A Family Who Writes Together...
Updated: May 22, 2022
On the surface, us Franzes are a silly, fun-loving family who enjoy laughing, joking, and singing show tunes together. But on one boring night, we decided to have a poetry slam by the fire. My second eldest daughter (24), my son (18), and my youngest daughter (16) wrote a bunch of random topics on Post-its, placed them in a bowl, and then we took turns picking topics to write poems about.
We gave each other five to ten minutes to jot down our poetry while Spotify instrumentals played quietly in the background. Afterwards, we took turns reading our poems from the youngest to the oldest. Many of the writings were fun and whimsical, great for laughs, but most were on the darker side.
What began as a family game transformed into a family therapy session. We had no clue that the writing activity would open a Pandora’s box of fears, anger, loss, hopelessness, and struggles in faith. The sessions opened the door for us, as a family, to begin talking about what was happening within each of us under the surface. There were things that we hadn’t been talking about, things we were dealing with as individuals, and things we needed to iron out as a family. All five of us were contending with sorrow in one way or another, while the others hadn't really understood to what degree we were struggling.
Another unexpected discovery emerged in the newfound activity. We all could write raw, authentic, kickass poetry. Mom wasn't the only writer. We were a family of writers, and our sessions began to include both poetry and prose. So, when our cash didn’t look great for our family vacation in Hawaii this summer, we decided that an inexpensive tour of the Northeast combined with a writing retreat would be fun.
During the first week of July 2021, our family spent each afternoon on one of the Northeast isles, visiting an historic site, allowing the location to inspire us towards a poem or story. Through our evening sharing, we came to better understand one another, growing as writers and as a family.
Historic sites for writing inspiration included the Beavertail Lighthouse on Conanicut Island, Boston's African-American Museum, a vintage Bostonian bookstore, and a Rhode Island cemetery and arboretum.
I share this meaningful family activity with readers because, firstly, I’m excited about it. Secondly, I want to encourage others to retreat to strengthen their families. With older children and teens, it is an uphill battle to communicate and grow together in the age of social media, where social distancing in the home had already been in effect before any pandemic.
A creative retreat can be a gift for your family. It doesn’t have to be a writing retreat, it can be an art retreat that allows a similar pattern for creative expression, sharing, and reflection. Maybe your family enjoys being in nature. Then, your family can have a nature retreat; an outing in the woods, one at the water, another on a mountaintop. Family members can journal their thoughts at each outing or simply take pictures on their smartphones for a photo sharing session in the evening. There are countless retreat ideas; a songwriting retreat, a sports retreat, one that involves crafting, cooking, reading, or treasure hunting. The goal is to create room for meaningful expression and/or reflection, and then allow space for your family to share and communicate.
We have included a few of our musings from our retreat to enjoy (click to read). I would also love to hear some of your comments, personal testimonies, or you may add more family retreat ideas that come to mind. Scroll to the bottom of the page to comment.