How to create your own personal writing retreat
If you need a change of both setting and pace and a reprieve from distractions to put in some serious, focused writing time, consider creating your own retreat.
Make no mistake, there are some fabulous organized writing retreats out there. The Center offers affordable and scenic writing retreats, but we don’t have any scheduled for 2017. When we do, we’d love for you to join us! Until then, if you’re browsing the offerings on Poets & Writers and thinking, yes, a month off to write in a New England lighthouse sounds magnificent, but… say no more. If cost is a factor, or if you need short and more frequent getaways instead of one big trip, this post is for you.
A DIY writing retreat is all about your schedule and needs, and you can plan one on the cheap with tips I’ve gathered from various blogs and websites (yes, I’ve been planning my own writing retreat, too!):
- Kristen Scatton at Bustle summarizes the three fundamentals of a DIY writer’s retreat: change of scenery, self-discipline, and channeling inspiration. If you can achieve these three, the rest is logistical.
- Kristen Pope at The Write Life reminds us that there are many different types of writing retreats, and that to design your own and get the maximum benefit, you have to do some research. Do you want to go solo or bring a writing friend to hold each other accountable? Off-site or staycation? Pope also recommends debriefing afterward about what worked and what didn’t, so your next retreat can be even more productive.
- Sarah von Bargen at Yes and Yes focuses on how writers can prepare for making the time spent in retreat mode as effective as possible. She suggests using AirbnB for affordable spaces, creating draft documents in advance, working without a wi-fi connection, and keeping a hard copy file of inspirational images and readings to resist the temptation to web-browse when you should be writing.
- Kathryn Haueisen Cashen at Writer’s Digest wants you to set a purposeful, mindful tone for your retreat: “…consider a retreat to be any opportunity to treat yourself to a quiet place where you can work uninterrupted for a short period of time,” Cashen says, adding that you should set goals and commit to them, in writing of course. My favorite tip in this article is about “creat[ing] a portable writing kit” full of pens, notebooks, your go-to music playlists, and so on, and to “have it all at the ready” at all times.
- And now for my own tip: let your people—your spouse or partner, children, relatives, boss, etc.—know that this is your time. You will not be available from X to X. You are not answering work email. You have left the proverbial building. Whether you’re holed up with your iPad in your basement for an hour or doing a week-long stint at a Super 8 two towns over to finish your memoir, you can’t and won’t be lured back from your retreat before the predetermined end time for anything short of an emergency. Letting the relevant people in your life know your plans not only limits the number of distracting calls and texts you’ll get while retreating, but it gives some intentionality, some accountability, to your efforts as well.
Think a DIY writing retreat is something you would try? Already done one? Let us know what you think or share your own pro tips in the comments.