Last weekend I retreated. It’s an annual thing with the writers’ group I go to. Three or four nights, somewhere cheap (well, we are writers!), which is usually in Wales, and an opportunity to immerse ourselves in one or two of our current writing projects.
It’s always interesting watching how other writers work. Whenever we go anywhere new, the sense of exploration overwhelms us. Then there are the midnight walks to beaches, and the evening social gatherings. But at some point during each day everyone slinks off to their room, the guilt of needing to do some writing pressing down upon them, only to emerge a couple of hours later when someone puts the kettle on.
Some are early risers. There are retreaters who are off exploring before the first light of day has been spotted, and are back in their rooms before the sun has finished breaking the horizon, ready to buckle down and get a couple of hours worth of work done before breakfast.
Others take themselves off to a lounge with a view, some snacking supplies and plenty of fluids and that’s where they stay all day.
And then there are the late risers. Those who surface just before lunch, go out and explore, get back in time for the social meal and gathering in the evening … and then when the rest of us go to our rooms, they do they same, but that’s when they switch on their laptops and start their writing day.
Put a group of writers together (there were 14 of us this year) and one thing is certain. They will all produce something while on retreat. How they go about it is up to them.
And that’s what we’ve found useful about retreats over the years. It’s given everyone an opportunity to experiment: to learn about what works best for them.
My retreats comprise of reading/research for an hour when I first wake up. Then I go down and make myself some breakfast, and then, if it’s not raining, I’ll head out for a couple of hours for a walk and take some photographs. I’m always back by lunchtime, when it’s time for a small bite to eat, and then the afternoon is spent on the laptop, hammering out those necessary words.
This year, for me, that meant two articles, this blog post, and some writing homework for another writers’ group, along with plenty of reading, and a couple of hours of journalling … just thinking about future projects.
You don’t have to retreat like I do, with a dozen or so other writers (although that is great fun). You can retreat on your own. Take yourself off somewhere for a weekend. Give yourself the space to write.
Before you go:
- identify your most important goal of your retreat. What is the ONE thing you’d like to do? Create a shitty fist draft of something? Or edit one into something more acceptable?
- think about a couple of other smaller goals you’d like to achieve, if you have the time. (Sometimes these smaller goals can be just what you need to get you into the mood for the bigger project.)
- Plan some downtime – time to go an explore the local area. You can’t retreat/write all day. You need to give your brain a rest and a change of activity. And it can turn out to be work too. (One writer on our retreat this year went out on a walk and came back with an idea for a whole new novel!)
There’s always a business case for retreating. It’s no different to big corporation away days, where staff get taken out of the office to focus on plans for the future of the business.
Treat yourself to a retreat. It could do wonders for your writing business.