Tag Archives: short story journal

The Value of Retreating

Writing Retreat by Blaise van Hecke

Is there value in going away to write? This question has been on my mind since I recently facilitated at two very different writing retreats. The first was a two-day writing camp for teens and the second was a two-day writing retreat for adults.

While they were very different in tone and amenities (think high school camp food versus gourmet home cooked meals), the intention for both programs was similar. All participants were exposed to ideas and tasks in the craft of writing in the hope that they were able to explore different aspects of writing and gain confidence in their skills.

There is always a danger in participating in too many courses and workshops as a writer because it can get in the way of actual writing but at the same time it’s really important to try new things, be part of group discussions and learn some pointers to help you get past the roadblocks.

Over the course of each of these two day programs, it was obvious that many of the participants had real aha moments and confidence started to build. It’s very different from going away on your own for two days (although that is also a worthwhile thing to do) because you are forced to engage with other writers. Afterwards these people also build connection with each other that they can continue into the future – a great resource to have so that you can bounce ideas off each other.

Many of these writers, young and old, had never shared any of their work with anyone before. Can you imagine the fear about that? But both groups were all after the same thing and were very nurturing. Everyone wanted success for each other. This meant that sharing felt safe. Once the sharing was done, it was a relief that all the anticipated fear about rejection and humiliation was unfounded.

The creative energy that develops over these programs is very exciting and it’s not uncommon for people to gain momentum on an existing project or to start something totally new in response to the discussions or from writing exercises. So the outcomes from my observation were confidence and inspiration to continue on writing projects. Very satisfying outcomes from my point of view.

The Beauty of Silence

Reflection by Blaise van Hecke

I just spent a week in Bali to reunite with family members from Tokyo and Australia and to meet my youngest nephew. Without realising it, we booked this week during the Nyepi holiday. While a little inconvenient to have this during our one week of family time, it was in fact a wonderful experience.

Nyepi is the Balinese Day of Silence or their New Year. At around lunchtime the day before, the Balinese people are itching to finish work and get home to start their holiday. The night is full of colour, noise and ceremony to send the demons out to sea. You can feel the party atmosphere everywhere you turn.

To make sure that the demons don’t find their way back, Bali is as silent and dark as possible the next day. So Bali shuts down. This is quite a feat when you know how much of a vibrant, bustling place it is from day to day. So from six on Nyepi morning, until the following morning at six the idea is that you have a day of silence and reflection. This includes no electronics, no cooking, no lights. The airport is closed. The TV stations are closed.

When we woke on Nyepi, the front of our resort was blocked from the street with a tarpaulin so that no one could see out or in. It was very tempting to peek through a gap to see the street empty of cars and people, or to see if it was some kind of joke on the tourists.

As tourists, there were some allowances. The kitchen did make us food to a limited menu. So we didn’t need to starve. The staff were playful and couldn’t wait until dark so that we didn’t ask for anything else. I heard whispers that they were going to swim in the pool.

Did I spend the day in silence? Not totally because I had other family staying at the same place. But I did spend some time reading by the pool and many hours in my room writing. It was nice to be with my own thoughts. It’s always interesting that the writing becomes much easier when you have that space to think. I managed to tackle parts of my current project that had been slow moving.

It’s not possible to be in total silence. When I go to the bush, there is a surprising amount of noise from the river, birds, wind in the trees. Even during Nyepi you could hear dogs barking on the streets. But it is possible to create space around us by removing ourselves from the constant chatter of the world by getting off our phones, turning off the TV and finding a place to simply think. It’s very important for our creativity.

Blaise the book chick