Last weekend was a milestone for me, I did something I never expected I would be capable of. I ventured out to my first ever Writing Retreat, held at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, Lamington National Park. After signing up for it online without knowing anyone else who was going, I fluctuated between feelings of joy and terror until the big weekend.
It turns out the only terrifying part of the whole weekend was trying to find the conference centre! And maybe to a lesser extent, making sure we didn't miss the shuttle bus to our accommodation, because the trek between the conference centre and accommodation looked like a good setting for a horror story, but I digress. Before the first workshop had begun, I had already started to make new friends and have interesting conversations about zombie apocalypses. The whole weekend was fantastic, both educational and entertaining, on a scale beyond anything I could have imagined. There were masterclasses hosted by various authors and professionals in the publishing industry who were more than willing to impart their nuggets of knowledge with the participants who were eager to learn. I even learnt how to convert a story into a script which can be converted into a comic or graphic novel! That is a skill I never thought I would learn, and now it is something I can’t wait to work with an illustrator to do.
In a way I am glad I have started to take my writing seriously, dedicating time to professional development of the craft, instead of treating it like a hobby I can only perform in a dark closet where no one can see. Just working on bringing my stories into the world fills me with a joy and richness of purpose I have not known before. To put your writing out there is a difficult thing initially, because even in fiction, there is a part of you in anything you write. It is a deeply personal and exposing thing. In part, I think that might be part of why many writers start out pursuing their passion, introverted and alone, with a fear of judgement when seeking connections with others.
Slowly, over time, and especially after this last weekend away, I am starting to learn that the writing community is a lot more supportive than I may have thought. Everyone tries to lift you up and help you become the best version of yourself you can be, everyone wants to see you achieve. Everyone shares the same passion for storytelling, it is more a collaborative environment than a competitive one. So, if you are an aspiring writer, and working diligently but alone, I implore you to reach out to your local writing communities and start to talk to people about what you’re doing. Wear your writer badge with pride and connect with others that share your passion. It will change your life.
It allowed me to spend the weekend nestled in a magical rainforest, with a rich night sky not diluted by light pollution. It was easy to imagine myself in another world, another time, another place. It really helped get the creative juices flowing, so much so, I didn’t really want to leave when the weekend came to an end. The place was a speculative fiction writer's paradise, and I think I will have to sign up again next year.
But for now, at least I get to take home the fond memories, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll project them into a story somehow. After all, isn’t that what writers do?
I will also continue to work diligently on editing the manuscript for my current project, for which I am yet to give a name. I hope to have more information on it soon though, so keep an eye out. I am also making changes to my website, after some advice I received at the retreat, so stay tuned (and be patient as it slowly morphs into a new beast)!
Exciting times ahead!