Spring Break, Running Trails and Writing Retreats

by | Apr 4, 2018 | The Writer's Life, On writing | 4 comments

Fearless Gull Watching The Restaurant

Thanks to the need to write and the need to get away from the cold days in Chicago, I decided to take the first “writing retreat” of my writing career. For those who are writing around their day jobs, family responsibilities and weekend chores, believe me I know what that’s like. For years I wrote after work and in the evenings after dinner was over and the kids bathed and put to bed. I had, and still have, a small nook in the corner of the master bedroom with a window to my left that overlooks the garage and alley. (Chicago always has an alley). Not a lovely view, but somehow I’ve grown into that nook and can’t imagine where else in the house I’d settle down to write. Oh, there’s the occasional laptop in bed when I wake up moment, and the occasional kitchen table moments, but for the most part I sit in my corner watching the garage doors open down the alley as the various residents leave for their workday. 

But this year I had some networking to do in Los Angeles and I decided to find a small place to write there. I would write from a new location. The good weather for running would be a bonusI’ve never been on a writing retreat, though there are many places that allow writers to be “in residence” and write their hearts out with no distractions. Ragdale in Lake Forest Illinois, one of Chicago’s nearby suburbs, is one. Located on 50 acres of a native prairie, most who have gone there have raved about the experience. 

I headed west and settled into a coastal rental near a train line to Los Angeles and began writing. The first thing I noticed was that, like most writers, I’m happy all by myself. I thought I’d get lonely. Nope. I thought I’d get distracted by the quiet that is so alien in Chicago. Nope. But I did discover that writing in a location where I can pick up and run when the well runs dry is brilliant. 
Mailbox Patriot Trail Los Ramblas

I rarely get writer’s block, but when I do I tie up the running shoes and hit the track for a few miles. I always return refreshed and ready to tackle the blank screen. That went double for a location where the average temperature is about fifty-five degrees and sunny. I found a weekly running group that leaves from a nearby Fleet Feet store and picked their brains about the best trails in the area. They recommended Los Ramblas. This trail located in San Juan Capistrano has some steep elevations and, when you get to the top, gorgeous views of the nearby countryside. At the top of Patriot Hill there’s a mailbox. Open it and you’ll find two notebooks and a pen. Here’s where you write whatever you want, or simply sign your name.
Notebooks inside

I loved reading the different comments, funny quips, and touching sayings that people wrote in these journals. I added my own lines and placed them in the box. There’s something about writing your thoughts and leaving evidence of them in a location for others to find. Like a message in a bottle, it feels as though you’re sending your hopes and dreams out into the universe where someone, someday, will read it and laugh, nod, or brush a tear away. 

Writing is magic. Whether from a corner nook overlooking a city alley or at the top of a beautiful trail overlooking the Pacific. It’s this connection and ability to convey our feelings into the written word that keeps us alive, I think. 

The journals you see in the photo are full. This week I’ll run up the trail again and bring a new, empty essay book for the hikers to use. If I come again next year, I look forward to reading it. 

Happy Spring everyone! 

Jamie Freveletti

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  1. Karna Bodman

    What a delightful description of your "Writer's Retreat" – I especially loved your finding that mailbox and leaving thoughts on a pad of paper for others to read. When you said you are happy by yourself (which we could say is a "requirement" for authors) – it reminded me of a wonderful cartoon I once saw — of a guy, all alone, hunkered down over an old typewriter in a room cluttered with books, files and papers strewn all over the floor. The caption was: "Definition of a writer – one who labors in complete solitude for the sake of communication." Thanks, Jamie, for a great post.

  2. Robin Burcell

    I've never thought of taking a writer's retreat alone. What a fabulous idea! (To me. I can see, perhaps, my kids and husband not as keen on me going alone–only because they'd want to go, too.) Must. Start. Planning. 🙂

    Karna, love that definition, cartoon!

  3. Jamie Freveletti

    Thanks guys. And Karna-love that cartoon as well!

  4. S. Lee Manning

    I actually love the idea of a writing retreat, especially in a beautiful place. Not that I'm not in a beautiful place, not that I don't have the time to write now – but going somewhere specifically to write would tend to focus my mind – which otherwise tends to drift.