Muse-less on an Abandoned Shore

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I recently took a writing journey to learn if I truly wanted to continue writing. During my wandering, I discovered a few things I’d forgotten about myself.  

We all struggle with life’s hard lessons of loss, heartache, depression, illness, or for me, grief. These emotional battles can zap your writing spirit and leave you shipwrecked, muse-less on some abandoned shore surrounded by murky waters.

I was in the middle of my current WIP (work in progress) and was laboring over my story’s plot, not sure if I cared about finishing my novel. But more, plagued with whether I had the energy or creativity to go on. I knew I needed help and a change of scenery, a break from my life, and the recent family deaths that impacted me profoundly.

So, I signed up for the Algonkian Monterey Writer’s Retreat. It would be a journey outside my everyday reality, and a deep dive off that marooned ship into my writing life. I told my husband, and my dog, I’d be gone for a few weeks. I told them where the food was, what the daily routines needed to be, and assured them I’d face time. Then off I went, from tiny, rainy Camano Island WA to sunny Monterey CA.

I rented a petite cottage near the beach, hired a car, and met up with the fifteen or so other writers who gathered in Monterey for a multitude of reasons, but mostly to connect with other writerly souls. Finding, and connecting with your tribe is vital.   

For the following days we met with premier literary agents and editors, worked on our prose, plots, and pitches. It was an energizing meeting of minds and hearts. I know some of the friendships I made there will last a long time.  The writing, and especially plotting and pitching knowledge I gained was a life changer. Knowledge truly is power.

But mostly, the time alone did my spirit wonders. Instead of drowning in those murky waters, I swam. I walked sunny beaches, photographed flora and fauna, traveled to other areas, prayed at the gates of the Carmel Mission Basilica, and not bound by the routines and desires of family and a demanding (though precious) dog, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted. I wrote in the coffee shops, a favorite little Thai Restaurant, and I wrote on the beach, in the life affirming sunshine.

I walked the streets of Carmel where I viewed stimulating art from Parisian artists and bought Rugelach at the posh bakery. The rugelach was a gateway back in time for me, it was my favorite dessert when I was a teen in downtown Portland Oregon––trapped in a life I didn’t want––dreaming of being a writer or an artist. That rugelach in Carmel reminded me how far I’ve come, and how far I still want to go. That seventeen-year-old writer-wannabe is now a published author with so many more books to write.

Standing on the beach in Carmel I felt a bolt of energy. I was renewed, reenergized and ready again to leave my recurring grief behind and get busy living, and for me that means writing.  And now, I’m back on schedule writing every day. My spirit was restored.

When you attend a writer’s retreat or conference it’s important to set your expectations up front. Not everyone goes for the same reasons or has the same experiences at a retreat. I believe if you set your intentions, as the eminent philosopher, Mick Jagger famously said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”

2 thoughts on “Muse-less on an Abandoned Shore

    Behind the Story said:
    May 19, 2023 at 4:54 am

    Your retreat and the use you made of it are just amazing! Congratulations and best wishes.

    I’ve only been to Carmel once more that fifty years ago. I loved it. I don’t know why I’ve never gone back.


      Mindy Halleck responded:
      May 20, 2023 at 6:20 pm

      Carmel is so charming, unaffordable for most of us, but charming. Go back, you’ll love it.


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