Creative Vibes by Lake Quinault

Yesterday, I got home from four days at the Rainforest Resort Village on Lake Quinault, on the southwest side of the Olympic Mountains. I was there with 36 other writers, surrounded by lots of awesome creative vibes as well as some awesome scenery– the event was the Rainforest Writers Village, and the goal was to retreat to somewhere isolated with other like-minded folks to get some writing done.

For me, it definitely worked. Over the course of those four days, I wrote 22,346 words for a new novel– it’s a steampunk alt-history story, and I’m really pleased with how it went. Being in the Rainforest, able to focus on the writing for long periods of time without worrying about going to the gym or filing taxes or sorting bills or checking the Internet, was a blast– and because I had a plan, with a freshly-outlined novel ready to start, I feel like I was both more productive and more successful than the last time I went to Rainforest Writers, back in 2012. It was the most fun I’d had writing a novel since my first NaNoWriMo, back in 2009– I loved the characters, I loved the scenes, and I felt like I was playfully romping through the prose, like a puppy playing in a field, chasing zeppelins and dragons and intrigue during an alternate version of the Second Opium War.

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about this project. But that wasn’t the only good thing about Rainforest– I got to hang out with some good friends, several of whom I hadn’t seen since my last Rainforest two years ago. I also felt less socially awkward than I did back in 2012, and had more fun hanging out with new folks and meeting people. Part of the reason is that I feel more a part of the writing community than I did two years ago– and probably part of it is also the antidepressants I’m taking, and the general progress I’ve made with my depression.

But in addition to being more comfortable socially, I was also more comfortable alone– I was more than willing to go back to my room in the Inn, which had a fantastic sitting room facing the lake. There I could sit on the couch, put my feet up on the coffee table and write alone with my laptop, sometimes for an entire afternoon. I probably did two-thirds of my writing in my room, and a third in the public writing area in the Lounge, which was a nice occasional change of pace.

In addition to writing a third of a novel, I also got a lot of great photos of both the people and the scenery– after breaking my own personal record for writing fiction in one day on Thursday (about 7200 words), on Friday I went for a 4-mile hike on what turned out to be our one sunny day, taking pictures of mushrooms and waterfalls, then watching a fantastic sunset over the lake. We were also lucky enough to get some clear nights, with some of the best views of the night sky that I’ve seen in years.

The best part, though, was the people– the group meals, the conversations, the Saturday night party, sharing photos, and bouncing ideas off each other. I’m planning to head back to the Rainforest next year.

Here’s a slideshow of pics from the weekend!

Writing, and Weather, in the Rainforest

Yesterday, I got home from the Rainforest Writers Village, on the shore of Lake Quinault in Western Washington. It was pretty awesome– for five days, I got to hang out with thirty-seven other writers and focus almost entirely on writing.

For my own part, I was actually doing more brainstorming than writing. In this (relatively) distraction-free headspace, I felt like I was more able to to follow ideas where they led, to flesh out various characters and worlds, and search for the potential plots and stories within them. And without day-to-day life constantly pulling me out of that headspace, I felt like the ideas came much easier.

That’s not to say that the Rainforest Writers Village was entirely distraction-free. A couple times a day, some of the more established pros among us would host workshops. So we got to listen to Jennifer Brozek talk about the intricacies of writing and editing anthologies, and Mary Robinette Kowal, who is also a professional puppeteer, talk about how to read out loud an audience. But because the workshops were about writing, I feel like I never really lost the creative vibe, even when I occasionally took breaks from staring at the computer screen.

Another side effect of being in a place with thirty-seven creative, awesome people is that you inevitably want to talk to them. So there was plenty of socializing, and long chats over meals, as well as a few “after hours” workshops on the intricacies of certain Scottish malt beverages. Many of my writing role models and heroes were there– Mary, the Inkpunks, and plenty of other awesome folks.

Side Note: You know what’s great about being a writer? Once you get involved in the community, there develops a large and ever-growing overlap between your role models and your friends.

Side Note 2: Social anxiety still sucks, and I get it worse among writers than most. I think it’s because even though you’re not supposed to care what other people think about you, the fact is, I do care, very much. I love the writing community, and the vibe I get from hanging out with creative people is addictive, even if I’m just standing to the side of the conversation and listening. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of things that keeps me working at this.

The other big distraction from writing was the rainforest itself. On Thursday the Sun came out, which meant that the hiking trails proved too tempting to resist, and I spent plenty of time traipsing through the woods. I hadn’t done any hiking in the woods since going to Yellowstone in September, so this was definitely overdue. And in the evening, when the sun set on the far side of the lake– magnifique.

On Friday, the clouds and rain came back with a vengeance. This place gets over 130 inches of rain a year, so needless to say, sunny days are rare, especially outside of the summer dry season. And yet, for all the rain, the place was not actually any less beautiful. The forest glistened, and the creeks running through the woods seemed revitalized, and each morning, when the clouds lifted off the hills of the far side of the lake, it was every bit as cool as a sunset.

So, the setting was distracting, but eventually I turned it to my advantage and wrote a piece of flash fiction that took place on the very trail I had been hiking on. The idea might work for a longer piece, as well, so I’m happy. Even if the starting point did happen to be “were-faeries.” (Don’t ask.)

To those folks who were there: It was great meeting everyone! Look me up on Twitter, and if you’re a local Seattleite, hopefully I’ll see you at Norwescon. If not, hopefully I’ll see you at another con in the future, or barring all else, at next year’s Rainforest. Thanks for a great weekend.

(Pic below: Mark and Keffy, on Sunday morning at about 10:30, engaged in the final heated word count showdown. Keffy won with 42,087, but it was a close thing. I lagged slightly behind them at 5,636, but I’ll content myself with the brainstorming I brought home.)

Retreat!

It feels like it’s been a pretty busy couple of months as far as writing goes: I took a novel revision course, I attended Potlatch, and I’ve done a fair amount of editing work, both on my novel and on various short stories that are making the rounds collecting rejection letters.

But all in all, I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels. I’ve done a lot of critiquing of other people’s stories, and a lot of reading and editing of my own, as well as blogging, and tweeting, and planning, but as far as actual word count goes, I pretty much haven’t written anything new since New Year’s. And it’s starting to wear on me, especially since I still have a truckload of editing work to do. Don’t get me wrong, the revision work is still important, but the core of being a writer is that you write stuff, and I haven’t been doing much of that lately.

Luckily, I have a chance: tomorrow I leave for the Rainforest Writers’ Village, a writers’ retreat in which I get to spend five days surrounded by nature, hanging out with writer types, and writing.

I realized the other day that it’s been a while since I’ve just written for fun, without worrying about whether it will sell or what critiquers will think of it or any of countless other considerations that, even though they’re important, can also bog you down.

Starting tomorrow, through Sunday, my goal is to take some of the half-formed short story ideas I’ve collected over the past couple years and just write, for the sheer fun of creating something. It’s too easy for writing to become work; my goal, at the Rainforest retreat, is not to worry about word count or marketing or anything else. It’s to hang out with other writers, have fun, and write.