What a difference a week makes

Ernest HemingwayI’ve been MIA. Gone. Sequestered. Minimal online activity. Maximum solitude.

And it was great.

A few weeks ago I decided to go on what I called my “Ernest Hemingway writing retreat”. My intention was to squirrel myself away, in isolation, for one week, to write…and write…and write…and write.

And I did.

I put no parameters on the writing. I simply let the words flow out of me, unedited and, to this date, unread. I allowed stream of consciousness to tumble out, and it felt so liberating and “dangerous”. What: no editing? No worrying about whether something made sense of not? Yeah…it was great.

I write best longhand, in lined journals, with my favourite pen in hand (although, when I blew that pen out of the water and had no refills, I had to resort to my back-up supply of pens. It took a little adjusting to the different feel and flow of the nib, but it was only a minor adjustment and nuisance.) I relate to what Amber Naslund said in a blog post about how she writes : “In the early stages of a concept when I’m still brainstorming or thinking, I *have* to do it on paper. I don’t totally understand why. But once I get something to a place where I can outline the major bits, I can start typing. Before that, it’s got to be pen on paper.”Writing spot

That’s me for sure. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than sitting in a lovely spot, with a cup of coffee, allowing the writing muse to alight and write.

Amber also paraphrased Joan Didion when she said: “I write to discover what I think.” Amber, you’re living in my head:)

It was refreshing to write for the pure purpose of doing so. The goal was to have, on paper, whatever came to mind that week. And although I haven’t gone back to re-read it, I know it’s a smorgasbord of thought that I’ve tentatively entitled…ah, well that shall have to wait;)

The atmosphere was perfect for writing. I was alone. I had no one and nothing to be accountable to (although the lure of the laptop which sat idly on a table for most of the week did call me to action a few times…but only a few). I’d cleared my schedule, informed but a few of my intended absence, and simply disappeared. It was joyous.I was here

And the stars had certainly lined up when, on my birthday, May 1st, the Toronto Star newspaper heralded the publication of The Hemingway Papers: a compilation of articles that Ernest Hemingway wrote during his time at the Star from 1920 – 1924. How much more prophetic could it get?

I think it’s a shame when I hear people say “I could never do that”, whatever “that” is. They have reasons. They have excuses. They get in their own way.

But the premise of all my work and coaching is simply this: when you decide…truly decide…you will do. Decisions are the foundation of action. When we waffle about, saying we’ll “try” (and you know me on that: Do or do not. There is no try. ~ Yoda), making excuses, finding obstacles (real or imagined) or having legitimate reasons for not doing something, we really haven’t made a decision. It’s still just porridge in our heads. Mushy thoughts stirring about.

I don’t yet know what I’ll do with the writing I’ve done, but I do know one thing for sure. I’m a writer. Yes, I’m a blogger, I’m a coach, a speaker, a mom, a wife and a myriad of other things, depending upon who’s labelling me. But what I know for sure for myself is this: I’m a writer. I’ve avoided and evaded claiming that for so long, it’s liberating to say it out loud.

What will the next chapter hold? I’m not really sure, but I’m letting the story unfold each day. I’m not concerned about flipping to the final page to see how it all turns out. For now, I’m content in rolling out my life page by page, living in the moment, and making decisions and doing, for each step along the way.Sunset

What is it that you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t? Why not?

Do you believe that choice, not chance, determines your destiny?

What’s YOUR “Ernest Hemingway writing retreat”, and why aren’t you making it happen?

  • ShakirahDawud

    Oh, Kaarina, I have always known you were a writer–I didn’t realize you’d been evading the title. So glad you stuck to your retreat and wrote with abandon!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks @ShakirahDawud:disqus . It’s been liberating, and I will continue to turn the pages. Cheers! Kaarina

  • deedawg4

    It sounds wonderful. The opportunity to write with reckless abandon needs to be followed.

    It is too important for a writer too ignore.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       So true @fda6954eb7d40a5d430fcf8811e92689:disqus . Who is deedawg4? Are you working undercover? Great to see you here Jack:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/CrossBetsy Betsy Cross

    Congrats, Kaarina! I love that you love that you know that you’re a writer! I believe that every little choice closes some doors (not necessarily forever, just for the moment) and opens others. I also believe that whatever you focus on you excel at. You can’t help it! You start noticing things and people that were there all along but that have somehow been illuminated and either attracted to you or you to them because they are now at the forefront of your mind. 
    For me the key is to recognize and enjoy distractions as such, and to focus on what matters to me.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       So true @twitter-562128902:disqus , about noticing things and people were there all along. I often use the example that, once you decide to buy a red car, all you see on the road is red cars. They’ve been there all along, but weren’t “illuminated” until they came into the forefront of your mind.

      I don’t know where this will all lead, but I’m happy to be on the journey. Thanks! Kaarina

  • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

    Welcome back, and I fully agree with the power of:

    Writing, physically, mentally, emotionally.
    Solitude, and acceptance of our dreams.

    Beautiful Kaarina, rock on.

    I make a lot of space in my life for quiet reflection. I meditate. I spend  a lot of time in parks. I rock climb, I travel. etc.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       It’s so important, @ryzeonline:disqus , to make space and time in our lives, and not feel compelled to fill it all up with “stuff”. Besides the solitude of writing, I took long walks, watched the waves at the beach, ran, picked up rocks (a favourite activity: many now adorn my desk) and was content to allow all to unfold. Cheers! Kaarina

      • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

         Cheers and amen to that, Kaarina.

        I love it :)

  • http://www.writerightwords.com/ Erin Feldman

    I think you told us what you’ve been doing without telling us what you’re planning. 😉

    Getting away is such an important thing. I’m wishing for a writing retreat, but it isn’t going to happen. I have no vacation time. I just have to create my space as best I can and write and write and write. My process varies depending on what I’m writing.  I never use a pen unless I’m in revision and, eventually, editing mode.

    I’m glad you were able to escape for a while and to re-focus and re-energize.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Spot on @ErinFeldman:disqus 😉 I think we all need to carve out space and time with what works best for us. You are a prolific writer, so much so that I simply can’t keep up, my friend:) You’ve obviously honed your gift with what works for you. I’m glad to be back, but will hold that time and space fondly in memory, and use it to propel me forward. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.grownupnowwhat.com/ Tammy

    What a wonderful adventure! Congratulations on trying on and feeling comfortable with the description of writer. You are exuding happiness and contentment.

    From the post, what struck me most was that I’m not alone in needing to write by hand. For me it makes it more real. Seeing it in MY writing makes it more real.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       @3c52b39662a421a77fe61b398b504af2:disqus , I’m with you on the cursive writing. I think it stems from my love of writing, over and over again, the alphabet in blue-covered, lined notebooks in grade one. I will credit my grade one teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, for that:)

      It was a wonderful adventure indeed, that I plan to continue to live out, page by page. And it warms my heart to think I’m exuding the happiness and contentment I feel. I wish that feeling for everyone:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/rdopping Ralph Dopping

    She’s baaaaack! All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…..http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4lQ_MjU4QHw Remember that one? It’s one of Nicholson’s finest moments. 

    It’s so good to see people following their dreams and making these things happen. I’s sure you have some serious fodder for future use. Maybe you should do that once a year, huh? Sounds extremely cathartic. I have been usig that word a lot lately.

    I, personally, can’t wait to see what comes out of that. No pressure…..;-)

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       No pressure @twitter-229922134:disqus :) It was indeed cathartic, beautiful, peaceful and productive. I think I shall sing along with this fabulous rendition http://youtu.be/tnmrIK1paSs

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Hi Kaarina,

    And welcome back.

    Maximum solitude sounds great to me and we could all use a retreat like this.

    You need solitude like this more often than not, but a break such as this one is a great way to refocus.

    Congratulations on saying it: You are a writer. Cool :)

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks @CraigMcBreen:disqus : to tag onto your word and quote our friend Bill Dorman…cool beans. And for all who want to view a fab version of que sera, sera, check out the youtube link in my response to Ralph below. soooooo cooooool Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://twitter.com/lifeforinstance Life, for instance

    Hi Kaarina! I’m glad to hear things went so well for you, that you remained true to your goal and that the start lined up to affirm the fact you are a writer!
    I’ll tackle your last question and admit that I’m going off the grid again this summer for about 11 days. I hope to have time to do some writing during that time :-) I may take a page from your book and name my retreat. Hmm… Up to now all I’ve got it “vacation”!
    I can so relate to your feeling when your favorite pen ran out of ink. Strike that – favoUrite (I can speak Canadian here, right!?) When I go on vacation I pack my favourite pens and extra ink. It’s on my list 😉
    Can’t wait to hear what happens with your writing from this retreat!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Go for it @twitter-228904159:disqus : name that retreat! The Happy Place Retreat perhaps;)?

      Going off the grid is such a great thing. Provides perspective, refreshes and rejuvenates. Pack that favourite (Canadianspeak) pen, extra ink and enjoy! Will keep you posted. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.late-bloomers.net Barbara Klein

    Mes félicitations, ma reine du printemps! I am so happy for you, you are a creative artist and I love the warmth, passion and energy emanating from your post.
    Speak to you soon!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       I look forward to it @BarbaraKlein:disqus :) I created both a reine du printemps and a snowshoes/snow queen pencil sketch that I can’t wait to share with you. We MUST Skype. I’m guessing you’re away somewhere right now, so do let me know when you return. Can’t wait! Cheers! Kaarina

      • http://www.late-bloomers.net Barbara Klein

        Cannot wait to see it, by all means let us Skype when I am back. Or start a successful Hangout! Here I am waiting for the hanging to begin and – NADA! I had a lovely lunch with a blogging friend and went back to the hotel for our appointment …
        Well, time to catch up! Speak to you soon, and how I am looking forward to this! Barbara 

        • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

           It seems that Wednesday’s just aren’t working out as planned for the Hangouts @BarbaraKlein:disqus . I have them in my calendar, but it seems that the universe conspires to inject unavoidable diversions/responsibilities, both work and family,  into my Wednesdays. I’m not sure where you are right now, but since you said hotel, I’m assuming you’re travelling. Let me know when you’re back and we’ll arrange that Skype. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Al

    Awesome Kaarina.  So proud of you.  I have missed you, but this seems well worth it.  Now that you are back, we have got to ctach up.  Take CARE and keep on writing.  Because, as you simply stated, You are a writer, my friend.

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks @55bda8bf067c222f67632d2dc41af473:disqus : seems like ages since we’ve connected, but I’ve seen you busy around the blogosphere, connecting and collaborating. Good for you:) It appears that things are going well for you, and that warms my heart. Enjoy the book signing event. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.transcriptione-services.com Alicia Jay

    You go girl! So glad that you did this for yourself! You are right. We often make excuses as to why we can’t do these kinds of things, myself included. I’m also glad to see that you’re announcing to the world that YOU ARE A WRITER! Rock on, sista;)

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Thanks so much @AliciaJay:disqus : I will rock on:) Cheers! Kaarina

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  • http://twitter.com/bdorman264 Bill Dorman

    Hey, hey, very timely for me as I’m certainly at a crossroads and waiting for a ‘sign.’ I would love to go into seclusion for a week and write my silly head off. My challenge right now is taking the first step and actually scheduling writing time instead of ‘hoping’ I can find the time. The other challenge is, ‘what do I want my online presence to look like?’

    Questions and change; hmmmm…….

    Sorry it took me so long to get here, but you should feel honored as this is one of the very, very few I’ve been able to get to………..I was just kidding about the honored part; it’s always great to be here.

    Good luck and I’ll be talking to you shortly. 

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Whew! I thought you’d voted me off the island @twitter-34985693:disqus . I thought I might have to don my snowshoes, lasso my moose and trudge right over to your place in person:) (BTW, I did a pencil sketch of “Snowshoes” during my week away, which I’m quite please with. Will post on fb.)

      Don’t wait for a sign: decide2do and do, my friend. Taking that first step by making the decision is where it was at for me. Could I “afford” to take the week off? No, but I did it anyway, and it’s provided just the springboard I needed. I still have no idea what the final result will be, but the wheels (and snowshoes) are definitely in motion.

      I am honoured (note the “Canadian” spelling) that I’m one of the very, very few. I miss you when you’re MIA. Would love to catch up live and in person. A Skype perhaps?

      Your “other challenge” i.e. what do I want my online presence to look like, is exactly what I’m wrestling with right now. I have several options in mind, based on what came up during my retreat, but the decision isn’t yet clear. Would love to chat. Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://hajrakvetches.com Hajra

    I need to do this sometime.Just write and write. The fear of ending up writing something that doesn’t make sense holds me back to no bounds. I feel I am a harsher judge to myself than others can ever be. I need to accept me first! 

    Glad to have found your true love…allover again!

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       Allover again indeed @hajrak:disqus :) My purpose in starting this blog a year and a bit ago was simply to eliminate the self-editor in me. I was always worrying about things like: am I making sense…am I being “politically correct”…it’s all been said before, and the like. That’s gone, thank goodness.

      The writing retreat entrenched for me the fact that we can’t talk about writing, we must do it: freely, with abandon, without self-editing during the process and without having an “end goal” in mind.

      If I’d gone away thinking, “I will now write my book”, I don’t believe the process (and potential outcome) would have been nearly as rewarding as simply going away to write. It was liberating to allow my pen to flow as the thoughts bubbled up. The writing came through me with ease.

      Do it. Write and write and write and write…without expectation, without demands, without judgment. Decide2do and Do, my friend:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • http://www.slymarketing.com Jens P. Berget

    Wow. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It sounds amazing to go away for a week and just write. That’s exactly how I would finish my novel. Now, I keep telling my self to write and life always gets in the way.

    How much did you write / accomplish during the week?

    • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

       I wrote almost non-stop until my hand couldn’t take it anymore @berget:disqus . I’ve not yet gone back to read what I wrote. I’m going to let it sit for a while. And since I didn’t set out with a goal in mind other than to simply write, I accomplished my goal.

      Do it. It’s so liberating. And now you have your greenhouse where you can tuck away and write away. Cheers! Kaarina