Haven In Writing

Today I welcome guest blogger and friend of Author Laura Munson. Laura is a great writer, a great teacher, and a great person. Enjoy. MunsonI’ve been writing novels, memoirs, short stories, personal essays, and magazine articles since 1988 when I graduated from college and claimed my life as a writer.  Some of the stuff I’ve written has been published.  A lot of it hasn’t.  It doesn’t stop me.  I write to understand.  I write to sit at the intersection of heart and mind and craft.  I write to provide relief for myself and others.  I don’t know many writers who have persevered through fourteen unpublished novels.  (Not all good ones, mind you.  But fourteen completed novels, nonetheless).  If I’m an expert at anything, it’s perseverance.  And if I’ve cut my teeth on anything in this life, it’s rejection.

A few years ago, I was looking down the barrel of a nowhere career.  I was falling between the cracks.  My agent wasn’t sending out my work because I didn’t have a large shiny “platform.”  I was making minimal money publishing short pieces in regional magazines.  It seemed like for all my efforts, in the way of “success,” I wasn’t going to show much for myself.  And the damndest thing about the whole thing…was that I knew I could write.  It comes so easily to me.  I can’t balance my checkbook to save my life, or get on my treadmill, or vacuum under my bed, or keep my laundry pile under control…but I could write my way out of a circle of hungry hyenas.  At least that’s what I told myself.  And then, lo, I wrote something that ended up in the New York Times, went oddly and dumb-luck-edly viral, and landed me a huge book deal.  Since then, my life has been quite different in the way of readers, fans, writing opportunities for glossy magazines etc., but the writing life is still the same.  I sit here in this little dark office in Montana with my dogs at my feet and mice in the walls…and write, just like I always have.

Then one day, after answering so many questions from so many people about the writing life, I realized that I had a wealth of information for people about all of the above.  About the mythic trenches of “failure,” and the mythic altitude of “success.”  I realized that in all my touring and interviews and deadlines, that it was all about just one thing:  the work.  And I know how to do the work.  It’s my practice, my prayer, my meditation, my way of life, and sometimes my way to life.  I found myself standing at podiums where I was supposed to be talking about my book, instead, whirling off advice to would-be writers, about how to live the writing life.  Without knowing it, I realized I was on a mission.  So I heeded the call and started my Haven Writing Retreats in Montana.  Five times a year, I gather up to twelve people from all over the place to spend four days being inspired and challenged in wordplay in the hills of Montana.

Each time, I watch the miracle of what happens when people take this stand for their creativity in such a nurturing and safe environment.  That’s my job.  To hold people in what is often the daunting and uncomfortable realm of self-expression.  Over and over, breakthroughs happen.  People come in stuck, and they leave wide-eyed, with new purpose and new practice to bring into their daily lives.  The story:  I want to write, but I can’t—I’m no good—who do I think I am, turns into: I am a writer and here’s why and here’s how that’s going to look in my daily life.  I designed the retreat to meet people wherever they need to be met.  Some consider themselves writers.  Others haven’t written a thing since college.  It doesn’t matter.  The experience is so powerful, that I am committed to continuing my Haven Retreats indefinitely.  Here’s the sort of things people say about them:  “Laura cracked me open in ways I so needed—both personally and as a writer—and created a space that was both safe and challenging at the same time.  I left Montana forever changed.”  Wow.  It blows me away every time.  It’s not that I am personally causing these epiphanies.  It’s the retreat itself and the people who are brave enough to come to Montana, tuck into the hills, and write!

The intention behind the retreat is the same as the work my friend Bill Kenower does here.  We are saying to people, “Let’s go into this heartbreaking and beautiful wilderness together.  I’ll hold the torch.  Maybe I’m just a bit braver than you, but probably not by much.  Hold my hand.  Maybe we’ll find something here together.”  I’m happy to hold that torch and those hands if it means people will find their way to their creative voice and in-so-doing, help others to do the same.

For more information about Haven Writing Retreats, go here:  June is full, but there are spaces in August and both September dates.  Take this stand for your creativity!

Laura Munson is the author of the New York Times and international bestselling memoir This Is Not The Story You Think It Is:  A Season of Unlikely Happiness (Amy Einhorn/Putnam 2010) which Book of the Month Club named one of the best books of the year.  It has been published in nine countries and has been featured in Vanity Fair, Elle, Redbook, Time, Newsweek, Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and many other newspapers, magazines, and online venues across the globe.

Laura is the founder of Haven Writing Retreats and speaks and teaches on the subjects of empowerment, personal responsibility, and emotional freedom at conventions, universities and schools, artist retreat centers, and wellness centers.

Her work has been published in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, O. Magazine, The Week, Huffington Post, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, More Magazine, The Sun, The Shambhala Sun, Big Sky Journal and others.  She has appeared on Good Morning America, The Early Show, WGN, many NPR stations, Hay House radio, as well as other media including London’s This Morning and Australia’s Sunrise.  She lives in Montana with her family.