Five Steps to a Retreat

24 Apr

Have you ever been on a writer’s retreat? If not, find some people and go. For years, our critique group has retreated twice a year. Spring and fall. In the summer, our chapter goes on a weekend writing outing. Retreats are wonderful writing tools. They can rejuvenate and refresh if you follow a few steps.

It takes us away from the everyday and stimulates the brain cells.

Here’s how to have a great experience.

  1. Who’s in charge? We split up the responsibilities. One person searched out the location, someone coordinates the activities, someone picks the restaurants, and someone is in charge of the Girly Grab Bag…more on that later. Split things up so no one is overwhelmed.
  2. Location, location, location. Pick a place that’s interesting or new. You don’t have to go out of town. It’s nice, but not necessary. We’ve gone to resort towns, B&B’s of all kinds. The resort town was relaxing. There wasn’t much to do except write, but that’s why we were there. One B&B was the former home of Senator Frank Church, where the food was great. And a haunted former school where the food was nominal, but the atmosphere was interesting. We went to the haunted place over Halloween. To our delight, there was a massive haunted house in the abandoned college across the way. We had a great time. We’ve also stayed in town. Nothing new or particularly interesting, but fun.
  3. Make sure the place you chose had what you need. I’m not just talking about breakfast here. Are you going to need the internet or a printer? It’s a hassle to drag a printer along, but fortunately most full service hotels have a business center. If you’re going to a small place, you may have to take one along if you truly need it.
  4. Go with a plan in mind. This can be as general as write anything, or as specific as finish chapter three. Whatever the goal, keep it clearly in mind and don’t forget any information you need to accomplish your goal. Take into account how long you’re going to be gone and let that be your guide to how much you take. If it’s for a weekend, you can get along without a lot, but if you’re headed for a marathon week, you’ll need more. I use a laptop as my main computer so when I go somewhere, I have everything. No forgetting that vital document you need for your goal.
  5. Respect. Keep in mind the needs of the others in the group. We have writers who need complete silence and some who do better with companionship. It may necessitate two rooms, or other accommodations. Whatever it takes, be cognizant of your friends’ wishes.
  6. Now for the fun. You can’t keep your head in your manuscript all the time. Your brain will turn to Silly Putty. Plan for recreation. Even if it’s a few glasses of wine over dinner or Girly Grab Bags. Over the year, we scour the landscape for inexpensive, but unique gifts. We wrap them all in the same paper and toss them in a bag. Then randomly, we dig into the bag for a treat. It’s a distraction, fun, and everyone goes home with a prize or two.

Retreats are not that daunting when broken down into steps. All you need to do is coordinate your schedules.

Do you go on retreats? What was the best or worst you’ve been on?


Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Idaho


16 responses to “Five Steps to a Retreat

  1. Liz Fredericks

    April 24, 2012 at 6:49 AM

    Retreats may be my favorite part of writing . . . they are certainly the most predictably rewarding!

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 24, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      It is so great to just immerse yourself in writing. The people around you aren’t asking anything of you except for writing help. My favorite too.

  2. Meredith Allen Conner

    April 24, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    I finished my book on my last retreat, laughed myself silly between wine and good friends and came home totally rejuvenated!

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 24, 2012 at 9:38 AM

      It was great! You finished a book and I started one.

  3. Clarissa Southwick

    April 24, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Peggy, I’ve always considered you the expert on retreat organization. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 24, 2012 at 9:39 AM

      I love retreats. They’re good for the head, heart and writing.

  4. ramblingsfromtheleft

    April 24, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    Peggy, I have never done a retreat but am drawn to the idea of participating in one. Perhaps I will find liken-minded writers who would consider this. However, I love what you wrote and can glean a great deal from a virtual retreat. So does that mean you’ll send me a treat??

  5. Peggy Staggs

    April 24, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    I encourage you to find some friends and go. You’ll get hooked on them and end up like us going two or three times a year. It doesn’t have to be exotic or expensive, but it does have to be with the right people. And if you find the right writing buddies it will be your TREAT.

  6. Corina

    April 24, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Great tips! I’m looking forward to my first retreat this summer. Any chance that haunted school/college was in Albion? My grandparents are from that area, and I’ve heard lots of stories about the old Normal School, but never that it was haunted!

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 24, 2012 at 5:16 PM

      Yup. We had a great time at the haunted house.

  7. Janis McCurry

    April 24, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Retreats give you permission to write and not think about laundry, phone calls, cleaning.

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 24, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      I personally like the no cleaning and laundry part. Tim is always doing it when I get home. Just in time so I can help. Sigh…husbands.

  8. Lynn Mapp

    April 24, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Retreats give us the chance to restart our creative process.

    • Peggy Staggs

      April 24, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      I love the jump start they always give me.

  9. maryvine

    April 24, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    Great tips,Peggy!

  10. Peggy Staggs

    April 24, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    Thanks. I do love to get away.


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