“A few weeks ago, I decided to take a reading retreat. I was going away to a remote location, cut off from the outside world, and I could look forward to two solid weeks of reading….
“Throughout those two weeks, I settled into a few hours of reading in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, and an hour in the evening. I read about five hours a day, every day. There were no interruptions—no telephone, no e-mail, no Internet. I stopped reading when I wanted to, not when I had to.
“By the end of the first week, I felt as if I’d found the reader in myself I’d lost many years ago. The reader who wept over a passage. Who laughed out loud. Who circled back to the beginning of a book to start it all over again. Who marveled at the brilliance of a phrase, of a sentence, of a long stretch of writing.”
A reading retreat—what a fruitful plan of action for a writer! This passage is taken from Louise DeSalvo’s marvelous book, “The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity.” A gifted award-winning teacher and writer who passed away recently, her words continue to live on and inspire.
Louise created her writing retreat with a plan in mind:
She wanted to give herself time to read with attention and purpose.
She wanted to read a range of books, from classics like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Hemingway and “Cry the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton, along with books by authors she was reading for the first time.
She didn’t write anything of her own, but she did take notes on the authors she was reading—notes on style, appreciations of their craft, and passages of their writing which she copied to admire and analyze.
Louise came away from her retreat ready and eager to “reengage” with her own writing—to take what she learned and admired and apply it.
A two-week reading retreat may not be in the cards for most of us, but what about a weekend retreat? Why not take a block of time for two days reading an author you admire—and see what happens? Write on!
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