an anyone really write a book in five days? I was skeptical. The ad was for a five-day writing retreat amidst the red rocks of Sedona, where—following Tom Bird’s instruction—I would release my “author within.” I felt the tugging in my chest—a wrestling between wanting to write that book I’ve been toying with for years (the one with all the notes that never seem to find their way into any format) and the logic, which told me that books take time—sometimes years—to write. I felt stuck. It’s a common feeling among writers and a situation familiar to Tom.
Tom overcame his own struggles to become a successful author:
“Frustration is the forefather of faith. The key to my success at the time was my desperation. I had frustration; I had fear. Personally, emotionally, I felt like I was crumbling inside because I wasn’t in alignment with what was trying to come out—which was my writing. However, I had all these fears, which said, ‘You can’t do it’ because other people had told me that, and I believed them. Not until I was so desperate that I was willing to let go in the direction of my passion and overlook, overrun, or run through all that I’d been told did I succeed.”
“After I finished my first book...I decided to take some time off...to try to understand what the heck I did, to come up with the pillars of understanding that would enable me to better understand what I did; so I could continue to emulate it book after book after book. At that time, I really didn’t anticipate that what I would be learning and understanding for myself, I would be sharing with others.”
That was twenty-eight years ago. Those pillars of understanding and Tom’s “overlook, overrun, and run through” technique became the basis of the Tom Bird Method and the foundation for his Write Your Book in 5 Days Retreats. The premise of which is to write from a centered, heartfelt connection.
Angela Artemis, retreat graduate and author of The Intuition Principle, said, “I know that had I not attended the seminar, I would not have completed the book. I believe what held me back from completing a book in the past was the fear that I would run out of ideas or words. Tom’s brilliant process completely eradicated this notion for me once and for all. Attending the seminar put me in a setting where the writing simply poured out of me—and I now know that I can write other books to completion, too.”
Preparing for the Retreat
Liberating one’s self from the logical, critical mind is the core of the Tom Bird Method. The process begins during the crucial pre-attendance period. Approximately three weeks prior to the retreat, students receive a package, which includes:
- Digital downloads of Tom’s two books: You Were Born to Write and You Were Born to be Published
- Digital downloads of three subliminal CDs: one for getting into the flow, one for when you are really flowing, and one for revision time
- Invitations to four pre-retreat webinars—building blocks to your experience at the retreat
During this period, Tom is getting a “feel” for where each student is at in their writing, and students are laying the foundation for the coming perceptual shift.
Getting into the Flow
The Tom Bird Method is a training course in listening to and bringing forth inspired writing. Following Tom’s instruction, students learn to connect the inner author and the creative mind; floodgates open, and the writing flows. But, what first comes out is everything plugging up the pipe. This is where attending the retreat makes all the difference.
Tom said, “The thing that [all students] bring to a retreat—they bring two things, fear and anger. That’s where all their energy for their writing’s been going—into these large storage capacity things of fear and anger. So, I know where their energy is. My job is to go and get that energy and redirect it to where it was meant to go. It’s initially going to come out as fear. Eventually that energy will clear, and it will go back to the inspiration it was meant to be.”
As this blocked energy is released, students experience various sensations, ranging from feeling that the writing coming through them is bad to difficult emotions or even physical discomfort. Many students, including me, experience all of these. To ensure that students completely release these blocks and go on to have continued writing success, Tom enlists the aid of helpers. Some are mentors, people who have attended the course and understand firsthand what the students are experiencing; others are professionals, such as physical therapists and energy workers. The helpers are on hand to assist with the internal shifts taking place.
Pamela Garrett, retreat graduate and author of Courage to Choose...Bitter or Better: The Loss of Two Children and the Journey to Healing,said,“Tom Bird retreats create a community for us to write our stories in. Tom personally supports you during the writing journey. With his tools and community support, the different phases one goes through when writing are buffered by like-minded, caring people who recognize and respect what others are going through.”
The first afternoon of the retreat serves three purposes. The first is orientation with introductions and demonstrations by the holistic practitioners who are there to help students over any emotional or physical distress and a short presentation on the development of the Tom Bird Method. The second and most important purpose is to completely exhaust everyone. It is only in this completely worn-out, cup-is-empty state that the logical mind and all the physical resistance to birthing that writer within finally let go. The third purpose is to allow Tom a final “feel” of where people are in regards to their books.
Tom refers to himself as a “literary midwife” or “book whisperer.” “My allegiance is to [the students’] connection with that book,” he said. “I can feel the book—I cannot tell you what it is...it’s between the author and the book; it’s a very personal, intimate association—I can feel it, though, and I can feel when the receptacle is missing the outlet by a foot and a half to the left. I know how to move it a foot and a half to the right because I had to do that for myself.” For the next five days, the focus is on getting the writers in alignment with their books and releasing their inner authors.
Each day consists mainly of timed writing sessions with two ten-minute breaks and one forty-five minute lunch. Tom leads the group through the breathing exercise, guiding them into connection with their inner authors. Then, with subliminal music playing in the background, students write for fifteen-minute intervals, counting their words at the end of each session. The aim is for an average of 387 words per session for a total of 12,000 words per day. At the end of each session, Tom circles the room to check the word counts.
Writing fast forces the logical mind to release its grip on the process, allowing your inner author to simply dictate your story. The word counts help Tom gauge where students are in the process; those struggling receive individual support and guidance, nudging them into alignment. Then at some point it all falls into place. With the logical mind quieted and all that energy flowing onto the paper, you feel released, lighter, and happy. Once you experience this state, it is positively addictive.
Pamela Garrett agrees. “I feel Tom’s method helped me tremendously [to] touch a part of myself I didn’t know was there. My ‘author within’ was eager to express, and what was created was a deep, personal, incredible story of courage and tenacity. I also realized this came from within—places I didn’t know I could or would be able to reveal. Tom creates a safe, nourishing environment to allow one’s truth to be revealed.”
“The experience was INCREDIBLE!” said M.J. (Mary) de la Pena, retreat graduate and author of An Immigrant American Hero and Murder Most Judgmental. “I know it sounds preposterous that a writer can produce a fully formed piece of literary fiction in five days; but for me, the experience gave my true creative self a chance to overpower my overly developed critical brain. After all, by training, I have stuffed that creative side deep down inside of me. My undergraduate degree was engineering, and I have been a practicing lawyer for over twenty-five years. If nothing else, I can now, with confidence, call myself an author.”
Amenities, Costs, and Other Considerations
Tom coordinates efficient lunchtime service with the hotel restaurant. Budget approximately $10 per day for lunch.
Bring healthy snacks to keep up your energy level during writing time. (Tom strongly suggests you refrain from caffeine before and during class. Consider weaning yourself prior to the retreat.)
You will need one or two large, unlined tablets; Tom suggests 14 X 17 drawing pads and a few good pens that flow well and won’t drag on the paper.
Computer users should bring an external hard drive.
For comfort, consider bringing an external keyboard, wrist pad, computer stand, and a small pillow if needed for back support.
Check the Write Your Book in 5 Days Retreats schedule for current pricing and locations. (Approximate cost: $1295 to $1495; early-bird spaces available for $995)* Payment plans available.
*Price is for the class only. Hotel, meals, and sessions with holistic practitioners are additional. Students are responsible for acquiring their own lodging, but if you’d like a roommate Tom will send out a notice.
With the writing sessions finished, the day continues. Several evenings are set aside for classroom time—one for a Q & A session, one for a lecture on the publishing industry, and one for sending out query letters...whether or not your book is finished.
Query day is one example of the commitment Tom makes to the birthing of your book. Throughout the day, while students go through their writing sessions, Tom edits every person’s query letter. Once he determines yours is finished, he provides you with a sign-in and password for access to the Literary Agent Database. That evening, each person uploads their query letter and sends it off to over 190 agents! This is an important step. By writing the query, you will hone in on your story line and tighten your summary. You will feel even more engaged with your book, and most importantly, you will move past the fear of querying and move into being an author.
Tom’s support for you and your book does not end with the queries. In addition to helping you connect with your inner author, he can help you connect with the public. Through his Publish Now Program, Tom leads a select number of individuals through a self-publishing program that includes editing, formatting, publishing, and marketing of your new book. About his dedication to seeing students published, Tom said, “There’s nowhere that I’ve seen in the world, and I’ve looked, where writers are spotted and nurtured and brought along. That’s done in athletics, it’s done in science, it’s done in math...but we don’t have this for writing. And yet, there’s nothing more communicatively intellectual in the world than the written word—way more than spoken word.
So, that’s one of the things I’m attempting to do—or allowing the Spirit to work through me—to do that.”
Attending a Tom Bird Retreat is a journey. Students walk in wearing their self-doubt, self-judgment, struggles, frustration, and fear and walk out connected to their inner voice with a renewed sense of themselves as writers. M.J. de la Pena said, “I heard about Tom Bird through the WOW! website and newsletter at a time when I was beside myself with anxiety of whether I would ever become a successful, published author. When I went to the retreat in September of 2010, I put myself in Tom’s hands and followed his instructions exactly. What emerged was a fully formed book, in which I had to do very few revisions. Whenever I reread the book, I am in awe of the beauty of the story and how well it flows. A woman who has edited my prior books told me it was my best piece of literature yet. Also, I have a book coming out in less than a month and another coming out in September. How much more could I ask for?”
In writing this review, I received many beautiful testimonials. Due to space, I could not include them all but I felt the following was particularly touching and summed up the experience nicely.
This experience was life changing for me. I have never experienced in all my years of conscious soul work, any process so deeply transformational in such a short period of time, as this experience of writing has been through Tom's method.
I came to the retreat with my “pearls of wisdom” on hundreds of pieces of paper, captured over the years. These pieces of paper were my security blanket. I was instructed not to look at them, but instead to follow the process to connect with my divine creative self and trust that everything I needed to have come through would present itself. The themes were similar; but in writing this way, the connection to my heart and personal journey was preserved and conveyed. At one point, I experienced a traumatic event. Three thousand words of what I felt was my best writing ever got destroyed due to a computer error. I was confronted with a level of letting go that challenged me to believe that this ability for me to connect in this pure creative way was not lost, only the document.
I moved through overwhelming grief and received the gift of thirty some classmates expressing tremendous support, loving kindness, and compassion. I was able to get back to my writing and finish my book.
- Caren Appel, retreat graduate and author The Ripple Effect: A Return to Love and Ultimate Healing
During the March 2011 retreat I attended, thirty-six students authored a total of forty-three books. The small number of individuals who did not complete their books came away with a renewed sense of connection with themselves and their writing. I was among these few. Far from being disappointed though, I felt grateful for the discovery and clearing of some internal blocks. I was awed by the feeling of truly writing in the flow and empowered with the understanding of how to tap into that state on my own. That novel I had been toying with, now has form and content (and agents waiting). I would say that Tom Bird is more than a book whisperer; he is a soul whisperer, and the transformation is priceless.
In addition to her freelance writing Robyn Chausse enjoys working with WOW! as a Book Blog Tour Organizer and regular contributor to The Muffin. To read more about her personal experience at the Tom Bird Retreat see Finding My Inner Author: posts one, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, and eight.