With spring here and summer just around the bend, many folks yearn to take to the road (or the skies, or the tracks) and get away for a bit. However, not everyone can afford the time, money, or effort to travel – whether for leisure or, for writers, a little creative time to oneself. So we’ve put together some tips to create a writing retreat at home.
First, plan out the time. Many writers extoll the virtues of their muse, only writing when inspiration hits. However, an equal number (if not more), recommend a more consistent butt-in-seat method. While it’s true that if you schedule your writing retreat at a specific time you may not feel the inspiration come that day, BUT if you don’t purposefully set aside time and plan out this retreat then you may never do it.
Find a couple days in your schedule, a few weeks out, that looks clear (or can be cleared). Block those days out completely.
If you have family or others that require your care, see if you can recruit some help, or if you can shift your duties of care around to carve out significant blocks of time for yourself. Then, TELL PEOPLE you’re doing this retreat. Not only will this create accountability for you, it lets folks know you’re setting boundaries for that time. You are dedicating time and energy to your craft for a couple days. People can work around you for that time (as odds are you work around them ALL the time). This is also a courteous way to give advance notice, and reminders, so no one can claim you sprang this on them.
Once you’ve found the time, alerted others, and arranged scheduling, start preparing for this retreat. Work before work? Yes. The more prepared you are to enter this time of commitment to your craft, the better use the time will serve. Some folks like detailed itineraries, and some blanch at the idea of even thinking of having a plan. We suggest a daily timeline that is flexible, and acknowledges your most productive (and least productive) times of day. Set a schedule (and alarms), but know that you can always change things – this is your retreat. Who knows your habits and needs better? Schedule in time for breaks, meals, and stretches/walks, or at least put them on a checklist to ensure you take care of your body during this valuable time.
You’ll also need to prepare a workspace. Location may factor into timing. Do your kids have a big out of town game coming that you don’t have to attend? Could your sister take grandma for a weekend in exchange for you watching her kids another? Is your partner/roommate out of town on business leaving just you and the cats? These could all be ideal times to schedule a retreat. However, even if you still have inhabitants around, finding a room, a garage, a patio, a closet that you can carve space out for yourself is vital. Find somewhere that you can put a door between yourself and the rest of the world.
Think about amenities. What kind of light do you need? Outlets? Wi-Fi? Paper and pens? Can you bring a microwave or kettle in to make drinks/food? What kind of snack do you need? Planning for all these now will allow more time for writing.
What are you writing? What ELSE can you write if you get blocked? Do you need prompts? Notes? Get all these in order, too.
The day or evening before, get your space prepped. Move any furniture necessary, ensure you have all the power supplies, cables, pens, papers, foods, drinks, etc. in the space or ready to go first thing in the morning. Don’t forget about the ambience of the space, too. Lighting, scents, sounds, etc. And also one final reminder to anyone who needs it that you’re about to go off the grid for a couple days (even if you’re still physically present).
Rest up the night before. Take a relaxing bath/shower, or do some other self-care to ease yourself into this transition. Commit to focusing on the writing, but be gentle with your mind and body as you approach it.
During your retreat, don’t beat yourself up if the words aren’t flowing immediately, or you have bursts of energy followed by lethargy. That’s what breaks are for. Just don’t get sucked into other tasks. Set a timer, take a break, then get back to it. Even if it’s staring at a screen or doodling, so long as you’re leaving yourself open to writing, that’s what matters. At the end, take a few minutes to jot down what you accomplished, what worked well for you, and express gratitude for taking the time and energy to do this for yourself (and when you emerge, thank those who supported you in this effort).
Remember: whatever you have written at the end of your retreat, it’s more than you had when you started. And hopefully you learned more about your process, what you need to focus, and the benefit of time just for you.
If you do possess the means, time and desire to get away for a few days of dedicated writing time in a supportive (and beautiful) environment, our Writing Retreat at Lake Arrowhead returns this fall. We’re already looking at a record number of participants, so if you want in we recommend reserving your place ASAP.