==Highly disciplined, undistractible writers need not read further. I know you’re out there==
I went on an in-town writer’s retreat this past weekend. I used to think that the word retreat was synonymous with a place farther away than a ride to the grocery store. A ballpark number of fifty to one hundred miles out of town.
My critique group has scheduled annual fall and spring retreats for several years. We’ve traveled to the McCall area in the early fall before the snows hit, but we started looking closer to home in the spring because an Idaho spring more often than not can be disguised as full-blown winter. We didn’t want to travel the mountain roads if we didn’t have to. Now, since we are watching our budgets so closely, we hold both retreats in the Boise area.
We stay at a hotel for a Friday/Saturday. We look for a place that serves a complimentary breakfast (most do this as a value-add), in-room fridge so we can bring snacks and beverages to keep down the costs, and of course, reasonable room rates. We also look for a place in the hotel other than the room where 4-5 laptops can be set-up for our work and discussion sessions. Some hotels have pocket lounges, some rooms have seating areas with a couch, desk chairs, tables, etc. Or we use the breakfast room after eating hours close. Even if the whole group can’t stay for a weekend, they might be able to come to the hotel on Saturday, so we need to make sure there is room for them to work.
For sleeping arrangements, we look for double beds, pullout couches, and/or a separate room within a suite (again, depending on how many are sleeping over). We found a family suite that had two double beds, main bathroom, a separate room with a double bed and bath, and a pullout couch. So four of us could sleep in our own bed, not that we wouldn’t double up if necessary. The family suite when split four ways was very reasonable. We’ve stayed at one hotel that supplies hot hors d’oeuvres and 2 drink tickets (soda, beer, wine) each night in their lounge in addition to the complimentary breakfast. That saves on a dinner cost for us.
If you can find a hotel with free WiFi access, it’s a plus because we research all sorts of things while we’re on retreat. Many hotels now have that as a value-add amenity. On-site parking is a must and also fairly standard. Bring along an extension cord or a power strip because the outlets might be situated too far away from your workspace and there might not be enough in the room for your CPs.
This weekend, two of us stayed for two nights and the total was $134 or $67 each. We brought cheese and crackers and put them in the fridge, so we stayed in all day Saturday working. We got breakfast for free Saturday and Sunday. We ate out for dinner twice. We could have brought food in and cut down on costs for dinner if we wanted.
Now that the logistics are out of the way, what does a retreat do for you? What is the value of paying to stay somewhere in your own town when you could be at home?
In your home:
- No matter how you clear the decks at home for writing, there are always distractions. You think, “I’ll just put in a load of wash and then write.” Then, “I need to put these things in the dryer,” “I need to hang up and fold these clothes so they don’t wrinkle.” Each time, you get up from the computer. You STOP writing.
- Even if you decide not to answer the phone, the ringing interrupts your train of thought. Or what if it’s one of the kids? Your mother? What if something’s wrong? You STOP writing.
- You can tell your family members that this weekend, you’re hunkering down to write and not to disturb you, but if you’re in the house, they don’t take you seriously. What they have to tell you will only take a minute. 🙂 You STOP writing.
- The cat wants out. You might think you can ignore her, but she’s verbal and the meowing breaks your concentration. You throw a pen at her, but she just moves farther away and meows louder. Or she upchucks a hairball. Yeah, you STOP writing.
Out of your home:
- You power write.
- You have no distractions to interrupt your work.
- There is something about being in a hotel that your family takes seriously. They don’t tend to call you. They really don’t.
- Retreats are like the Berlitz method of learning. Full-out, non-stop flow of creativity and progress.
- You immerse yourself in the writing experience.
- When you run into a plotting or character problem, you can work it out with your CP instantly. You don’t have to e-mail or wait until your next formal session to discuss it.
- You get instant gratification in seeing the word count increase.
You don’t have to travel to exotic or out-of-the-way places to go on a writing retreat. You can jump start a new story, do a complete final revision, or plot your next mystery, all for a reasonable price.
It’s a wonderful experience. TREAT yourself. You deserve it.