Monday, March 3, 2014

On Writing Retreats and Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Happy Monday everyone!

As I'm writing this post, I am currently 1500 miles and two timezones away from home. I spent these past few days traveling to and around the gorgeous state of Colorado, my ultimate destination being a beautiful cabin in the mountains, where I joined 17 other authors on a retreat that involved lots of writing, occasional dance partying, and shenanigans involving a cardboard cutout of Loki.

In case you thought I was kidding about that last part

And before I ventured up the mountain (with Leah Miller at my side, of course), we stopped over in Boulder, CO, to lunch and visit with my agent:

Yes! She is in fact a real, live, sweet and fantastic person

Once we made it up the mountain, the cabin awaited, with its fantastic views:

Seriously? We were supposed to write when we could just stare at this all day?

So, yeah. All in all? Fantastic weekend, and I am SO grateful to have had this retreat opportunity, and to be a part of this fantastic group of writers who attended.

But now for the secret.

Guys, I was also absolutely terrified to get on that plane and go on this trip.

Not really terrified of the plane part (I love planes and traveling and getting lost in new places and all that good stuff), but the "holy-crap-I'm-going-to-be-meeting-a-TON-of-people-this-weekend" part. So terrified that, if I could have backed out (and hadn't already paid deposits and plane tickets), sad to say that there's a decent chance I would have. Small talk, groups of people and bonding activities and just...yeah. These things freak me out. I'm not good at these things. I've spent the past four days moving so far outside of my comfort zone that I might not ever find my way back to it.

But I'm pretty sure that's a good thing.

Because see, my comfort zone has moved, and now I have new scenery to enjoy and be inspired by. I saw this picture about comfort zones on pintrest awhile back, and it kept flashing through my head on this trip; and since I am such a FANTASTIC artist, I decided to recreate it for you guys:

If writing doesn't work out, I plan on becoming an artist

So I kept telling myself this all weekend (magic happens outside your comfort zone! magic happens outside your comfort zone!), and it eventually occurred to me that it didn't just apply to social situation comfort zones; it's true of writing, too. Because during one of the retreats writing sessions/stare out the window at the pretty mountains times, I had an idea for a book. A big, scary, "this-could-be-awesome-if-done-properly-but-also-I-could-screw-it-up-reeeeally-easily" sort of idea.

Not a comfortable sort of idea, in other words.

But thinking back, I guess that's how my most recently completed book started off, too: that is, way outside the zone of what I considered myself comfortable with writing. But I pushed on anyway, and even though its publishing fate is still to be determined, I still feel confident that it's my best-written book to date. Funny how that works out.

And before the new book, it was the same with FALLS. Scary in the beginning, eventually breaking through to places I didn't think my writing could go, and then ultimately it became the book that got me an agent and book deal.

So as I'm standing here at the beginning(s) of new book(s) that seem scary and bigger than anything I've done before, I just keep telling myself: this is how it's supposed to be. With every book, (I hope) I'm getting better, and sometimes getting better means growing outside of safe and familiar things; it means meeting people in a cabin in the woods and telling them your writing dreams and goals, and it means dancing with those people even if sitting on the couch and playing with your phone seems safer. And then it means sitting back down at the keyboard, surrounded by new fears and uncertainties and everything that could go wrong, and then writing anyway.

I hope you're all challenged by whatever you're working on today--and that you all manage to overcome it and breakthrough to where the magic happens :)

And now I'm off to see more mountains and do other Coloradoey things. Bye!

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and her debut novel, FALLS THE SHADOW, is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2014. You can add it on Goodreads here!

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9 secret replies:

  1. Beautiful. I'm so glad you got out of your comfort zone. This weekend was amazing and you and Leah cracked me up.
    Can't wait for next year.

    1. Thanks Robyn! <3 I can't wait either. I'm so glad I got to meet you!

  2. A retreat! That sounds so awesome! Sounds amazing. :) Words to remember as the conference I signed up for this summer approaches. :)

  3. Stefanie! My secret: I felt the same way as you, as a fellow introvert. One of the days, I talked to my husband and said I wanted to hide in my room most of the time; he said, it sounds like you're getting out of your comfort zone, and that's so good for you. So - I feel you. And I'm glad we both worked hard enough that we got to chat. It was so great to get to know you. (- Nadine)

    1. Also, I don't know why my name is showing up as my akismet #. Sigh.

    2. I had basically the same convo with my husband! Ha. I'm so glad you were there and that I got to know you, fellow introvert! :)

  4. It was so much fun. I don't know how next year could top it. We'd definitely have to have another dance party though!