What Happens in Grand Lake...

During any getaway that lasts more than two days, someone will invoke the slogan from the Las Vegas ad campaign of a few years back. You know the one: What happens in (insert town here), stays in (insert same town). Writing retreats are no exception. During last week's Grand Lake retreat someone did trot out that slogan, though I can't remember the exact circumstances that prompted the promise of discretion. There may have been some ill-advised tap dancing. I'm sure there was wine. And whiskey. Nonetheless, I'm glad it isn't technically true. I'm grateful that I was able to bring a bit of Grand Lake home with me. And I'm happy to share a tiny bit of it with you.

As ever, the instructors at Grand Lake (and all of Lighthouse) were generous and on point. I could go on for hours about writing prompts and wise advice, but I'll keep it simple and pass along the one bit of wisdom that struck me the hardest.

[caption id="attachment_6182" align="alignright" width="300"]Grand Lake being grand. Grand Lake being grand.[/caption]

Don't overthink it.

Like so many of you (and you know who you are), I have a tendency to think too much, to explain too much, to describe too much. I don't trust the reader and I don't trust myself. I use three paragraphs when one is plenty. I forget that it's better to let words and ideas sneak up on you than to try to chase them down.

I should know this by now. In a weekly yoga class, my instructor tells me to "find the sacred space between the thoughts." I once had a ballet teacher who told us to that we couldn't dance until we stopped thinking about dancing. One round with a pair of tap shoes reinforced that truth.

Back to the writing. At Grand Lake, the esteemed William Haywood Henderson used lines of poetry to teach us to come at an idea sideways rather than head-on. Chris Ransick showed us how to say more with less and let the reader have the thrill of unraveling our mysteries. Andrea Dupree showed us how to put more trust in our readers, to let them imagine beyond the words on the page, to give up custody of the worlds we create and allow the reader to bring in her own experiences.

In other words, we need to let go. I don't know about you, but I tend to hold tight to my writing. I work to make sure the reader sees what I see, feels what I feel. Too often, I want to control the experience. Some stories call for that kind of control, but I think most don't. In most stories, whether fiction or not, we need to make more space for the reader.

And so, in an effort to carry a little of Grand Lake with me, I will work to relinquish control on the page, in the yoga studio, on the dance floor.  I will try. I will try. I will try.

[caption id="attachment_6187" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The whole gang. The whole gang.[/caption]