-time job outside the realm of writing which stifles my creativity and pushes writing to the bottom of the “to do” list. I spend each day writing emails, memos, and crunching numbers (nothing kills creativity faster than math). I come home, cook, clean the kitchen, and say hello to the family. I struggle in the evenings to find a space where I can write – – a space separate from the day where I can create and work on writing projects.

I volunteer at a local writers’ organization and routinely take workshops in search of that space. Someplace to turn my focus to writing and ignite a spark of creativity. Still, I find myself thinking about my “to do” list for the next day or having to hurry home to the family, again, smothering any inspiration those activities may incite.

I finally found that space in Breckenridge with Flash Fiction Retreats. In Breckenridge I was able to leave the daily grind in Houston and immerse myself in the written word. The carefully chosen venue had plenty of space for me to find my little corner to read, write or be inspired by nature. The group discussions were thoughtful and productive. They prompted a breakthrough on my work in progress and I received amazing advice in the “one on one” sessions with Kathy and Nancy. I also met a group of talented and encouraging writers who were happy to share their work and experiences to further inspire.

Stepping out of daily life and focusing on writing with other writers is the perfect remedy for battling creativity fatigue caused by daily processes in the workplace. There is no better group than Flash Fiction Retreats with which to do that.

Leslie Archibald

Leslie Archibald is a graduate of the University of Houston, majoring in English, Creative Writing with a minor in Women’s Studies. She currently works at a full-time office position while continuing to write and edit part time. She is a volunteer at Writespace, a local Writer’s organization in Houston, Texas and is the winner of the 2017 Spider Road Press’s Spiders Web Flash Fiction Prize for her piece “Sherry Baby.” You will also find her flash pieces in Tales of Texas Vol. 2 and online at Silver Needle Press.

 

Nancy Stohlman, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Not Writing: Why You Might Be Avoiding Your Work

I was inspired to address this issue after I read multiple social media posts, all from writers I admire, all lamenting that they “weren’t writing.”

Not writing is painful. Unfinished work sitting there is painful. You might beat yourself up with a bunch of “shoulds” and berate your lack of discipline. It can make you feel hopeless, drained of energy and questioning if it’s even worth it. No wonder you keep avoiding it!

head-in-sand

But there are usually some very good reasons why you’re avoiding your work. To start with, you’re a better writer now. Just do the math: if you started even one year ago, then you’re a better writer now. And that’s a good thing! That’s the beauty of practice paying off. But it can also feel frustrating when you realize that first story or first draft, the one you labored over, might have made you a better writer but isn’t at your level anymore.

Or you’re in a different emotional place. Often the impetus that drove us to the page resolves or fades; whatever we were grappling with has been settled. Perhaps we’re on the other side of a life change, and the early writing was part of our process, but now we aren’t “feeling it.”

Or you’re overly loyal to your original vision. After all, you’ve probably put in countless hours of work. But sometimes we become too attached to our original vision; sometimes we’ve read and reread our sentences so many times we can’t imagine them any other way. And when we can’t imagine new possibilities for our work, when everything is known and nothing unknown…well, then it’s no wonder we’re not writing.

And, finally, you might be shifting gears. This almost always happens to me after finishing a big project. After a book for instance, I like to consider myself creatively postpartum, recovering from the birth and taking care of the new baby for at least 6-12 months. Anything I try to write in that time will end up sounding exactly like what I was writing before because I haven’t shifted gears, yet.

But it’s discouraging, regardless of the reason, to find yourself fallow, quiet.

So what to do?

1.Give yourself a break. The creative process ebbs and flows, and what goes up must go down…and back up again. Trust the process.

2. Read. I especially like to reread favorite books in these periods. Sink into the familiar and remember why you love words.

3: Remember: creation is ultimately play. Get silly and messy and re-discover what is joyful. Be curious. Be ridiculous. Be shameless. Take a bold risk into new territory and allow yourself to fail. Remember: no one has to know.

Love, Nancy xoxo

*excerpted from Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction coming this summer
Interviews, Kathy fish

A First Retreat in a Treasured Oasis: Myna Chang on Returning to Colorado to Write & More

Nancy and I are so happy that writer Myna Chang is signed up to participate in our return retreat at Shadowcliff Lodge in Grand Lake, Colorado this summer. Myna generously agreed to chat with me about her background, the writing life, and more.

 

Hi Myna! What does the “west” evoke for you? The mountains? Colorado? As a writer and person…(weird question, I know!)

I grew up in a windy, barren farm town in Oklahoma. My childhood memories revolve around wiping grit out of my eyes and finding places to hide from the scorching sun. But every summer, my grandparents would take me to an oasis in the Colorado mountains. It was an old cabin hidden in a lush green valley. The river forked just above our land, so I had my choice of two trickling streams to play in. I thought it was the greatest place on the planet, and I was heartbroken when my grandparents sold it. In my mind, “going to Colorado” means returning to that perfect setting.

Oh what a lovely memory! I’m so glad you’re getting the chance to return to Colorado! What are you most looking forward to in our upcoming retreat? 

I’ve never been to a retreat. I can’t wait. I crave quiet, and time to focus on writing, without distractions or guilt. Sharing that space with other dedicated writers and workshop leaders will be like frosting on the cake — and I love frosted cake.

What sparks your creativity? 

I have no idea what sparks my creativity, but I know what kills it: interruptions:

“Mom, I’m hungry.”

“Honey, where did I leave the screwdriver?”

“Bark, bark bark!”

I wouldn’t trade my family for anything, but sometimes I wish they could be quiet for an hour or two.

Ha, yes, I can relate to that! Anything strange, funny, weird, fascinating about you that you care to share?

I have weird dreams. My sleep cycle never returned to normal after pregnancy, so now when I wake up, I remember every bizarre detail. Sometimes sentient Cheetos come to visit, or brilliant mice sculpt tiny Greek-style temples in my desk drawer. I often water-ski through the neighborhood with my friend T-Rex, and occasionally we drink lemonade with our zombie buddies on the corner. I realize I probably shouldn’t admit this in public.

I love these dreams! I’m actually fascinated with dreams and think they make great fodder for writing. Thanks so much for taking the time, Myna. We’re excited to work (and play) with you in Grand Lake this summer!

Myna Chang writes flash and short stories. Her work has been featured in Writers Resist, Reflex Fiction, and Daily Science Fiction, and is forthcoming in the Grace & Gravity anthology Furious Gravity IX. She lives in Maryland with her family. Read more at MynaChang.com or @MynaChang.  

(Interested in joining us for our High Altitude Inspiration in the Great American West retreat? Registrations are open now. We’d love to have you!)

Uncategorized

Honoring the Voices in Our Heads: Retreat Participant Lisa Trigg Shares a Micro

Do you have a character, a story, a voice that won’t let you go? Likely this is for a reason! Lisa Trigg, who will be joining us in Yviers, France for our French Connection Retreat , shares with us just such a voice in her micro below:

Hazel Currie Asks Who is that Talking?

by Lisa Trigg

Here I am, falling in love with exactly the wrong woman wondering how I have let this happen. And the voice said, in parentheses (well, this is how it works. You don’t know.  You just don’t know what you want until you have it in your arms, smiling up at you, cracking jokes at your books, all those shoes in your basement, how often your watch tells you to breathe and drink water, and how much you talk to Alexa. You start remembering things you never thought of or dreamt about or read in any of your books. Suck it up).

What I want to know is.  Who is it that talks in parentheses?  Just who is it?

 

Lisa has a whole series of “Hazel Currie” stories and explains her inspiration for them:

Hazel Currie started talking in my head when I was about 20 years old.  She tells me stories, points out things that I should pay attention to, remember. She reminds me of things that I have forgotten that might be important, useful, that I should write down. She reminds me if I already have notes on a subject.  She does not usually know where those notes are. She is persistent and does not shut up until I write down what she says and I have done so since the beginning.  It’s the only way I can get anything else done.  I’ve been evaluated, and no, I do not need medication. To learn to make use of what she tells me, I regularly attend master writing workshops with writers that I admire, do close readings, work with a private writing coach, read craft books, other stuff that I have forgotten.”

 

(Note: Our French Connection Retreat is sold out, but registrations are now open for our return to Grand Lake, Colorado in August for High Altitude Inspiration in the Great American West. We’d love for you to join us!)