For most of my adult life packing a suitcase, briefcase and computer bag for a business trip would be called work. So why is it easier to characterize packing a suitcase, briefcase and computer bag to go work on an unfinished novel a writing retreat?
There are obvious differences: This is my schedule and my decision. There will be no paycheck arriving while I am away. Except for revisions on a different manuscript sent to my publisher on the second day and a few meetings, no one is waiting somewhere for this piece of work.
The real issue may be that in American culture there is discomfort sharing the label of work with purely artistic efforts. If I were completing scripts for a client’s videos, others would say I went away to concentrate on a work project. If I planned to develop new curriculum for a college course that would be understandable. But to the majority of Americans who work regular hours doing tasks people recognize, finishing a novel that might not find a publisher or be published is different. In fact,it is necessary time away to catch up on work that has become increasingly more disorganized while satisfying other demands. Some might say it is a bit indulgent. More a retreat than a work trip.
It’s all semantics. Embracing the retreat concept, I’m building in time to read, visit with other writers, take walks, and get some extra rest. I’ll miss the daily presence of family and friends, a few social events, the convenience of my regular home and routine. Unlike vacation time, I have an assignment to return home with a three hundred page manuscript ready to market to agents and publishers. And that sounds like work. Work I’m thrilled to have this time to complete.