The library in Truchas, NM, where silent retreat daily gatherings were held.
In July of 2013, I spent ten days, deep in the heart of Texas, I spent ten days with a dozen other playwrights and none of us spoke a single word. Today, I returned from a snowy mountain in New Mexico, where I spent a week with another set of playwrights, in silence again. We had all gathered from disparate corners of America to be together and write, but never to interact.
These silent writing retreats are led by Erik Ehn, who will lead hour-long workshops or offer prompts and exercises from time-to-time during the week. This is the only voice we hear, and it's the only time we have to pay attention to anyone we are sharing space with. At these retreats, silence includes refraining from any acknowledgement of those around you. If someone takes a plate you just set on the table, you just get another. If someone sneezes, you don't say bless you. If you pass someone in the hallway, you don't make eye contact.
I love these retreats because they require writers to begin a process without an agenda or an end in sight. Erik often says he wants us to complete a project in this time, but he doesn't mean that we come in with a script or an idea in mind and then execute it. The first few days are full of reflection, generation of ideas, and discovery. There is no pressure to do anything a certain way. Sometimes silence can speak volumes.
More information about these retreats:
An American Theatre Magazine article describing the workings of the silent writing retreats in Texas
The Stillwright website for applying to future silent writing retreats (now in California, too!)
Just some odds and ends, from time to time