Thursday, June 4, 2009

Retreat Aftermath

As you know, many of the Chicks went to a writing retreat
at the end of May. For information on our hideout … er … location, you can read Janet’s post.

What I’d like to talk about is the aftermath of that retreat. You see, the ambiance at the retreat was quiet, orderly and calm. That’s why it’s held there. And although I didn’t get everything done that I had hoped, I managed to get a lot more done than if I’d stayed home. So, it was worth it for me to go.

Now picture this … I’ve spent days in my room without noise … I’ve spent hours in my car without noise … I’ve spent minutes standing beside my car without noise just soaking in the solitude of our farm … and then I open the door to the house … and bedlam erupts. Two TV’s blasted out the ring of weaponry in the air since the boys were watching that show where they pit one soldier against another anywhere in time. Hubby and teen hugged me while alternately trying to clear the table. I saw the counter piled high with dishes, but how could that be? I had bought enough frozen food so they wouldn’t have to cook and feel sorry for themselves. And then I realized the dishes are the same ones from the night before I left because I was too busy packing. Yuck!!!

A couple hours later I unpacked my laptop and my Mini, anxious to read my emails and let my Facebook community know I was safe at home. And when I opened the only inbox which I can’t access away from home, I squinted at the number of emails waiting for me. It can’t really be 270 can it? And before my eyes, it changed to 271… 272… 273… ack! …wait! What’s going on here?

But they’re all legitimate.

You see, last week I did several things to improve my craft:

- I signed up and paid for an online plotting class put on by Roses Colored Glasses because I’m starting a new suspense and want to learn how to be a plotter vice pantser. The course started June 1st.

- I decided to take advantage of the free monthly courses from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) since it’s included with my annual fee and so I signed up to take the June course on Goal, Motivation and Conflict (GMC) and Motivation-Reaction Units (MRU). The course started June 1st.

- the ACFW decided to form a large critique group whereby the members can work with a lot of people until they decide who they want to break into smaller critique groups with but to belong, members first have to take a critiquers orientation class. The orientation class started June 1st.

Are you getting a picture of this?

Roses Plotting course has 40 students. I’m not sure how many the ACFW crit course or on-line course have but there are LOTS. And we have homework so everyone is emailing it in…

And then amongst all those emails, I found a gem. Someone had requested information on how to have email sent directly to a folder and bypass the inbox. Hello. Really? So I waited for the answer and when it came, I followed directions and I’m amazed at how well it works.* All my ‘crit’ messages, Rosesplotting messages, ACFW loop and online course messages all file themselves. Sure, I have to go in the folder to read them, but I don’t waste time filing. They’re there when I want and need to see them and I can clear the whole file if I want. It’s so efficient.

Of course, I still have to do my homework…

* In Outlook, click on TOOLS, then MESSAGE RULES, and then MAIL. A window opens. Click New and then fill in the boxes starting at the top. When you get to the last box, click on the underlined word and pick the folder you want to have it put in. If there isn’t a folder there yet, add one. Then go back to Box #4 and name the rule – I call it whatever folder I used. That’s it.

Do you clear your inbox daily? Do you know about this feature with your mail program? Have you taken an online course lately? Did you do the homework or just lurked? What did you encounter when you got back from retreat?


Ban said...

grief, I'm overwhelmed just READING your post :) actually I did know about the message rules, to bad I don't use them ... glutton for punishment I guess. Best of luck organizing and keeping up with your new classes !

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks, ban. I wasn't going to put the instructions for the 'Rules' on the post in case others knew already, but if they didn't, well...

Have a good day and thanks for the visit.

Helena said...

Wow!! (No wonder you were last to leave the Abbey!)

I'm *almost* envying you for your immersion into the courses. It will have an amazing effect on your writing, I'm sure. Good luck with it all. (The 'almost' is because I don't know how I could fit any more into my days right now.)

My aftermath to the retreat took the form of millions of dandelions in my lawn, laughing at me because I had been away too long. Plus a day and evening visiting in the city with friends from long ago.

Reminder to self: the most important aftermath of the retreat should be to retain some of the habitual attention to writing that gets instilled into the subconscious during a retreat. So focus, Helena!

Thanks for the email tips, Anita. I definitely need something like that myself.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Very handy tip, I'll have to nose around in gmail and see if I can find similar. Thankfully I don't get THAT many emails a day. Honestly Anita, how can you stand it? I hate leaving unread emails activating my notifier.

My aftermath came in the form of class the following day, with articles to read, notes to take, discussion to contribute, and all I wanted to do was keep teasing plot elements out of my brainstorming. But the class followed up our weekend's conversations on gender, so it wasn't too abrupt a shift. From the sounds of things, home could have been quite a sight too, except I called at the city with my ETA and all the dishes magically found their way into the sink and dishwasher. I love my Hubby :)

Didn't get to maintain the routine, as Helena mentioned, but spent a good few days while Hubby was off developing some new possibilities and working them into the plot. Now I'm armed and ready to get back at it!

Karyn Good said...

Thanks Anita. I had no idea such a possibility existed and we could use some email management in this house.

Gosh, good luck with all your classes. You're sure to learn lots and your writing will the stronger for it.

Erika said...

That's brilliant! Thanks for sharing the tool. I had no idea you could do that. You're my hero today. :)

Silver James said...

Yikes! I think I would have turned tail and run if faced with that much mail and nothing done around the house.

I have three...four email addresses and manage them that way. They all feed into my "controlling" gmail account I try very hard to delete and sort into files as I go.

I wish I had the discipline to just walk away from the net for a long weekend. I might actually get SOTW reworked. When I'm frustrated, the net is an evil distraction providing much to easy an access to major procrastination. *drags sorry self back to work*

Janet C. said...

Wow, June looks to be pretty busy for you, Anita - good luck with it all :)

Post-retreat I fell into my internet problem - after a weekend of not having it. Silver, I'm with you - the internet is my choice of procrastination. There was wireless in our little building, but because my computer is old, it needs a cord and router signal picker-upper. I didn't pack it because I thought there was no wireless. I'm so glad I did. I had to write - or sit in my room and stare at the white walls and ceiling (of course, I have done that before). But got home and right back into the bad habit.

Going to look into the e-mail filing thing and gmail's 'controlling' option. Great post, Anita.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
Thanks for the Outlook tip. I didn't even know that was possible. I get depressed just thinking about that many emails in my inbox. Glad you found a way to deal with it.

I came home to a small disaster on my desktop computer. My dh decided to to "fix" it while I was gone. Actually he was installing a new motherboard and I knew he had planned to do it, but something wasn't quite right. I had no email and my sitebuilder for my website went AWOL. He had to take the whole thing apart and rebuild it. I think I'm okay now.

I'm facing a bit of a retreat letdown at the moment. I got a lot done in three days but I'm having a hard time going back to my story. Like you said you come home and there's so much "stuff" waiting for you it's almost overwhelming. I just need a day or two to come down and I'll be fine.


Karyn Good said...

Hey I organized my email and I think its working! Oh, clapping hands in glee!

Anita Mae Draper said...

So, I've been doing homework and cleaning house and thinking everyone's too busy to read the blog today because I'm sure I checked off the 'email follow-up comments' box...

hmm... could be I didn't... LOL

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Helena, your dandelion wilderness reminded me that I'd bought some 'basket filler' bedding plants about a week before I left and asked the kids to water them while I was gone. Well, they didn't... now hubby wants me to buy plastic flowers for our barrels for the our hoedown here in 2 weeks. Yuck! I'm hoping my plants will come back...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hayley, that's great that you came back with new possiblities and the urge to write. Retreats are for renewed energy after relaxation, eh. :)

You're lucky to have a dishwasher. We have a modern stainless steel one but our water is so hard the dishes come out 'spottier' than they go it, so I have to wash everything.

And I haven't maintained my writing routine, either although I'm getting my homework done.

Re the unread mail - I don't mind it now that I know where it's going and that it'll be there when I want it. And since I recovered my system, I don't get an email notifier for Outlook which is where all all the ACFW stuff is going. So I don't know about it until I go looking...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Karyn, and I'm glad I could help.

The only thing with the classes is that I tried to get away with using the suspense wip I started at Book in a Week for the plotting bootcamp, but the Drill Instructors (yeah, lol)said to start from scratch. So, I am working on an entirely new project and it's very exciting.

Meanwhile, the Goal, Motivation and Conflict one is using my BIAW wip so that's good.

So, I'm creating one and improving the other and feeling good except that I need time for the revisions to my MMM. :(

And since MIL comes on Sat for Jessie's graduation, I can't ignore the housecleaning this week...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thank you, Erika. I appreciate you telling me and I'm glad I could help. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Silver, the thing about a writing reatreat, is it gives you a chance to take a breather and let someone else take care of you for awhile. So, I encourage you, if you ever get the chance, forget everything else and just do it. Things get done when you get back. Trust me... you might have to scramble for a day or two, but it is so worth it.

About the mail 'rules', they do the sorting, not me. :)

I appreciate your input, Silver.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks, Janet.

Vicky Bylin, one of our Honorary Chicks, had to restirct her own internet access because of your 'problem', Janet. Once she made headway with her wip, she started making small appearances again. Just a couple weeks ago she was named as one of the new mbrs of Petticoats and Pistols. I was teasing her about coming off her 'restricted' status and she said she had to go back on except for P&P - she added - I *do* think blogging is a good use of time. Much better than taking quizzes on Celebrity Health on AOL :) LOL

So it looks like the habit might be with you forever no matter how many retreats you go on. :(

Anita Mae Draper said...

(((Jana))) I know what you mean about retreat letdown. I usually feel that way after being away for a bit, especially when I get back to 'stuff'.

But I think the amount of 'stuff' this time completely drove out everything but the task at hand.

I'm glad your desktop 'puter is up and running. That helps. IM me if you need someone to talk to... can't guarantee I'll be able to give 100% attention, but I'll try. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, that's great!

Now, if I can only arrange something for the snailmail...

connie said...

You have so many emails I hesitate to ask questions! However, I don't know much about this. I use hotmail and outlook express no longer recognizes it without a paid prescription. Is there another way? Do you have Outlook express?
thanks in a dvance

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Connie, please don't hesitate to ask me a question regardless of my emails. The Chicks are very important to me. And didn't you hear... my emails are all under control. :)

Yes, I use Outlook Express. it came with the program on my laptop and it has the default email address through our internet satellite system.

I've noticed that my Mini doesn't have Outlook Express and that's why I couldn't access those 270 emails while on retreat. Thank goodness or I would never have gotten any revisions done!

So I'm sorry, but I can't help you... may Hayley can?