The Spirit of the Texas Hill Country is one unlike anywhere else. The rolling hills, the laid back lifestyle, and an expanse of dramatic sunsets and starry skies. Don Swander wasn’t lying when he wrote about his love of nighttime Texas celestial nirvana, “The stars at night are big in bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” Leaving the Hill Country and relocating back to Houston was one of the most heartbreaking decisions in my own personal life. For almost ten years, I could walk to quaint coffee shops to write and venture to campus to teach philosophy or attend classes and lectures to develop my own intellect. The loss of this community caused my soul to grow weary during my late twenties. The last few years, I’ve made space to write, but my practice is not what it once was. By hosting retreats and this website, I hope to reconnect with other writers, artists, creatives, yogis, intellectuals, and lovers of aesthetics.
We only spent three days in the Hill Country, yet I feel so rejuvenated. My passion is reawakened, and I feel like I have a clear purpose once again. I am a writer. I was meant to put pen to paper and create. The practice of writing transforms when you are in a novel place. All three of us felt that leaving our every day lives in the Houston area behind allowed us to focus. We collectively shared our desire to write and recognized how difficult it is to put pen to paper when you find yourself distracted by the mundane tasks of everyday life. We are all allowing “life” to interrupt our practice of writing, and need to live by the motto of this website.
Write Every Damn Day.
I’ve always been fascinated by how a sense of place can inspire your writing. As an undergraduate, I enrolled in a course called, “The American Novel and Sense of Place.” Our discussions were centered around how the landscape and culture influenced a variety of novelists writing around the same time in America, spanning across the continent. We pondered how a place could influence an Author’s voice and storytelling. In the novel I am currently writing, my characters reside in a town similar to the one I grew up in during the 1930s. Abra draws inspiration from the bordertowns of Texas; interestingly, the décor of our AirBNB inspired her writing as well. The home was a Southwestern style with tribal masks, Mayan artwork, pottery, animal prints, and earth tones. When she and I met to conference about our writing, she kept discussing how the snakes in the artwork around the house were inspiring her story and research.
I found myself reading and writing near windows or outside in the morning. The backyard was covered in lush greens with the subtle mellifluous tone of wind chimes occasionally sounding. One of the reasons I selected this particular property was the ample mount of outdoor spaces to write. Unfortunately, a cold front blew into Texas, so we were bundled up outside – I took full advantage of the cold weather and used it as an excuse to wear my red panda kigurumi.
I think each of us found a time to enjoy the beauty of the property. Janeen spent a morning drinking tea and writing outside while Abra, a certified yogi, led me through a sequence that inspires creativity. She brought a book titled, Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith, and began our practice with an edifying excerpt.
After we bowed to one another with Namaste, we decided to take advantage of the hot tub. Other than eating, this was the only time neither of us was reading, writing, sharing, or editing. I went on the retreat with the goal of writing 10,000 words. I reached 8,000, but I also received some valuable feedback, wrote poetry, read On Writing by Stephen King, and edited the first eight chapters of the novel. Overall, the three of us were incredibly productive, especially in the evenings.
Janeen writing fireside
Inside, we all found a comfortable spot together in one room by the fireplace at night to write. There is something enchanting about writing by fireside. The glow, the warmth, the crackling – all of it kept me awake and focused longer than I had anticipated. We each had our own room if we needed to be in a space of our own to write or conference one-on-one privately without disturbing one another.
I found myself writing all over the house. I felt invigorated and uninhibited. Writing away from home kept me from thinking about the laundry list of tasks I need to complete daily. Green tea, yoga, nature, and surrounding myself with other constructive and creative women truly made me the most productive I’ve been in years. As much as writing is a solitary activity, doing it in the presence of others is energizing and refreshing.
I fashioned a stand-up desk
Socks by the fire and Christmas tree
The only negative about our retreat – it wasn’t long enough. There is nothing more inspirational than being surrounded by writers in a cozy space.
Do we have to leave?
After checking out of our fabulous AirBNB, we explored Wimberely! It’s a eccentric, artsy town with adorable shops and a welcoming atmosphere. There are boots decorated by artists throughout, so each of us took a moment to snag a picture with a boot similar to ourselves.
Personally, I feel like this is the best gift I could have given myself for Christmas. I am a true Cancerian by nature, constantly doing for others, but in hosting writing retreats, I’ve discovered a way to give to myself and others. If you are interested in participating in a rewarding experience, I intend to host another retreat in the Spring, as well as this summer. If you are interested in renting the same property featured in this post, Casa Grande – A Slice of Heaven in Wimberley, Texas , I highly recommend Mark as an AirBNB host.