Last week I wrote about doubt and how whenever you take on a big project or a new project or a project that has no guarantee (which is all of them), you are going to be mired in doubt. The trick is to press on regardless of the doubt — which is what we did when we hosted 20 writers in Austen, Texas this last weekend for an intensive writing retreat.
So many things went wrong. The food truck failed to show up at the correct time on the first day so we had to scramble to put food on the table; the salad we ordered for our vegetarian friends one night was made with cheese they couldn’t eat; the house we rented was old and some would say haunted (creaky floors, weird echo-y noises, wedding dresses in the closet), so those of us who slept there didn’t sleep well and when we tried to make quiet spaces, they were not very quiet; there wasn’t enough light in the big upstairs room to see after dark; it was 96 degrees and humid so writing in the lovely backyard was not an option; the schedule we made for Laura to do do 6 am yoga was brutal; Sheila, one of our coaches who came to be “on call” was “on call” for 72 straight hours because we didn’t bake in a break for her; Abby, who was in charge of everything, was reduced to eating donuts with purple KoolAid sprinkled on top, which has to be a sign of something not going right; I worked 14 hours days, including a day that was my 55th birthday, and received a bittersweet text from my husband with a picture of some of my best friends raising a toast to me 1,500 miles away.
It was an incredibly powerful weekend.
People were committed to helping each other, which is something we definitely need in this world.
People were committed to learning — to analyzing their work, to making it better.
People were committed to pushing themselves to meet their stated goals — and they had goals, which we put on Post-It notes on the wall in the room with no light, so there was no squirming out of it.
Everything that was important to the success of the event, in other words, went absolutely right.
So often this is the way of the world. You risk doing something, and it may not look the way you wanted it to look and it may not feel the way you wanted it to feel, but it results in the thing you wanted to accomplish.
I wanted to bring together the small tribe I have gathered around the mission of Author Accelerator. I wanted to see if our special brand of supporting writers would translate to an in-person event — giving one-on-one attention, providing honest, evidence-based feedback, focusing on all elements of the writing process (emotional, structural, strategic, not just craft.) And that part worked beyond my wildest dreams.
If I had given into the doubt, I would never have known this.
I got a visceral gut check that what I am building here has value to people’s writing lives. We all need tribes to belong to, tribes that feel like our people. Writers serious about doing good work, who have embraced the long slow hard work of writing a book, need each other, and over this weekend, they connected with each other in deep and profound ways. There were a lot of tears — of relief that they are not alone; of recognition that they are on the right path; of sadness that a special weekend necessarily has to come to an end.
I also got the motivation to do it again (in September in Maine with a slightly bigger group because we’re doing it with KJ Dell’Antonia), and three times in 2020 in some locations TBD (but possibly Seattle, Florida, and Santa Barbara.)
Doubt exists, but it doesn’t have a hold on me. I hope it doesn’t have a hold on your bringing your dreams to life, either.
Are you ready to show doubt the door? Join us in Maine in September.