Edith north of Boston, finally enjoying a little break from one of the hottest, driest summers on record. And talking about an intense summer brings me to today’s topic: intensity.

I am known among people close to me for being rather intense. I tend to do things whole hog, full steam ahead, not proceeding with half measures. When I walk, I use the briskest pace I can. When I’m working, it absorbs me and I am both productive and efficient (well, usually). I love good food and wine and most of the time end up consuming
too much of both. There’s a down side to having this kind of personality, too – if someone wrongs me, I never, ever forget it.

Some would chalk it up to being a double Scorpio: my sun sign is in the coMychartnstellation Scorpio, and my ascendant (or rising sign) is, too, because the sun at the moment it rose above the Eastern horizon was also in Scorpio. And Scorpios can be pretty intense (I just
learned Hillary Clinton is a double Scorpio exactly the same way I am…).

Regardless of cause, that’s who I am. So when I went on a writers’ retreat last week with three author buddies, guess what kind of retreat it was for me? Yup, intense. I gathered with Ramona DeFelice Long, KB Inglee, and Wicked

Clare House

Accomplice Kim Gray at Clare House, a convent retreat house in Pennsylvania. We each had writing projects to work on, and we mostly ignored each other all day and worked, having the house to ourselves.

And it was fabulous. I wrote over 11,000 words. I started writing Country Store Mystery

My office for the week

number four, getting over five thousand words down. Then I switched gears and wrote a proposal, start to finish, for a new series, including the first two chapters. I had to keep my head down and charge ahead to get that much done, and I did, mornings, afternoons, and even part of one evening. I never work like that at home, usually devoting only the morning to my creative writing or revising and doing author business in the afternoons.

Sometimes when I fixed a bit of lunch to eat at the picnic table on the deck, one or more of the others would join me, and that was fine. But I always ate and then went right back upstairs. I even declined to go out to lunch with the rest on the penultimate day – because I had to finish the proposal before I left early the next morning. And finish I did.

Kim Gray, Ramona DeFelice Long, and Kb Inglee

It wasn’t all work. We gathered for wine and dinner every night and talked – a lot. Some of it was brainstorming about our work, but some was just chewing the fat. And those women have a lot of stories in them, no surprise! (Sorry, what’s said at the retreat stays at the retreat…) Everyone else had a drive of an hour or less, and mine was seven or eight. But I’d go back in a New York minute. I love an intense immersion like that.

What about you? Does intensity suit you or do you prefer a more relaxed pace, more steady progress? Have you had intense times away from your usual routine that suited you?

40 Thoughts

  1. Next spring! Mark it on your calendar. I am so happy you drove all the way down to Aston. What a productive and bonding week it was, and it was fun sharing our stories, both professional and personal. I miss my spot to meditate under the trees!

  2. I had intense for many years along with burnout at times. I’ll take my less intense retirement …with only sporadic intensity.

  3. I really enjoyed the location (40 minutes from home), and the isolation. No outside distractions, no email. Only input from like minded people and great food.

  4. I’m not a Double Scorpio but am definitely a Type A personality. Everything was done was with 110% effort so I also suffered burnout from work a few times. It took a while for me to reassess, and to seek a better work/personal life balance. My move from Toronto to Ottawa a few years ago helped. And now as a newly retired person, I am still up before 5:00 am, and am considered the “speedster” in my walking/hiking group, so I am either intense or just hyper! And I usually do pretty jampacked vacations. I am so looking forward to Bouchercon and NOLA and will be trying to cram as much fun experiences as possible!

      1. Yes, I am looking forward to meeting a lot of people in person, including you, Edith! I have pre-ordered the anthology and am planning to be at the Friday panel. I think we are also going to Kathy’s Tuesday pre-con dinner.

  5. I can’t find my “Off” switch any more–it’s like I’m trying to make up for all those years when I wasn’t writing (just working for a living, raising a child, etc., etc.). I finish one MS (shipped off yesterday!) and I’m immediately trying to figure out which one I tackle next. Or maybe a short story. Or I could stockpile a bunch of blog posts. But as long as I love it, I’ll keep doing it.

  6. I believe intensity fuels my work and drive, so long as it’s moderated. But it is my double edged sword; I can grow so incredibly intense that it becomes an all consuming sensation, leaving no vacancy in my thought for anything productive.

    This get away sounds amazing! I need to join in something like that. Perhaps some day I’ll be blessed enough with the opportunity to step away, focus on writing, and receive the support and and offer my own to my script gifted peers. 🙂

  7. When I worked for a financial planning company it was intense six and a half days a week. Seven years of that was enough. I’m usually pretty much a go with the flow person, if a situation requires intensity, I’m all in. I’ll never forget after one of the Wicked retreats when it was down to Jessie and I. I was helping her pack things up before she took me to the airport and she returned to New Hampshire. I was a whirlwind of activity — Jessie finally stopped and looked at me saying something like: I didn’t know there was a Type A personality lurking behind that calm facade.

    1. Sherry, you sound a lot like me! I tend to go with the flow, but I can go like a fire’s under me if I need to.

      We have a two bedroom cabin with a loft in the Laurel Highlands. If anyone wants to join me there some week or weekend for a mini-retreat, let me know!

  8. I was lucky enough to go to a week long writing retreat once, sponsored by an organization I belonged to. I can’t say enough good things about it! The ability to write all day, with no other chores and no interruptions, was the perfect way to jump start a new book. Breakfast and lunch were provided, we all worked morning and afternoon, and dinner was up to us: ordering in going out, socializing as needed. So no meal planning or cooking. Retreats are great for writers.

  9. As I have often said, I’m an over-achiever trapped in a procrastinator’s body.

    I’ve learned one person’s intense is another person’s laid back. In some crowds I’m one and in some I’m the other.

  10. I am also jealous. A week of nothing but writing and hanging with friends – and at a Franciscan retreat. Sigh.

    I used to be more intense than I am. The MS definitely made me slow down – in everything (work, walking, etc.). But I occasionally get times when I can just concentrate on writing and in those times I can really churn out the words. But I love slowing down at night to hang out with like-minded people!

  11. I’m usually pretty laid back – or at least I try to be, anyway! I’m sure some would disagree 🙂 But all kinds of personalities make the world go round, right? Would’ve loved to attend this!

  12. You definitely were an inspiration to me, Edith! I’m a Gemini, so my hard working personality is always at odds with my procrastinating side! It was a great retreat and while I had you as a model, my “get down to business” side won.

    1. I’m a Gemini too! Years ago in France I was given a small souvenir zodiac medallion, which defined Gemini traits as “intelligence et mouvement.” I thought that fit pretty well.

  13. I can be intense at times, but usually I let myself get distracted by every shiny thing I see. It makes it really interesting when I’m packing for a big trip. I’m trying to get it all done, but I’m all over the place grabbing items here and there that need to be packed as I think of them instead of in an orderly fashion.

    And I am so in awe of your writing during that time. Good luck with the new proposal!

  14. Edith, your stamina and focus ability amaze me. I used to be more like that, but as I get older, it seems to get harder. But wait, I have completed two novels for St. Martins, written a novella and started a new novel in less than four years. I don’t think I was ever any faster than that. But you gals who can turn out two books a year totally astound me. My cap is off to you ladies!

  15. I’m Type B all the way (if that’s the opposite of Type A). Lazy as all get out. I only do things that are due, so I find myself working under pressure, but that’s what suits me. People think I’m organized (or they say they do), but I only can do what I’ve written down on my list! I had a lovely long weekend retreat with writer friends in Salado Texas a few years ago and it was heaven! I’d love to do lots of them! VERY jealous!

  16. Sounds perfect, Edith. I am intense. I like to relax, but if I have a deadline or even a household chore (Always, right?) I can’t do anything else. I’m fairly certain it annoys others, but I can’t change. Must be genetic. When I was a little girl, Dr Marshall in Billerica told my mother, “Don’t worry. She has other things to do, and she’d rather do them alone.”

Comments are closed.