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How to Create Your Very Own Writing Retreat

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When you’re having trouble starting or finishing a writing project, a retreat can help you recharge, get re-inspired, and make headway with your craft. A writing retreat offers dedicated time and space for you to set aside your daily responsibilities to focus on writing. It feels like a restorative getaway to reflect on your creativity, while also helping you productively engage with your writing. Formal retreats can often take the form of a hosted space in a special setting or destination that participants travel to for a predetermined amount of time (sometimes as long as several weeks), to work on or complete a writing project.

If your creativity is in a rut and you’d like to make progress on a big writing project, yet you don’t have the budget for or feel comfortable with traveling to a formal writing retreat, a DIY version at home—or close to it—might be the solution. Here’s how to create one.

 1 Reframe the word “retreat”

The word “retreat” may elicit ideas of travel or vacation. For some, it might even bring up thoughts of networking, socializing, and workshops—much like what you’d expect at a professional conference. 

Some retreats have these elements baked into them. But in its simplest form, a DIY writing retreat affords you respite from day-to-day distractions that pull you away from your writing process. It can be as short as blocking out half a day or a full weekend, but it gives you the space to focus on writing over chores and errands.

During this reframing step, think about the boundaries you want to set during your writing retreat to help you carve out that focus time. For example, you can restrict cell phone or social media use before 5 p.m. each day.

2 Find a location

Over the course of the pandemic, your home might have felt more restrictive, rather than like a writing sanctuary. For a fresh perspective, reorganize and declutter your chosen space, all while keeping your writing flow and function in mind. 

If there isn’t an ideal secluded area in your home, consider going to nearby spots such as the public library, a quiet park with picnic tables, a coworking space, or an unused room at your local recreation or community center. The key is finding a quiet, comfortable place to work that won’t present too many distractions and enables access to an electrical outlet if you’re writing on a device.

>>Read More: What Type of Writer Are You?

3 Schedule your daily activities 

Once you’ve decided on your protected writing space, create a writing retreat itinerary. This includes a schedule of activities for the retreat and what they entail. Here are things to consider:

  • Writing blocks: What are you writing? How long will you spend writing it? What’s your goal at the end of the block, day, and retreat?
  • Mealtimes: Prepare meals ahead of time, or decide where you’ll pick up food. Keep mealtimes separate from your writing blocks, and don’t eat where you write.  
  • Breaks: Choose rejuvenating activities that enhance your creativity, like meditating, listening to music, or reading a book that isn’t directly related to your work.
  • Exercise: Physical activity can be restorative for the body and mind. This can be as simple as a walk around the block or fifteen minutes of stretching.
  • Sleep: Ensure that you have sufficient sleep before and after each retreat day.

Skipping this vital planning step risks setting yourself up to fail. Without a map of what you want to accomplish during the retreat, you’re losing valuable hours of writing focus.

4 Put together a writing toolkit

Now that you’ve meticulously planned your retreat, gather what you’ll need for your daily writing. Below is a list of what to consider, but this will look different for you depending on your retreat duration, location, and writing goals:

  • Retreat itinerary
  • Laptop and charging cable
  • Notebook
  • Your favorite pen or pencil
  • Books related to your genre or project
  • Writing resources (e.g., style guides, research notes, interview transcripts, etc.) 
  • Inspirational tools (e.g., music playlist, yoga mat, candles, etc.)
  • Comfort items (e.g., blanket, seat cushion, sun hat, etc.)
  • Water and snacks

These are just a few ideas of what to have in your toolkit for a successful writing retreat. A solo writing retreat can re-energize your creativity, but it also requires that you hold yourself accountable.

Alternative option: Writing retreats for small groups

If you benefit from external accountability and feedback, a small-group writing retreat is an option. The steps discussed above still apply. However, you’ll need to collaborate on the logistics of a group retreat with the rest of the participants.

For ease, everyone can bring their own writing toolkit and set up their own individual workstation in the group space. For example, if hosted at a home, one person can write in a spare bedroom while another takes the dining area. 

The group approach includes some social benefits, too. The itinerary could include a time of day where group members share their work for an informal peer review to get feedback or a designated time for discussing each others’ progress or blockers. The group could also plan an opening coffee chat or closing meal to foster a sense of community.

Tips to stay on track with your writing habit

Keep these tips in mind to stick to a routine, whether you’re writing in an individual or group setting:

  • Start with small goals.
  • Turn off mobile device notifications. 
  • Schedule daily fifteen-minute writing sessions.
  • Communicate boundaries while writing.
  • Always keep a notebook and pen on you.
  • Have some writing prompts in mind if you need to get your ideas flowing.

A DIY writing retreat can be a low-cost escape to retool your craft. Not only will you end up with written words to show for your time, but also you’ll feel more productive and vitalized from the experience.

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