Notes from the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference

By Midge Raymond,

  Filed under: Events, News, On Reading, On Writing

It would be impossible to sum up the amazing first week of this year’s Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, which was, as always, an inspiration. Not only is Port Townsend a gorgeous setting in which to immerse oneself in All Things Writing, the writers it brings together creates such an incredible energy.

In addition to teaching five afternoon workshops on topics from scene to character to dialogue — and the writers who join me in these classes always have something to teach me — I had the opportunity to learn from the craft lectures of such writers as poet Ashley Capps (on empathy in writing) and fiction writer Jennine Capó Crucet (on humor), as well as to enjoy their evening readings and many others, among them Judith Kitchen, Dinah Linney, Sam Ligon, Diane Roberts, Erin Belieu, and Chris Crutcher. It truly feels impossible to sum up the wealth of good writing and conversation of the week, but author Donna Miscolta does a great job over on her blog.

I also fit in a little writing time, which is so much easier to do here than in my regularly scheduled life. For one, the setting is so peaceful; looking out over the water or watching deer walk past relaxes the brain in a way that just doesn’t happen when I’m trying to fit writing in amid all my other work.

The other brilliant thing about being at Fort Worden is that Internet access is available in only a couple of spots — which means that unless you go to these specific places, you’re disconnected. I had many conversations with writers about how well our writing went when we didn’t have web access; we all experienced big breakthroughs in our projects thanks to having time and space uninterrupted by email, news, and social media.

Now that I’m back, I’ve created a few new rules for myself in order to keep my writing momentum going. I have set myself new, limited social media hours, even for work-related posts and tweets (one thing I learned from being mostly offline for a week is that taking some time off isn’t going to make you disappear as a person, an author, or a business), and I’ve created specific writing goals for myself as well. I’ve also realized that being accountable is part of the deal: If you have to answer to someone about why you haven’t met your deadline, or why you got online during your offline writing time, it makes you think twice about procrastinating. So I’ve got weekly check-ins all lined up.

All these little rules may sound over-the-top — but as most of us know, it’s all too easy to get distracted and to let the writing slip. So here’s my tip for you: As the summer continues, start defining some guidelines and goals, and find yourself a writing buddy to keep each other on track. And, if you can, find a conference or retreat that will help remind you that your writing is vital and important.


  Comments: 4

  1. Judy — maybe next year? You’d LOVE Port Townsend! And yes, always good to get away from social media when we can…I’ve recently learned that taking entire days (or a week) off is a great way to go: the temptation is totally gone if I stay away altogether. (For me, going on Facebook is like sitting there with a pound of chocolate…there is no way I can do two minutes only of Facebook, just as there’s no way I’ll eat two pieces only of chocolate.) Not that I’ve ever tried to give up chocolate — but you get the idea…

  2. Hi Midge, Envy envy. I’ve always wanted to attend the Port Townsend conference. My takeaway from your follow-up blog: limiting time with email, FB, Twitter, et al even for business! I’m trying to figure out how to un-enmesh them to get a better handle on those time-stealers.

  3. So right, Dinah, that it’s all about the accountability…I can so easily skimp on my writing plans and get away with it if it’s only me who knows — but it’s just too pathetic for me to admit to someone else that I’ve let go of the day’s or week’s planned writing time. Enjoy your logged-out time today!

  4. Hiya dear Midge—you’re an example to me, y’are—accountability, yes, that’s the key—to make myself accountable to others, and perhaps fool myself into showing up for myself… Or something like that? Thanks for this and logging off now…