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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?