How To DIY a Writing Retreat

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All writers dream of one day escaping to the woods, hiding away in a cabin or hotel, and hashing out a huge amount of work in the company of other writers. This is a writing retreat. It’s a very realistic dream. Usually. When we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic. And when the money flow is good – because retreats of any kind are expensive. But, although you can’t grow a forest overnight, you can arrange a DIY writing retreat any time you have two or three days free.

Gather Your Supplies

Get a power cord that reaches to the nearest plug. You may need to measure. This is important. Losing work to an emergency shut down when the battery dies kills hopes, dreams, and enthusiasm. Do not tempt fate. Plug in for your retreat.

If you need to run to the store, do it before the retreat starts, and get enough to ensure you won’t need to go back for a few days.

Keep a small notebook for thoughts, distractions, and ideas that interrupt your work, and keep a pen or pencil on hand.

Have you already done some work in physical notebooks and sketchpads? Bring them in! Be sure to only bring in what’s relevant to your immediate project, though. A notebook full of plot bunnies in a small room is a temptation few writers can resist.

Designate Your Space

You won’t be lonely for the whole of your retreat, but it isn’t really a writing retreat when anyone or anything comes before the actual, physical act of writing. Most retreats ensure participants write by keeping them in isolation through a large part of the day.

To achieve this, whether your share a home or not, you need to designate a space. It may be a walk-in closet with a tv tray and a couple lamps. It may be your bedroom. Maybe you’re one of the blessed few with an actual home office. Wherever you choose, kit it out with enough comforts to make it livable, make sure you have a good seat, and make space for a cup of something good to drink. You’ll need water, and eventually coffee or tea will join the work effort. If you’re of the Hemingway persuasion, some whiskey may stop in, too.

When it’s time to write, put your phone away. Put if far away. Leave it charging in another room. If you live with family or friends, leave them on guard and tell them only to give it back in pre-agreed circumstances (emergencies, word count reached, etc.).

Make Social Arrangements

The key to a writing retreat is social severance. If you can take a day or two off from work, or take advantage of a long, holiday weekend – go for it. Plan ahead to make sure your schedule is clear and you don’t have any extraneous responsibilities.

It is harder for a parent with small children to make a full break with society during their retreat. Society, in their case, involves hungry mouths, curious eyes, and demands for bedtime stories. That is okay. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t take time away from work, or have family responsibilities, arrange for a longer retreat. While other writers can take a weekend to themselves, you can designate three or four hours every evening for a week to work as your retreat.

Team Up With Other Writers

See who else is interested in a DIY writing retreat. Maybe your significant other wants to participate. You may have connections in the Twitter writing community who would jump at the chance. If at all possible, try to arrange a retreat over roughly the same days. It may be an open week where people can take evenings, enjoy a day off work, or just attack the project over the weekend.

Check in with each other with updates at the end of the writing day. What are your word counts? Who needs encouragement? Does anyone have a piece they want to workshop? Linked as a team, you’ll accomplish more during your hours alone.

Have you ever participated in a writing retreat? Are you ready to DIY your own? What essential snacks fuel your muse? Most importantly: what is your writing beverage of choice?

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