When author Ezekial Tyrus asked me to be a guest instructor at the very first Writer’s Retreat of San Buenas, I initially balked, since I hate leaving my comfort zone, even though that’s completely contrary to my own advice for aspiring authors.
Now that I’m back in cold, rainy Seattle, I am so glad I stretched myself all the way down to Latin America. The food was delicious and the scenery spectacular, even if it was way too hot and humid for my warm blood, but the enlightening engagement with fellow writers from all over the country, with diverse histories bringing them to his tropical rendezvous in the Costa Rican jungle, was something I will never forget. And I know all participants felt exactly the same, if for different reasons, since after all, we’re each unique individuals.
No one is more unique than Ray Aguilera. Or funnier. He came up with some of the best lines, MST3K style, when I hosted movie night so we could all let off some steam (literally). His sense of humor is obviously one way he survives this life and world of ours, and to that I could relate.
We can all relate to each other on some level, and nothing brings that fact into sharper focus than assembling an eclectic group of writers together in a foreign land, where we were forced to co-exist. The resulting harmony and rapport was completely organic, though.
Since Ray is a professional writer, I asked him to jot down his own takeaway from the experience, since a writer best expresses him or herself in their own unique voice, unfiltered via a second or third party. In fact, reconnecting with this inner voice, while tapping into that wellspring of honest creativity, was really the main objective of the retreat.
Thoughts on the Writer’s Retreat
I was being totally serious about my reservations about the retreat. I was afraid that it would be a bunch of feel-good hippie crap, which frankly I do not need and doesn’t really fit my personality. That said, had I read Will or Zeke’s work before the retreat, I may have disabused myself of any notions of hand-holdings, daily affirmations, and drum circles rather quickly. So, lesson learned.
I’ve been writing professionally for 20 years, primarily as a journalist. I’ve written everything from restaurant reviews to hard news, and have spent a large portion of my career as a tech journalist reviewing hardware and software, and writing technology-related feature stories for magazines and websites.
Lately, my work has veered away from journalism into marketing and content strategy for companies. I’ve written technical manuals, software user interfaces, web pages, marketing materials, and tons of blogs and social media pieces on behalf of various clients. In a lot of ways, it’s surprisingly similar to my journalistic work. At the end of the day, it’s all about storytelling.
As far as the writing workshop itself, I can truly say that it was life-changing. I’ve done creative projects in the past, but somehow in the process of committing to my professional writing, I ended up leaving out my passion projects. I just never felt had time for them. I always told myself that it was just hard to have creative juice left at the end of a day of writing for other people, but after the retreat, I’ve come to realize that it’s about creating time, and prioritizing my own creative projects.
Probably the most valuable aspect of the retreat for me was the retreat itself: carving out the time to focus on my writing, and doing so surrounded by such an amazing group of writers who were also invested in taking their work seriously. As a result, I am making real efforts to be more disciplined in my writing practice. I also am recognizing the value of surrounding myself with creative people who are also pursuing their own passions. I always viewed writing as a rather solitary pursuit, but the retreat taught me the value of connecting with other people in the context of my creative process. As a group, I think we all got along stunningly well, and I sincerely hope that we can continue to build on the personal relationships that started to grow in Costa Rica.
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer
I shared this piece in its entirely because I believe opening up about our motivations to write, as well as our ultimate goals, will help others to trek downthis lonely path on their own unique journeys of self-discovery.
Ray’s story is one of incredible personal resilience, but his musings on this topic are being kept private for now. Suffice to say we were all deeply moved by his honesty and strength, and we found ourselves a new hero in our universal struggle for self-identity and recognition in a complex world – and a crowded literary marketplace.
In addition to being a very successful journalist reclaiming his artistic aspirations, Ray also hosts a radio show featuring interviews and vintage punk/New Wave music, amongst many other intriguing things. Discover more about this impressive dude at his website.
Live and learn, they say. If we’re lucky, we all have a choice in how we do both. It’s just a matter of following those opportunities wherever they may lead you.
PHOTO: NICK HALVERSON