The Writer’s Retreat

Those of you who know me (and know my writing style) probably know that I am slightly obsessed with the ocean.  It’s almost borderline unhealthy, considering how often it shows up in my writing.  The funny thing is, I can’t exactly put my finger on what about it provides me with so much inspiration.  Maybe it was my San Diego upbringing, my love of all things blue, or my surfboard toting father.  Who knows where it came from, all I can say is I truly love everything about it (except Sea World…I hate Sea World with an unbridled passion).  In fact, I probably have about four pending, half written stories about the ocean in my draft folder right now waiting to make their way onto the blog.

Sunset from the balcony.

I may live mere blocks from the Los Angeles shoreline, but I was jumping up and down (literally) when the opportunity to spend a weekend in Laguna Beach crossed my desk.  Three days and two nights in an oceanfront resort with nothing but my thoughts, my half finished novel and the sound of crashing waves to lull me to sleep.  A finer opportunity there is not, my friends.  There is nothing more relaxing than the sound of crashing waves, the sight of the setting sun and the smell of salt in the air.  My fingers are itching to type just thinking about it.

Morning coffee served with a side of inspiration, please! Lucky for me, that’s exactly what I received this past weekend at my self-proclaimed writer’s retreat at the Pacific Edge Hotel, in Laguna Beach.

It was the perfect place to relax, alone with my thoughts and my laptop – ready to tackle the half finished novel that has been haunting me for the past year and a half.  Every few weeks, I find myself pulling out the trusty hard copy of my novel that I keep next to my bed (lest I find myself in the throws of total inspiration in the middle of the night).  I never get very far, to be honest.  My inspiration has been lackluster (at best) as of late, but rather than dwelling on how I am lacking in inspiration these days, I thought I would make a list of things that have inspired me most.

The Ocean…duh.

View from my room in Laguna Beach.

Music: Every note, every word. A heartbreaking chord or a breathtaking lyric, music so aptly defines the human condition.  It expresses emotion, but it also keeps time for us (literally and metaphorically, I guess).  It documents our history and tells a story that is simply inexpressible in any other format.  My friends make fun of me because I love to listen to sad music.  Trust me, it’s not because I’m depressed.  It’s because I am so deeply humbled and awed by the raw power and creativity behind a piece that can move me emotionally in just three minutes and forty seconds. I can only hope that one day, people will relate to my work the way I have related to the many musicians who have inspired me along the way.

People Watching: An amazing professor once told me that every writer is kind of crazy.  I fully relate.  What other profession requires that you put yourself into the mind of multiple characters at the same time?  When else do you have occasion to fully immerse yourself in someone else’s life?  The stories we tell may stem from our creativity, or our own personal experience, but the characters we portray come from the world we see.  I love sitting at a cafe and just watching people.  Yes, I will admit I even listen in on conversations from time to time.  It’s too easy and way too much fun.  Plus, over the years I’ve learned a lot of very valuable lessons on how different people react in different situations.  I like to believe I’ve even learned how some minds think, process and feel.  We’re all different.  Put ten people into one situation and you will probably have ten different outcomes (or at the very least ten different versions of what happened).  It’s why eye witness accounts are so unreliable.  It’s why stories pack such a punch.  We are all different, but we’re all striving for a shared human existence and experience.  We just want to relate to one another.

In the car:  It’s another one I can’t explain.  I get all of my best ideas when I’m on the freeway, most likely because I have so much time to think.

That’s the thing about inspiration… it can be a total ass.  It’ll show up when you least expect it and will almost never answer your strained and desperate calls.

*For more pictures from my fabulous weekend getaway, follow me on Instagram at ashalafaly


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