8 Tips for a DYI Writing Retreat
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Writing retreats have been on my mind lately. I am preparing to lead a group of writers on a retreat in October which sold out in 48 hours, not because I did a fantastic job marketing it, but because busy writers know that carving out dedicated time to focus on writing may be the only way they can make real progress on their books.
I took a personal writing retreat for the first two weeks of May, and it did wonders for my current writing project. I wanted to share my best tips for creating your writing retreat this summer, whether you have just one day or can stretch it into a week or more of writing time.
Use these steps to design your own writing retreat: (You and your book deserve it!)
Set a budget of time and money. In May, I was lucky enough to get a house sitting gig at the beach so my retreat lodging was free. I’ve done retreats in libraries, museums, hotels, and county parks. Decide how much time you can devote to your retreat and then find a location that works for you. I suggest making your retreat easy on your finances so you don’t feel stressed out before you even begin.
Find a perfect location for you. I need nature around me when I retreat which is why I gravitate to parks or quiet places in the country. I have clients who find nature distracting and love the bustle of a coffee shop or a location in a bustling city. It is almost impossible to do a writing retreat at home. You’ll find yourself thinking about chores or other people’s needs instead of your book. Find a location where you can write without interruption, see something beautiful, and stare off into space without someone asking you if you are ill. 😉
Unplug from technology. I like to write by hand in a notebook on retreat. If you are more comfortable writing on your computer, do so, but turn off your email, messaging, and stay offline. If you need to keep your phone on for emergencies, put it far away from where you are writing and mute the sound. If you are on a multi-day retreat, it’s fine to check in on the digital world once a day if you must but do your best to stay unplugged so that you can focus on the voice of your muse instead of the latest post on Facebook or Twitter.
Create a clear intention for your retreat. You may decide to write a few chapters, to find the idea for your next book, or to edit your manuscript. An intention is required so that you don’t come to the end of your retreat wondering if it was worthwhile. One caveat: Be kind to yourself and set an intention that seems easy to achieve. Many of us set goals that are impossible to meet and then beat ourselves up for not have super powers. What can you realistically accomplish in your retreat? It’s totally fine to set the bar low and do more.
Be ready for surprises. At my recent beach retreat, I did not accomplish a thing for the first week. I was overly tired and just needed to rest. In the second week, I found that I hated the book project I planned to work on. I felt terrible about this. Then on the last day of the retreat, an idea popped into my head when I was walking on the beach that thrilled and delighted me. I came home renewed and excited to write. It wasn’t what I planned on, but was so much better. In a retreat, you’ll encounter serendipity, and surprises. Magic happens when you carve out time and space for yourself.
Treat yourself well. Retreats give you a special time to be your own best friend. Select foods, music, and activities you love. Build in plenty of time for journalism, walking, and rest. Most of us are so tired that our number one writing block is fatigue rather than a lack of ideas or writing skills.
Create a ritual to open and close your retreat. This can be as simple as lighting a candle, saying a prayer, writing a list of things for which you are grateful, or doing a visualization of people reading your book with a smile on their face. Retreat time is not just working in a new location. It is a particular time you dedicate to yourself and your creativity. When you open and close your retreat in a meaningful way, you’ll create a container for your writing that will feel sacred and special.
Have fun! Especially if you are retreating over several days, contrast will be necessary. Taking some time for a hike, shopping trip, sightseeing, or nice dinner will refresh you and your creativity.
Your turn now. What are your favorite writing retreat ideas? Share them below and help a fellow author.