Anybody who’s ever been on a retreat will attest to this: Reentry into the real world is a challenge. That’s why the VCCA has this telling sign at its exit.
Reentry after a retreat is a bit like returning from a vacation. For example, I came home to piles of mail as my husband only fished out the important stuff and, even though I’ve managed to reduce the influx of junk mail in recent years, two weeks worth of mail is still two weeks worth of mail.
But going on a writer’s residency is not really a vacation because you’re working. You’re working quite intensely actually. At least I was, and most other fellows at the VCCA were, too. That’s one reason, by the way, one dinner table discussion ascertained, why we all like coming to the VCCA: The setting is pretty but not utterly gorgeous, so you’re content staying put. The facilities are comfortable but not too comfortable either, a tad scruffy, in fact. All that signals: This is a working environment. And that works. We all worked.
Upon reentry into my “real world,” I find I get not only irritated easily by all the busy-ness of family life, but I also find myself strangely depleted. Perhaps all that intellectual stimulation of great dinner conversations with other writers and artists, and listening to their readings and presentations in the evenings, needs to percolate. Or maybe I’m just depleted from finishing a first draft of a manuscript. Or maybe it’s just winter and really time to hibernate, but I find myself hardly capable of much more than opening the mail.