March Theme: A Well-deserved Break--Virtually!
By Marcia Thornton Jones

To be totally honest, I take too many breaks from writing. The kind of breaks caused by real life infiltrating my writing schedule. Unfortunately, those breaks seem to extend into full-fledged sabbaticals. Sometimes I feel like I’m gone so long that I’m a writing expatriate. Even though my journal always travels with me so I never make a complete break, I need daily consistency in order for writing to flow within a plot.

I’m tempted to think that the perfect spring break would be a writing retreat to stimulate my muse and inspire flow. I’ve heard idyllic things about them, and I’ve been on a few, but I discovered that I’m too distracted by scenery and people. Especially other writers. I get antsy to connect rather than to write, and that’s hard to do when others are sequestered in personal spaces, shushing me. I end up frustrated, word quotas aren’t met, and I feel like I’ve spent a lot of money to do what I could be doing in my little cluttered spare bedroom back in Kentucky.

A group of writing friends were recently e-chatting about organizing a possible retreat. The usual issues surfaced: time, money, schedules, location. When it was clear that consensus was far from happening I suggested we schedule a cyber-retreat. We agreed to set aside a week during which we listed goals, reported daily progress, and were available for brainstorming. We did one more thing just for fun. We each chose an ideal location; places like Scotland, Hawaii, and Italy. The cyber-retreat became a motivating and focused period of accountable writing as well as a fun fictional travelogue of experiences. Silly, but fun. And why not?

I chose a place that I’d run across in a magazine; a picture that connected to a vision I had for the setting of a book I intend to write ‘someday’. I knew little about the cliff-side house perched over the Mediterranean but as the week of our virtual retreat progressed I learned bits and pieces to add flavor to my daily check-ins. Here’s the thing: it soon became apparent that the character waiting for me to tell her story was butting into my retreat descriptions. By the end of the week I’d not only made progress on my work-in-progress but I also had five days worth of freewrites for that future book.

So here’s a thought. During this season of taking vacations, why not send your characters on their own well-deserved breaks. Plunk them in a setting and let them send you a travelogue of sights—and insights. You might even tag along. It’s a great way to see the world! And who knows? Maybe I’ll see you there.

Bon voyage!


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