Let’s Talk about Take Aways

The past couple of weeks, folks in my writing world have been on the go, go, go.

I went away to Cape Henlopen State Park for a poetry & prose writers retreat. Mystery writing friends went to a “police academy” for writers, and the city of Cleveland was overrun with crime authors for the Bouchercon conference.  More pals from the great state of Texas met for a weekend and, according to one source, met in a place called the Stagecoach Inn to solve the world’s problem. Oh, and write a bit, too, of course.

I have attended my fair share of retreats, conferences, and writing weekends. After the post-event high fades, I check back over my notes to make sure I have not forgotten some illuminating tidbit of advice.

At last weekend’s retreat, we did two evenings of critiques, some white-board work on characterization, a morning of writing meditation, discussions of memories, fantasies, and how to incorporate basic human drives into fictional characters. All good stuff.

But, as always, there is one major advancement I took away from the weekend. I call it an advancement because it will do just that: push me forward to be a better writer. I call it my Take Away. Every time I go away or attend a writing event, I try to find one clear Take Away that best serves my desire to always grow as a writer.

Last weekend’s Take Away was an exercise on the ideal writing studio. The goal was to focus on the perfect place to write; to walk past the impediments between you and a place and time to write;  to speak back to your inner critic; to identify your specific writing goals; and to listen to your Ideal Reader and what that person would say to you.

This exercise was set firmly in the land of woo-woo. It was motivational, addressing fantasies and mental blocks, but it also honed in on something important: what I want to write. I even made a list.

My ideal writing studio is far away physically, but the exercise let me imagine it around me when I am anywhere: home, library, coffee shop. As long as I move past the physical barriers and ignore the mental ones, I can get there at any place and any time.

That’s my Take Away. Close my eyes, and I’m in my ideal writing studio, writing what I want to write.

Have you been away somewhere and picked up an illuminating new skill? Did a workshop reach out and grab you or a panel seem to address you by name?

Tell me about it.


7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about Take Aways

  1. I like this, Ramona. I think I’m going to have your Take Away from your retreat be my Take Away from this post!

    I had a huge Take Away from a day-long Donald Maass workshop on Writing the Breakout Novel last spring:

    “What does your character fear most? Make it happen. And then make it worse. And then make it even worse. What would cause your protagonist to abandon the search? Make it happen. And then make it worse. What or who would bring her back to the search? Threaten that thing or person. And then make it worse.”

    This really improved my work in progress. Not sure it will BE a breakout novel, although I hope so, but I do know I was able to apply the Take Away directly to the book.


    1. Edith, Take my Take Away, I’m happy to share.

      I like that Donald Maass advice. We did something similar at the retreat, discussing what the character most wants, and what things get in the way of that. That’s how to create conflict.

      I hope you have a breakout, break away, record-breaking novel!


  2. I’ve only really attended two events. The Retreat to the Woods last year with my local chapter and Bouchercon last weekend. Well, a couple of one-day workshops. I took learned the “torture your characters” lesson from Tim Esais. But I think the major thing that I’ve taken away from all of these is: Keep writing. If you believe in your story, keep writing. I spoke to Mary Higgins Clark oh-so-briefly; she started in short fiction, short stories. She said she was so happy to see us “younger writers” and she’s “passing the baton.” i feel motivated to live up to that.

    There’s always something to work on. But most important – just keep writing.


  3. I was at that Stagecoach Inn weekend and met a writer I hadn’t known before, plus connected with others I hadn’t seen in awhile. I think the experience energized me, plus I did get some writing done. I’ll try to remember to think about this, intentionally, so that the money from get-aways isn’t wasted.


    1. Get away spending is never wasted, Kaye! Unless you are getting away to Vegas….

      I am not always able to get writing done at retreats. Often it’s devoted to the workshops. This time, I did both, so win win win.

      Is your retreat weekend going to be an annual thing?


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