I’ve been on a couple of writing retreats and they have been so useful, in fact I would say they were irreplaceable and I would definitely jump at the opportunity to go on another one.
I’ve got used to writing just about anywhere: I can jot down notes in the doctor’s waiting room, tap away on my laptop in the car while my kids are doing their various after-school activities, I even work on character developments while having my teeth cleaned. I’m not unique of course, most writers are used to cramming their writing into the most unlikely places. But the beauty of a retreat is that it provides guaranteed uninterrupted writing time to focus on a manuscript which can be vital in helping develop plot-lines or work through sticky areas.
What makes a writing retreat successful depends on many things and I think that every writer probably has their own personal list of Writing Retreat Must Haves but are a couple of points which for me, contribute to making a writing retreat a wonderful haven where I can truly immerse myself in my writing and let my creative juices flow!
Know your fellow retreaters – I am part of a small but challenging writing group and there are usually just four of us on a retreat. We’ve been working together as writers for a long time and have a successful working relationship. This is vital during a retreat because we are able to leave each other to work and set our own personal writing rhythms while also arranging group critique times and breaks so that we can pool our thoughts, egg each other on or seek each other’s advice. If I was with a group of people I didn’t know, I think I would feel that I’d have to be polite, look presentable and get caught up in small-talk which would take away from necessary writing time. There is something wonderful about typing away on your laptop all day wearing pyjamas and tatty old slippers!
Choose a dull venue – every time we’ve organized a retreat, we have picked a B&B which is in a relatively uninteresting, isolated area. This is so important because it vastly cuts down on distractions that could take us away from our work, like shops, cinemas or restaurants. (The only view I need on a writing retreat is the screen of my laptop!) We usually bring our own snacks, cereals, soups and sandwich stuff so that we always have food on hand (this saves money but also prevents us from having to pop out for supplies all the time). Sometimes we order take-out but we tend not to shower and we always make sure there is a plentiful supply of coffee!
Set goals – I think this is really important (well for me at least) because it means I’m much more efficient with my special writing retreat time. For each retreat, I give myself a personal goal and I try to stick to it. Whether I actually do or not, is not necessarily important, the key is to have something to work towards so that no precious time is wasted. The retreats I’ve been on have only lasted three days ( we all have young families so it’s hard to justify more time away) so from the time we arrive, to the time we leave, we work non-stop. We usually write well into the night and get up early to crack on. It is so wonderfully satisfying to drive home exhausted but knowing that we have achieved so much.
I consider the writing retreats I’ve attended to be absolute gems in my writing career so far and I hope I continue to be lucky enough to keep going on them! What about you? Have you ever been on a writing retreat? Was it successful? Would you do it again? Have you got any writing retreat tips to share?