A few times a year I head off on a writer’s retreat. I go by myself. I find somewhere cheap and fairly boring to get The Work done. These are my thoughts on that process. I thoroughly suggest doing it if you can. I’ve broken it down into eight parts. Let’s go! This was originally a thread on Bluesky.
This is for people with responsibilities. You’re going to be away from your home for 2 or 3 days. Make sure everyone you’re responsible for and connected with is completely cool with this. If they’re not, it doesn’t mean they’re stifling your creative muse. It just means it’s not the right time. Continue to work on your projects when you usually do, but the idea has been floated. See how you go next time.
I usually want this to be the least threatening aspect. I want it to be affordable enough for me to do it a couple of times a year. This is different for everyone. But look online for cheap places to get a gauge of what is out there. Going to summer places in winter is often a winner. Think about how much fuel you’ll need to get there. And how much are you going to spend on food? If you’re lucky enough to afford to eat out every meal, cool. But most likely you’ll need to do a shop before you head off. This is about writing not just about having a little holiday.
You want to go somewhere far enough away so you can’t just pop home at any time (unless it’s required based on your Discussion) but not so far that your writing time is chewed up by travel. The first time I did this the place for 4.5 hours away. Terrible idea. Nice location, though.
If driving isn’t a thing for you, somewhere that is an hour or more by public transport but much quicker in an Uber can work too. Another cool option here is to check out house-sitting. Can be done via dedicated websites or friends and family. Cuts the costs a whole heap.
Also, go somewhere isolated or somewhere boring. If there is cool stuff happening just up the street it’s gonna lure you away from the words. The words are why you’re here! And on that, make sure the place you’re staying at has the right furniture for your writing. Comfy couches, desks, etc.
Know what you’re going in for. Got something to finish? Great. Something you’re gonna start? Awesome. Need to start editing? Amazing. But know what it is and be clear before heading in. The last thing you want is to invest this time and money and sit about thinking what you’re going to do.
Once you’ve got your goals, you know what you’re going to do. Do some prep work. Get tedious not ‘the work’ work out of the way. This trip I am editing one adventure, rewriting another, and if I get time adding to another game. I have all of those documents ready. Complied in folders and I’ve printed the things I want to read and edit It’s all set and ready to go. I want to maximise the time I have. I am aiming to minimise the possibility of Resistance pushing me around. I want to get into that gooeywooeytimeywhimey state of flow as much as I can.
Take the things you need. That’s different for everyone. For me, it’s a phone, laptop, notebook, appropriate reference books, Kindle, nunchucks, Bluetooth speaker, dice, and my dog.
Take the things that will help and not hinder.
Take them. Whenever you need to. And when you don’t. Get away from the screen and move your body. In whatever way you can. Get the blood flowing and give yourself some space from the words and the devices. I usually have my dog. So, a walk with no technology is one of my favourites.
Practicing some other skill is also a good brain break. such as drawing, for those who do it. I like a little time with the nunchucks. Requires my entire attention and once I’m in a rhythm I can just zone out a bit. Connected to this is boredom. Go do nothing for a bit, it’s good for creativity.
You gotta eat. Make sure it’s something you want to eat. One of Resistance’s greatest distracters is looking about for food. Ducking out for 5 minutes can slide into an hour very easily. I like to support local shops, so I will often do a shop at the destination if I can.
However, I don’t always leave it up to chance (once I had to drive an extra hour to find a proper supermarket). So, prepping meals is great. Food I love to eat. Food that’s healthy. Food that’s for comfort. Food that makes you feel good.
On one trip I planned a meal out. I gave myself 3 hours. I took a book and some editing stuff with me, and no phone. I stayed there the whole time and got a lot done. The change can work wonders. However, this coming trip I’m on a tight budget so I won’t be heading out for food at all.
Reflection of the Writer’s Retreat.
The trip is over. It’s time to head home. Take some time to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Reflective practice is paramount to improving practice. Try to be honest, and forgiving, with your experience. Focus on all the things you achieved during your retreat.
Did you hit any of your goals? How close did you get if you didn’t get them? What were your barriers? When did you do your best work? If it’s your first time doing something like this you will have a lot of little tweaks you can implement next time. Lastly, congratulate yourself.
You’ve just put your creativity in front of everything else. Even if just for a short time. it’s something to be excited and proud of.
That’s my little brain dump on doing a solo writers retreat. I am not an expert. And I learn more every time I go on one. Hopefully, you’ve got something from this and it might inspire you to head off on your own.
If so, get planning. Let me know what you do!