Writing retreats are the bomb!

I’ve just returned from a successful writing retreat where I spent two days with my husband and a team of employees at a local university, working on a paper he and I are preparing for a journal. It’s a lovely article, but I’m uncertain as to how it will be received, because it is using narrative inquiry methods to talk about the case studies. They are intrinsic case studies with overarching themes that emerge from a reading and rereading of the data, and they are fascinating just for the humanness of the people in them, but there is a meta-narrative, I suppose, in the way these people educate the students in their charge for a career in music, and the various ways they try and allow this to happen. I have really enjoyed working with the data, but I now have to put it away for a while as I have a 20 minute presentation to complete and I’ve not even prepared the motivation studies material for my talk. I have to find a way to reduce my data in my talk from a furious 45 minutes to a more casual 20. Nearly impossible for me!

Anyway, I’m deep in the writing at the moment, which I’m loving, so there is not much time to report. I have been fascinated by the way I managed to keep focussed over the 2 days of the retreat, and I’m wondering if I might manage this for my own retreat. I have so much work yet to do on my transcriptions, and I’ve not much time to prepare my narratives for their first drafts while I am away, but the plan is going ahead nevertheless that I am planning to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. I found over the last two days that if I lost focus, then I would get up, walk around for a bit and then go and do something else that was connected but not the same as the previous task. For example, I began the retreat by totally transcribing one of the interviews. This took me all morning, and I began another transcription later in the day, but I became exhausted by about 4.30pm, after transcribing 15 minutes of the 30 minute interview, and lay down for a little read. Then, at about 5.00pm, hubby came in and we began to discuss the introduction, so I then worked on that for an hour before dinner.

The following morning, I craftily asked my husband to look at the work I had done the previous night, which got him thinking, and then we spent breakfast discussing the article. I resorted to napkin writing to get all of his amazing ideas on paper. His capacity for the big picture is awesome. I envy that in him. Then, for the remainder of the morning, I spent time crafting more of the literature, and reading articles for the methods section. After lunch I then began crafting the methods section. This was actually heaps of fun, because the article and the analysis had not been formulated in the previous study from which the data comes, so we are creating our analysis from scratch. It’s not grounded theory, it is narrative inquiry, but because it’s only a baby study, it’s easier to create the theory arising from the research. It is informing my approach to my own study. Every day, learning something new! So, we have some pillars of learning in conservatoriums, and one of them is ensemble practice. Totally cool. I was afraid it felt a little glib, but my own research on conservatoriums tells me that, actually, this is a pretty accurate description.  So, once I’m done with my talk for Sunday, I will look at this article once again. And then send it to the second author for additions and edits.

And, to finish, later in the second afternoon, as my brain was slowly frying, I decided to become creative, right at the last. I began crafting one of the narratives from the field data I had written nearly a year earlier. It’s descriptive at the moment and there is no interview data, but writing it felt easy and joyous. So, after all this, and even though hubby says it’s a long way off, over the two days I wrote or transcribed about 10000 words. THAT is time well spent.

So, writing retreats are the bomb.


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