There’s a song by recording artist and folk singer Mary Gauthier that guts me, every time. 

It’s called “Mercy Now,” and the song moves, achingly, through concentric circles of forgiveness: Starting with her father, who could use some mercy now…and ending with her country, which could most definitely use some mercy now. (Lord have mercy, indeed.) 

You listen to a song like that, and it’s artistry in action: It’s what I imagine a soul sounds like.

Now, you and I are not Grammy-nominated singer-songwriters touring the globe with a new album like she is (unless you are and you didn’t tell me). 

And you might think you have nothing in common with her because that’s not you. But that’s not true. 

Because what it takes to be courageous in her work is precisely the same thing it takes to be courageous in yours. There is no difference.

Sure, the platform is different; hers is stage, lights, theater, and yours might be office, classroom, co-working space, Adirondack chair). 

I don’t care what that work is—to get up and go and do it, every day, is important work. It’s your work. And what threatens that work? Self doubt. Fear of criticism. Comparison. 

We put the kibosh on our most creative ideas, more often than not.

I recently interviewed Mary, at midnight, because that was the only time she had (again, rock star), to talk about how she fights the demons of self-criticism, judgment, fear in her own work and why it’s worth fighting it in our own. 

“The ever-expanding waves of putting work out into the world may never be measured, but something could happen as a result of me doing my work,” she said. “Comparison gets in the way of all of that.”

(Watch the interview here.)

She’s so good. 

And the reason I was up late interviewing Mary, when I usually just text her, is because I have a big announcement to make:

Mary Gauthier will be co-leading The Intensive with me Oct 17-20, 2019, in Austin, Texas. 

Yeah, I know you’re busy. You have a life and obligations, and things booked (a meeting, a lunch, a long-put-off task). 

But six months from now, what do you think you’ll remember most? The weekend you spent catching up on shows or emails (that never happens), or the one you spent uncorking a bottle of brilliance stowed away in your mental basement? That’s one hell of a vintage. I say, drink it!

>>Read more about The Intensive. 

If this speaks to you, then trust me, it’s worth jostling schedules for. (Ask anyone in this video who attended.)


The Intensive is an intimate, all-inclusive three-day event where a small group of leaders, writers, speakers, creatives, and pros of every stripe come together to work on their ideas, their stories—the things that will move their brand and work forward in a bigger way. 

The point is to dig down into your own work using writing as our tool—but NO RED PENS. No criticism, no judgment. Period.

Because if you want to create work of meaning and get a better handle on what that work is, it starts on the page, where all great work begins. 

“What happens on retreat is transformative,” Mary says. “Because the group is naturally inclined to root for you. We get close to each other thru this vulnerability, and there’s this building up of affection for each other that happens really quickly. You end up with a group of people who really want you to succeed.” 

Attending Gateless Writing retreats changed my life, personally and professionally. They helped me catapult my writing and my work in dramatic ways, and I have no doubt it can do the same for you on The Intensive. 

So let’s talk. Apply for a spot here (no fancy pedigree required!). 


P.S. Here’s what Intensive attendee Jenn Barrett had to say: 

“The retreat helped me find and develop my voice and discover how powerful and persuasive it can be. I left the retreat inspired and energized with a clear understanding of how I could use my voice and my writing to advance the ideas I care most deeply about.” 

–Jenn Barrett, start-up exec, journalist, and financial literacy advocate


Ever go on a church retreat? I did. 

Antioch Weekend at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Roseland, New Jersey. In the 80s.

You got to wear your Jordache jeans and sleep over at host houses and hang out with kids you didn’t know (read: boys you didn’t know) from public school. Hot. 

We sat in the school classrooms, but it didn’t feel like school. We had prayer groups and discussions, talked about life and faith. Then we’d stand in a circle and hold hands and sway to Led Zeppelin (because it was a “cool” church weekend). 

Maybe someone would cry. And it was totally normal to hug a lot, which provided an off-the-charts oxytocin-addled high. 

It was the first time in my life that I felt like an adult. Not a student, not a kid, but a person, with  feelings and opinions and ideas that mattered.

I felt closer to the other kids after a single weekend than I did with the kids I’d known my whole life. I felt seen and known. We all cried when it ended. I learned that bearing witness for another person was one of the most important things I could do. I believe it still is. 

A few years ago I attended a different retreat—a writing retreat, led by a woman I’d never met. We were in Rhode Island, the leaves starting to turn, and I woke up the second day and felt it—that same elevated, energized, happy feeling.

Only this was way better. I wasn’t fumbling through prayers and awkward teenage hugs. 

I was writing. Writing in ways I hadn’t written in years—free of judgment, free of fear and criticism and self doubt. I was absolutely high on it, on the energy in that room. 

I left that retreat changed. It was an intoxicating blend of feeling totally new and yet returning to something familiar. 

That’s the goal of a retreat, the best kind—to discover and remember. Both things. 

I still go on those retreats, led by the fabulous Suzanne Kingsbury, who’s become a close friend. And she trained me to lead my own. 

And tomorrow, I’m headed to Austin for The Intensive—the three-day writing retreat I run for professionals of every stripe (some identify as writers, some not at all) who want nothing more than to move their work out into the world. 

Using a specific approach called the Gateless Writing Method that Suzanne created—a critic-free approach to creative generation—we’ll uncork, unblock, and uncover their brilliance so they can craft powerhouse talks, books, podcasts, stories, blogs. We’re also going to swim. And drink wine. And laugh a lot.

This one filled up so fast that I scheduled a second one, same place, for October 17-20, and I happen to have a few spots left for that one. 

Does it sound fun? Want to learn more? Want to see pictures? Here you go.  

It’s not for everyone, certainly. But maybe it will tickle at your brain, make you wonder, “What if? What if it were amazing?”

And more importantly, this: “What if I could take a few days to focus on what I want to work on, instead of what everyone else needs from me?” YUP. That’s it. 

>>Want to apply for one of the few remaining spots? Go for it. 

You don’t need any cool-kid criteria to join us. The point of the application is to make sure we can assess if it’s a fit for you. 

P.S. See if The Intensive is right where you should be Oct 17-20, 2019, in Austin, TX! And if you’re not sure, just ask!