Let’s face it; our lives are busier than ever and sometimes our writing productivity and goals fall by the wayside. Writing retreats are a fabulous way to rediscover the trail, but are often expensive and require travel. Yet what if there was a way to create the same experience in our own backyard; expending less time, energy and money?
Whether we decide to use a free afternoon, a day or a week there’s something that everyone can do to indulge their writing passion, giving it the space and time it deserves.
So are you ready to create your own writing paradise? Let’s get started!
Creating a sacred space
If there’s one thing that distinguishes a retreat from our messy, coffee-stained desk at home it’s that the space is designed to be conducive to creative thought.
This might mean opening the blinds and having a declutter if like me you need a bright, tidy environment to work properly; or making even more of a mess and letting the sounds of a busy street enter your workspace if that stimulates your creativity more!
Whether you light candles, put up quotes that inspire you or wear your best clothes, play around with what works for you.
One of my personal favourites is placing two stones I picked up on holiday beside my desk. When I get stuck I roll them around in my hands and the smooth, cool sensation genuinely helps to generate ideas! I also like the ‘coffee shop’ and ‘rain’ ambient tracks on Noisli to mimic that cozy, indoor feeling when the weather is raging outside.
Tip: unless cooking falls into the ‘other creative pursuits’ category I outline below, try to have your meals already prepared so that you can concentrate solely on writing. Maybe you could make your retreat even more special by including treats such as fresh fruit, wine or buttery croissants!
Most writers have an idea about what they’re hoping to achieve from a retreat and it’s something important to keep in mind in order to get the most from our efforts. Instead of trying to work on too many things or worse, not knowing what to write at all, it can be a good idea to make a note of why we’re doing this and what we want the outcome to be.
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. For example:
—I’d like to finish the first chapter of my new novel.
—I’d like to write a short story that’s been on my mind for ages.
—I’d like to do several pages of freewriting/journalling to generate poetry ideas.
Finding a workshop
Workshops form an integral part of retreats and are something to consider in order to develop our skills.
It might feel strange at first to be in the company of other writers as we’re often used to working on our own; but once we overcome the initial terror it’s a great opportunity to receive feedback.
Don’t be scared—you should never have to share anything that you’re not comfortable with and remember it’s about you!
In finding a workshop I’m sure you’re far too intelligent for me to mention ‘checking out your local library’ as a glaringly obvious example, (but libraries really are good for this sort of thing aren’t they?). You could also check out:
—Schools and colleges.
—Supermarket notice boards.
—Leaflets from your town/city tourist office (which often include workshops of various kinds).
—The back pages of writing magazines for upcoming events in your region.
—Asking friends and family (everyone knows someone who knows someone, right?)
Networking and creating a writing community
This is similar to the previous point but in a more informal sense. Perhaps you’ve met some interesting people in a workshop and you decide to go out for coffee together to discuss your work and exchange contact information. You’d be surprised at how many opportunities open up once you start chatting to people within creative circles.
After a workshop last week, I went with some of the writers I’d met to a local bookshop. We recommended books to each other and spent a lot of time talking about each other’s experiences which not only inspired me, it consoled me!
Writing can be lonely, but when you make the effort to reach out to others, the negative aspect melts away as though it never existed.
As the resources in the previous point apply equally to this one I won’t bore you by going over them again. You could however consider joining online writing communities on social media or forums such as the ‘water cooler’ on absolutewrite.com
As a creative writing student, I have the luxury of an accessible community as part of my studies. Aside from this, I absolutely love the #writingcommunity on Twitter. So far I’ve found everyone in this group to be super helpful and encouraging. Many people in this space have self-published and so it’s a great place to ask for advice if you’re considering doing the same.
Dividing up our time
Now we’ve been introduced to both sides of writing retreats, the solo and the social, it’s time to decide how much time we want to dedicate to each.
For some people it might feel more natural (and practical) to do 80% solo and 20% social. Again it depends on your location and goals (maybe one of them was to make new writer friends?) but for me I prefer to spend a good chunk in my own company and then discuss things with others to let off some writing steam.
In many writing retreats the days are segmented into different parts, for example:
Early morning- Breakfast/communal activity.
Mid-Morning – Personal writing time.
Early Afternoon – Workshop/communal activity.
Late Afternoon- Personal writing time.
Dinner – Communal dinner to share one’s experiences.
At home this could translate to:
Early morning—Personal writing time.
Mid-morning —Going to a writer’s workshop in your hometown.
Early afternoon—Another creative activity with or without a friend.
Late Afternoon—Personal writing time.
Evening—Joining the discussion in Facebook and Twitter writing groups.
Other creative pursuits
Retreats can focus solely on creative writing; but more often than not they include other creative or mindful pursuits that help create an optimum flow state.
A popular choice in many retreats is yoga and meditation, but if this doesn’t float your boat, there are many ideas you could try to break up the writing day.
From reading a novel in your local café, attending a dance class or going for a walk/run with a friend in the woods; sometimes taking a ‘creative break’ is the most refreshing thing we can do.
It’s good to remember that real writing retreats most certainly have their place and are worth the price to stay in a different environment around like-minded people. That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating our own to reap the same benefits.
So whether you’re a busy mum that finds herself with an afternoon to spare or you’re taking a week off work to rest at home, maybe you could implement some of the things I’ve discussed to get back on track with your writing or simply learn to fall in love with it again.
So do you have any extra tips or ideas about improving your space, meeting writer friends or any of the other points I’ve discussed? Make sure to mention it in the comments section below.
Until next time^^,