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Writing for the Pastoral Life, Day the Second: Switchback/Feedback

November 12, 2010

We write, we eat, we hike.

Day two began much earlier than I expected. After finally settling down last night, I set the alarm for 6:30 and figured maybe I’d hit the gym down the road before breakfast. But I woke up at five anyway like a kid in a candy store, just too filled with excitement to get writing! Funny, days like this are my new Christmas morning. I tried picking up the thread of the memoir-ish novel I’ve been working on and just got off on a tangent. Which was fine. It really brought home how much I need to sit down and re-read that puppy before I can go any further with it. I originally wrote the bulk of it last year during Nanowrimo but I had chipped away at the end for quite some time, and I thought the piece would end as the central character headed to college. Not so. This thing is actually over way before that. But I had to spend some time on a switchback, going sideways before I could go forward.

They set up a really nice breakfast buffet for us here at the Inn, and we gathered at ten for our conversation session. We spent two hours talking through why we write, how our congregations think of us writing, and how we make time to write. We talked about process and challenges, and I learned a great deal from how the other pastors in the room approach this. Only two of us admitted to being early morning (first thing) writers; it seems most folks are finding other pockets of time. Also very interesting was how some people seem to be able to plug-in and out of the writing event, while others need a lot more time to wind up and get ready with more uninterrupted time.

As we broke for lunch, one sage pastor (above) proposed a hike up Mount Tom for lunch. We got sandwiches at Mountain Creamery and sat on the green and ate before we hit the trailhead. We were told it was about a thirty minute climb to the top, with a sharp ascent to the very top that would yield a nice view of the town of Woodstock from Mount Tom’s Southern side. Mount Tom is not a terribly challenging climb, but it is steep enough that the Faulkner Trail up is a series of wide switchbacks. The leaves made the going a little slippery in places. We had a nice fellow snap this picture of us at the top (or what we called the top) before we headed back down.

As we descended, we joked about cutting across the switchbacks and how easy it is to get lost. If you’re too near the middle of the trail, and if the trail looks basically the same on most of the switchbacks, you won’t know whether you are headed up or down. And then we did it. I said, “Hey, let’s cut across here, we can see where the turn is ahead.” Well, it wasn’t a disaster, but after a few more cuts down, we were really not sure which way to head on the trail. The switchbacks were not really sloped at all, just the corners, and there was no corner in sight. Luckily a nice couple came along and we asked, “Are you going up or down?” They said up, and we passed them in the opposite direction. We just needed a little directional help, and once we got it, we could make some progress.

I thought of the piece this morning and how I was going about it all wrong. I can’t just come into the middle and expect to know where to go–even I don’t write that disjointedly. I got back to the room and took out the printed draft of the novel that I’d brought and resolved to make some headway tonight.

This afternoon, we spent time in feedback session for three of our intrepid pastor/authors. I’ve never attended a writer’s workshop, but the atmosphere was intoxicating. It’s wonderful to think about writing so constructively. Consensus plays a huge part in the process, as the instructor, Marge Barrett, told us. If one or two people comment on something, well, take it or leave it. But if five or six, or more have an issue with something? Time to take a hard look. I really appreciated the way she moderated the feedback sessions. Though I’m not going to share the content of what we covered, I can tell you this: I am blessed to be a part of a program with some very talented folks, and I’ve already learned a lot about how I write by viewing how they’ve put things together. And this is only the first full day of the program.

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One Comment
  1. Nancy Ross permalink

    Good to know you’re busy, happy, and staying out of trouble! And you’re right-what good surroundings for such a week. You’re missed in Franklin, though. Enjoy!

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