The science of writers’ retreats

It’s been pretty quiet here the past few days, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been writing. Last Friday I left on a writers’ retreat with a couple members of my critique group to the beautiful San Juan Islands in Washington state. If you are a writer and haven’t been on a writers retreat or joined a writers group, I highly recommend it. I’ve been to a couple of writing retreats over the past few years, and there is a science to getting the most out of them.

Go to write and go with writers- If you think you can get some writing done on an ordinary vacation with family or friends, chances are you won’t get to sit in one place for very long. If you are like me, you get distracted very easily, so you will need to surround yourself with like-minded people with similar goals. Join a writers group. There is something about sitting in a room with other writers that helps me stay on track. Perhaps it is the clicking of keys as they type, or the thoughtful expressions they wear as they stare beyond the physical world and into their imaginations, that spurs me to stay focused and keep pace. A writers’ retreat is really just an extended writers group meeting, where you occasionally toss around ideas and advice or ask for a certain word or expression that’s been eluding you. Make sure to go with people you know and get along with. Also, come to a consensus about what type of trip it will be. If someone is looking forward to a weekend away from distractions in order to write, while another thinks of it as a social outing with friends, neither will be particularly happy with the outcome.

Go to an inspiring and cozy location- Chances are that you will need to take a break from your writing. Ideally, the purpose of that break will be to reflect on what you’ve written so far and prepare you to write the next scene. Taking a walk along a forest trail or a warm beach, is the perfect recipe for inspiration. But if the scenery is far more beautiful than the indoors, chances are you won’t want to come back in and write. You should avoid places with too many nearby activities. If there is a movie theater down the street, a casino, or a theme park, their proximity will distract you from your goal. Chose a comfortable and homely dwelling that will help you escape the bugs, the heat, or the cold, a place you will want to stay in.

Set the mood- If you write best with a bit of music in the background, by candle light, or while wrapped in your favorite comforter: do it. You’ll need to come to an agreement with the other writers before blaring your inspiration mix, or at least wear headphones. You don’t want to be responsible for distracting another writer.

Go prepared- Hunger, headaches, sunburns, bug bites, and innumerable other distractions, can easily be avoided. Bring whatever medicine and sustenance you might need to counter these distractions. You don’t want to be a downer to everyone else in attendance. Take a break from writing to cook or order some delicious food. Delicious being the key word. Let yourself indulge in some comfort food and perhaps some wine, to make the trip even more idyllic and inspiring. Brew some coffee or otherwise be prepared to wake up early and get things done; it might be a vacation, but you still have a job to do.

Bring a few things to work on- If you aren’t making any headway on your current work-in-progress or if you lost your passion for it, take a break and work on something else. Writers retreats don’t happen often, so it would be a shame to walk away without anything to show for it. You should also feel free to start something new. Bounce a few ideas off of your fellow writers, write an outline, and start typing.

Many say that writing is a solitary occupation, and I say that those people have never been to a good writers’ retreat. Have you been to a writing retreat? Leave a comment if you have anything else to add to this list of considerations.

2 thoughts on “The science of writers’ retreats

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s