This Summer, Treat Yourself to a DIY Writing Retreat.
by Sarah Welch
With the days getting longer and the weather getting warmer, spring and summer feel like the perfect time to re-energize ourselves around those personal goals we may have set aside in the colder, darker months of winter. If those goals include your current work-in-progress, a DIY writing retreat is the perfect way to recommit yourself to your writing.
A writing retreat can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like — the possibilities are endless! But even the simplest retreat requires some advance planning to be truly productive and inspiring. Whether you’re picking your writing back up again after a dry spell or you just want to take your practice to the next level, here’s a step-by-step guide to sending yourself on a successful DIY writing retreat.
Step 1: Book It
First thing’s first: make your retreat official by putting it on your calendar. If you can give yourself a full weekend, that’s great. If not, block out a day — or even just half of one — when you can hand over your regular responsibilities to somebody else and focus on yourself and your work in progress.
Once you’ve picked out your time and date(s), put them on the calendar and let your colleagues, friends, and relatives know that, while you’ll still be available for emergencies, you plan to be offline during this time and would appreciate privacy and solitude.
Step 2: Choose a Locale
Your ideal writing retreat may be a gorgeous home in some exotic location with a beautiful view — an airy beach house, a cottage in an idyllic mountain town, or a cabin in the woods. For me, it’s an elaborate, nineteenth century mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans. If you have the time and the means to book yourself a weekend away in your ideal location, go for it!
But if that dream destination is out of reach, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a productive retreat. (Full disclosure, I have never taken myself on that swanky Garden District writing retreat, but a girl’s gotta have goals!) The only non negotiable for a retreat space is that it inspires you. Maybe it’s the quiet novelty of your friend’s guesthouse, a private office in a coworking space where you’re surrounded by creative energy, or a hotel room in town where you can live in the lap of luxury for twenty-four hours.
If you’d prefer an at-home retreat, simply designate an area of your home as your retreat space. If you work or write from home regularly, this may be your usual spot, but in the spirit of retreat, you may also choose a different room or corner. (If you live with other people, try to claim a space with a door you can shut.)
Step 3: Set Your Goals
Before you head out, consider what you want to accomplish on your retreat. Maybe you have a basic outline, but you want to use this time to put your detailed plot structure in place. Maybe you want to bust through a block and write the next 5,000 words of your draft. Maybe you’ve already finished your draft, and you want to spend your retreat time focused on revisions. Regardless of where you are in the process, setting specific, measurable, achievable goals will help you prepare — mentally and physically — to make the most of your retreat.
Step 4: Invite a Friend (Optional)
If you work better with other people keeping you accountable, or you just want to share the experience, invite a fellow writer or two to join you, either in person or online. Keep each other inspired throughout the retreat with writing sessions, yoga breaks, and check-ins or problem-solving sessions. You can each take a wing of that NOLA mansion (or a table in your house), or you can Zoom in to each other’s individual retreat spaces for virtual camaraderie.
If you work better alone, skip this step!
Step 5: Gather Your Supplies
Whether you’re travelling across the country or across the house, you’ll want to gather everything you’ll need to feel productive, creative, and cozy in your retreat space. Here’s a checklist of staples to get you started:
Laptop and charger
Your favorite pens
Printouts of your work in progress
Your goals and game plan
Books in your genre
Playlists for your main characters and your WIP as a whole
Tea or coffee fixings
If you’re staying at home, declutter and rearrange to make your space feel different and novel, transforming it from into your personal writing oasis.
Step 6: Make Your Agenda
Whether you have a half day, a full weekend, or even longer, determine how you’re going to spend your time. Obviously, the bulk of your retreat will be dedicated to actually writing, but you may include some other activities as time allows in order to stay relaxed and energized and keep your creative juices flowing.
Exercise: A walk around the block or a stretch session, either before you get started or as a writing break, will help you clear your head and keep your blood flowing.
Reading: Dip into a book on craft or a book by a writer you really admire — in your genre or not — for inspiration to get you started or pull you out of a rut.
Snack: Your DIY writing retreat is no time for a sad desk lunch. When it’s time for a snack or meal, put your laptop or your notebook away, sit down with your food, and focus on enjoying it. Then, return to your desk with a full tummy and a fresh perspective.
Meditation: Clear your head and let your mind wander. When you’re not thinking about your manuscript, you’ll be surprised by the ideas that start to creep in.
Accountability check-ins: If you’ve invited a friend to join you, check in with each other once in a while to see how the writing is going, what kind of progress you’re making, and what your goals are for the next writing session.
You’ll want to be flexible, adjusting the schedule as needed. (For example, if you’ve just had a breakthrough on a tough scene, please postpone that 3:45 p.m. yoga flow and keep writing!) But by planning those breaks ahead of time, you’ll find it easier to stay motivated during your writing time, rather than procrastinating away your retreat.
Step 7: (Re)treat Yourself!
You’ve prepped, you’ve packed, you’ve made your plan. Now, get to it! Have fun, and happy writing!
Sarah Welch is the book editor and writing coach behind Inkdrop Lit. She works with independent authors to develop and perfect their stories, polishing them so they’ll move readers in all the right ways. In every engagement, Sarah strives for a collaborative, uplifting process that leaves authors feeling empowered and confident. (Website | Instagram)