I recently spend a lovely three-day weekend on a writer’s retreat with a couple of good friends who are also authors, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts about considerations for a fun and productive writer’s retreat. As always, these are just my personal considerations. Your mileage may vary.
Nan’s rules for a successful writer’s retreat:
- Location location location. Requirements include comfortable chairs; enough table space for all writers to spread out with laptops, research material, notebooks, etc.; many power strips and places to plug them in; outdoor space, weather permitting; comfortable sleeping arrangements; spaces for privacy and alone time. It can also be nice to have interesting places to go for quick breaks (local wineries, The Mustard Museum, crystal shops, the International House of Wine and Cheese have all proved to be acceptable diversions for my group). However, while field trips are great for refilling the creative well, beware that they can also be a time suck.
TIP: Try NOT spending five hours on Saturday at the local crystal shop, no matter how much fun it is. Not that I’d know anything about that…
- Meal Planning. You’ll need kitchen space and advanced meal suggestions and preparation OR tasty and budget-appropriate eateries nearby.
TIP: Try NOT to over-plan the food. With one group of writers I go on retreats with, we always seem to bring enough food between us to get us through a zombie apocalypse, despite the planning – that’s the trouble with getting a bunch of moms together.
- It’s always good to go on retreat with people who have similar social needs. If you need long hours of solitude, with no distractions, then traveling with a group of chatty women who also want to catch up on each other’s lives may not be the right mix for you.
TIP: Always bring your noise cancelling headphones. That way if the rest of the group wants to listen to Bohemian Rhapsody fifteen times in a row for inspiration (including head banging at the appropriate part), you can turn your back and remain in a state of silent and productive bliss.
- Sacred Separation. Do you best to allow your time at the retreat to be sacred time, time that you devote to ‘being there’ fully. Do your best to keep contact with home and work at a minimum, as you would at a spiritual retreat. Allow the mental space of a retreat to do its job, whatever that needs to be.
TIP: This means that when your teenage daughter texts thirty-seven times to squee about a new season of her favorite anime show, it’s okay to text her a short reply, but DO NOT ENGAGE in a full-scale, hour-long text-athon. Set expectations and then get off the phone. It can wait until you get home (by which time, she will have moved on to something else anyway).
- Setting Expectations: Speaking of which, make sure you let your friends and family, and your work know that you will be unavailable for phone calls, conference calls, meetings, emails, texts, etc. If you must make yourself available, make the time periods brief, and work them into your retreat schedule carefully.
TIP: What I tell my family: Only call me if the house is on fire, and if you can put it out, then it’s not on fire. What I tell my staff: Only call me if someone gets let go, and if it’s me, don’t call me until after the retreat, so you don’t spoil my time off.
There are probably other tips, but these are the ones I rely on these days. Do you have tips for retreats? If so, I’d love to hear about them! Don’t be shy – share below!
Take care and as always,
Illegitimi non carborundum!