This morning I was green with envy after seeing photos of writing retreats in exotic locations. Yet as fabulous as they were, the prices were high enough for my toast to go down the wrong way.
Undeterred; after a cup of hot, dislodging tea, I decided to explore ways we could create the same experience at home, expending less time, energy and money.
Whether we 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!
Creating a sacred space
If there’s one thing that distinguishes a retreat from our home it’s that the space prioritises creativity.
This could be as simple as opening the blinds and having a declutter if you need a bright, tidy environment to work properly. Or maybe it’s a question of making more mess and letting the sounds of a busy street enter your workspace!
Whether you light candles, put up inspiring quotes or wear your best clothes, you can play with different ideas. One of my 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 cosy feeling when the weather is raging outside.
Tip: unless cooking is something you enjoy, you might prefer to prepare your meals in advance so you can concentrate solely on writing. You could make it 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 to keep in mind. Instead of trying to tackle too many projects or worse, not knowing what to write at all, making a note of what we want to achieve can be beneficial for our goals.
It doesn’t have to be complicated; any one of these examples would be fine:
- I’d like to finish the first chapter of my 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 when developing our skills. Although it might feel strange at first to be in the company of other writers, once we overcome the initial terror it’s a great opportunity to receive feedback.
You should never have to share anything you’re not comfortable with and remember it’s about you! In finding a workshop, you’re far too intelligent for me to mention ‘checking your local library’ as a glaringly obvious example. You can also find information about workshops in/by:
- Art galleries/theatres.
- Community centres.
- Schools and colleges.
- Supermarket notice boards.
- Leaflets from your town/city tourist office.
- The back pages of writing magazines.
- Asking friends and family (if they know someone who would know if you know what I mean).
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 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. 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 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 join online writing communities on social media or forums such as the ‘water cooler’ on absolutewrite.com
Tip: 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 like-minded friends?) Personally I prefer to spend a good chunk in my own company and then discuss things with others afterwards.
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.
- Evening: communal dinner.
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 writing, but often they include other pursuits that help nurture creativity.
A popular choice is yoga or meditation, but if that doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of other ideas to try. From reading a novel in your local café, attending a dance class or going for a walk with a friend in the woods, sometimes taking a ‘creative break’ is the most refreshing thing we can do.
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Paid writing retreats certainly have their place and are worth the price to stay in a different environment around like-minded people.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with creating our own to reap the same benefits within a time frame that works for us. Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent with an afternoon to spare or a single adult taking a week off work.
So do you have any extra tips or ideas about improving a writing space, meeting like-minded friends or any of the other points I’ve discussed? Make sure to mention it in the comments section below!
Until next time,