Every year in August my writing friend and I head off for a week of pure writing fun. This will be our third year and we are already planning. The retreat is booked for our preferred dates, leave forms submitted and approved. Goodies we keep forgetting to take are listed (like pillows, extra milk and eggs). It has worked really well both times and we are sure that it will not only be just as good this year but will continue on every year.
We were recently talking about how we wish we could go twice a year but it isn’t possible. Then over the last weekend we had the chance for a mini retreat when my friend’s husband was away on business. And it was as simple as me turning up after ballet classes were finished and staying the weekend.
It was a true retreat for me, given that I didn’t have to worry about pets, kids or the like. I had even left a volunteer at home doing the washing. All I had to do was write (and a little cooking/food preparation).
The key to any retreat, whether self-organised, time with a friend or a professionally organised one is preparation and focus. OK, so that is two things. But I find that once you are organised and ready for the time then the focus follows along easily.
I started the mini retreat with a plan (although rough):
- write 1000 words a day for my current big project,
- edit current short story,
- draft a couple of blog post ideas,
- spend time planning writing ideas (although this one is a bit of a procrastination tool because if I am honest I have my writing and publishing plan pretty well set).
Retreats need to be away from the pressures of life. I have mentioned that I am living with my parents and I find that even when my daughter is away with her dad and I think I have some time, Mum finds something to talk about or check, or ask or get me to do. Life will be different once I have my own space but it is nothing like working in a space where you only need to write.
A retreat can be a bit like working in a library, with a kettle and fridge handy. You just get on with the work at hand. If you do this with like minded people then you can enjoy it even more. Not everyone wants to write for 12 hours a day on a retreat – some may like a walk at lunch time, or a visit to the shops in the afternoon or movies every night. We like to write for 12 hours a day and so that is what we do.
Some people like to sleep in or go to bed early. We are a bit different there and on our last retreat we found that sometimes one of us wanted to stay up late and the other would get up early. It is a matter of respecting the other person’s (or people’s) needs and being quiet while they sleep, and so they don’t wake you when you want to sleep.
Honestly, I think we jagged it. Not everyone is as lucky as I am with my writing buddy. And in some ways I am sure I get more from the friendship than she does because she is much more driven than I. Without her there typing away I am sure I would get distracted and watch TV or wander out for a walk or a run. It is a bit like my bike class at the gym. Quite often I think I would have given up but with the trainer pushing from the front and the others riding along beside me I have no choice but to go with it. And I am all the better for it at the end. Completing the class proves that I can do it. Sometimes we need that little push by doing something with others that we would not get by working alone. And other than the ideas planning, I achieved everything I wanted to.
How could you find a little writing retreat? Could it be a day in the library? Do you have someone that will keep you going that might like to join you?