Recently I visited Annunciation Monastery in Bismarck, North Dakota where I spent an entire week in personal writing retreat. Any writer will tell you how hard it is to find blocks of uninterrupted writing time. I am nearing completion of a book of linked short stories and desperately needed time and space to work on it.
I was not disappointed. I found the quiet and tranquil rhythm of monastic life most conducive to my writing process. Up early in the morning for prayer made it possible for me to be at my computer right after breakfast. The hours flew by and I was always surprised when it was time again for midday prayers and lunch. At home, I would have gone to other tasks after a morning of writing, too mentally drained to continue the creative process and distracted by other parts of my life that needed attention. It was different at the monastery. I felt invigorated after prayer and able to go back to my room and write again until evening prayers and supper. Sometimes I wrote after supper as well.
The Monastery sits on the edge of the University of Mary overlooking the Missouri River Valley. The prairies spread lush and green in every direction. The walking paths and labyrinth added more time to reflect on my characters and the direction my stories were taking. The sisters were friendly and yet not intrusive. I was welcome, but not required, to join them for meals and prayer. A private kitchenette was available for use if I chose.
It helped that my T Mobile cell phone had miserable reception in this part of North Dakota. It also helped that I did not have internet in my room or other responsibilities. During the week I was gone I finished a short story already started and added two entirely new ones. I came home rested and refreshed.
Although I am not Catholic, I was welcomed with open arms by these Benedictine sisters whose trademark is hospitality. They encouraged me to spread the word to others who might be looking for writing space or personal refreshment. They offer guided or personal retreats. I can’t wait to go back.