A writer’s retreat is an odd thing. At first it is almost stressful — the newness of everything — the sense of not knowing where one is in relationship to the geography of the land, to the language, if different, to all those strangers who may or may not be known. Then, a little time goes by; perhaps two or three days and one begins to get a stronger sense of a new place. It’s still foreign, but less so. You’ve sourced out the important things: book store, photocopy store, grocery store and of course, here in Quebec, the SAQ (The Société des alcools du Québec),which began in 1973.
By the fourth or fifth day, you know where to get the best food, who serves the best coffee and who is unfriendly. You make discoveries like the one I did today – a little boulangerie on Rue de Riviere (sorry about the spelling) where everything is fresh and organic and you can sip on a coffee and munch on a garlic, pesto pizza under the shade of towering pine trees with the sound of the River behind you.
And magically, something starts to change in the way you write. Ideas turn into words and sentences turn into paragraphs and pages and new book is born, or a new poem or an new song…the creative shift is so slight, that it is almost indiscernible and you have to make yourself become aware of what is going on. And that’s when the magic really begins.
Is it time without the pressures of life? Is it the sense of timelessness and the feeling that you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to. Or is it the luxury of being able to let ideas come, to not be rushed in your thinking or judgmental. Or maybe it’s just change. In a new situation, all animals are more alert, more in tune with their surroundings, more alert to possibilities, both good and bad. Humans are animals and no different from their four-legged cousins in this way.
Whatever it is, writers and artists at every stage of their careers should grab hold of the opportunity to spend some time away from real life in a writer’s or artist’s (often they are mixed) retreat. My best books have been born in these places. What will come from my stay in Val David? I don’t know yet, but I am sure it will be something wonderful.
At night I am reading: Nikolski and l listen to Jonathan GoldstienWire Tap podcasts — the ones where he does his monologues or talks to Gregor, Howard, Tucker, his parents and others on the phone. I’m not so keen on the straight stories…I’d rather read those.