We had planned to host a one-day structured writing retreat in Toronto, with TMTC associate Allison Murray (pictured) as our facilitator, on March 27th. Structured writing retreats give people a chance to dedicate time to writing while also breaking up the typically lonely experience that writing can be. We were looking forward to gathering a group together, feeding them, and giving them the chance to make progress on their writing projects in a supportive, communal environment. When the University of Toronto urged the cancellation of all discretionary events we thought we wouldn’t be able to host the retreat after all. But, with a bit of work, we were able to adapt the retreat program and move it online!
Changes in everyone’s schedules after moving to work from home, such as not having their kids in day care or school, meant we had a smaller group than we initially planned for with our in-person retreat. And, not being in the same place physically, we missed out on some of the fellowship we would normally have had around the lunch table and during coffee breaks.
Nevertheless, our small-but-mighty group gathered together on Zoom and followed the same schedule we would have followed had otherwise. An unexpected bonus of moving the retreat online was that we were able to have others join us from afar who would not have been able to be a part of the retreat otherwise. We had participants from Ottawa and Chicago as well as Toronto. Everyone set goals together at the start of the day, wrote during the same chunks of time, and chatted on video during break times.
All the writers got more done over the course of the day than they expected to, giving everyone a much-needed boost and some important momentum on their writing projects. Our writers had positive things to say about the structured writing retreat model and ended the day feeling accomplished. And, we got our minds off of the pandemic for a big chunk of the day, too.
In a time when we are all having less social and professional interaction with others than we might like, the virtual version of the writing retreat provided a reassuring point of connection and focus for those of us who could participate. While we still look forward to gathering together for an in-person retreat sometime in the future, we were surprisingly happy with how well the virtual retreat gave us some needed connection and structure. Thanks to those who joined in on our little experiment on March 27th and to Allison for leading us! We hope others will consider joining us for future retreats whenever we might be able to make that happen and whether they are online or in-person.