One of the huge advantages of the writers’ retreat at the Rainforest is the lack of wifi. Of course, that makes it impossible to tweet about how fantastic it is.
I drive down with two other writers and we use the 2-day drive as a coaching opportunity: each of us gets a half-day to focus entirely on our own work. The author describes the project she plans to work on at the retreat and describes problems she is facing. The other two ask clarifying questions and, if appropriate, brainstorm suggestions. The writerly conversation ranges wherever it will, but always circles back to the writer and her needs. There is no Clarion-style protocol wherein the author can’t respond: this is an open conversation, wherein the author takes notes, asks further questions, shares her “aha!”s and stimulates even more conversation. The coaching session is done when the author has no further questions, her head is full, or whatever. For one of us, that only took 20 minutes, and the coaches need to respect the fact that the author may NOT want too much brainstorming or discussion, depending on her creative style, the stage of the project, etc. Sometimes, talking too much about a project dissipates the desire to write. However, all three of our group found (1) unlocking for trouble spots, (2) inspiration, and (3) the settling of her headspace, ready to pour out words once we arrived at the retreat.