Many authors go on a Writing Retreat from time to time. Which usually means they go away to a cabin, or some sort of a resort, alone or with fellow writers, to concentrate on their writing, sometimes financed through a scholarship or a foundation.
Writing Retreat. For a long time those words sounded magical to me, like they were reserved for a few chosen ones. What masterpieces these authors created during these Writing Retreats, I could only imagine.
Would I ever go on a Writing Retreat? With me living in Kuala Lumpur, I realized that my chances were slim (there are not many Writing Retreats here that I am aware of). Still I felt the need to concentrate on my writing, for a period of time, to see if I could increase my productivity and creativity.
I decided to do it at home. All summer I’ve been having a Writing Retreat in my own home, and this is what I learned:
10 Tips For a Successful Writing Retreat At Home
1) Choose a time that you know will stand a chance of working out, for yourself and your family. The Winter holidays might not be the best option. I chose Summer break, when my girls went back to Sweden and it was just my husband and I at home. I started a few weeks before the school year ended and continued for one week after the girls came home, giving me about twelve weeks in all.
2) Decide what your boundaries are, and discuss them with your family with the mindset to make this work as smoothly as possible for everyone. I told my husband that I needed total immersion in my work, that I would not go to social functions, or cook anything other than very basic food (oatmeal, sandwiches, salad). My husband totally supported me, and did a lot of cooking, which was a treat!
3) Decide on a goal from the get go. Imagine the Big Finish. How will it feel? What will you have accomplished? Challenge yourself. Set a high goal for the entire time, and divide it into smaller chunks: weekly and daily goals. That way you’ll know every day what you need to achieve that day that will take you to the Big Finish.
4) Explain to your partner and your children why this goal is important to you, what you hope to achieve, and that you need their support. When they feel involved in your project, instead of shut out, they will be more inclined to support you. Also explain that they are as important to you as ever, and you will be there for them should anything big come up, but you just need this particular time and brainspace to work on your goal.
5) Give yourself brainspace! Clear your mind from stuff that distract you from your project. That means minimal social media, news, e-mailing etc. And do not pick up your long neglected hobby! Your brain might resist the writing in the beginning (and in the middle, and in the end), and come up with loads of other activities; urgent gardening, home decorating, baking… the list is endless. Tell yourself you can do these things after the Writing Retreat is finished. Stay focused! It’s that “just this one project around the house” that will throw you out of the writing bubble.
6) But don’t take it too seriously. You’re on a Writing Retreat, not in prison. Go for walks and to the gym, listen to music, call someone or meet someone when you feel lonely. Don’t write ALL the time. You need to move your body, eat healthy, shower etc. Many good ideas have been hatched in the shower. 🙂 Don’t forget that writing time includes pondering your project, which often works best when you’re not sitting by the computer.
7) You will inevitably have bad writing days, even though you have prepared hard and is doing everything right. No panic! Just let it come and go. Try to push yourself to write anyway. Or don’t.
8) You will inevitably lag behind with your daily writing goals. No panic! You will catch up another day. Suddenly there are good writing days when the words flow from your fingers like clear mountain streams. Enjoy those days.
9) When the Writing Retreat is over, give yourself credit for all you accomplished, even if you didn’t quite meet your goal. The arts is a fickle business, and we cannot produce material like a machine. You did good, just showing up for the retreat and for seeing it through! Good job!
10) It can be a weird feeling, to go back into the world after being immersed in a project. You might experience some “mind vertigo”. Give yourself a few days to adjust. You might feel relief that the retreat is over, or you might miss it. Either way, life will slowly go back to normal. Don’t forget to show appreciation to everyone who supported you during your Writing Retreat.
(My writing couch)
So how did my Writing Retreat go?
Mid through I started to notice some back pain; which was good and bad news: I had been writing too much, if that is even possible! I adjusted my routine to include more physical activity and the back pain went away.
I ate a lot of chocolate, which was a nice perk, he he.
Towards the end I felt somewhat claustrophobic and joined my husband on a work trip to the ocean for a few days, which was lovely, but made me miss a few days worth of word count. The next time he went back to the ocean for work, I didn’t go with him, instead I stayed home to focus on my writing.
And in the end I reached my Big Finish, which was a great feeling! Woo-hoo! I did complete a twelve-week Writing Retreat in my own home!
I realize twelve weeks is on the longer side, but the next time I decide to have a two weeks, or one week, or even a one weekend Writing Retreat at home, I’ll be better prepared for what’s waiting.
Hope you too found some inspiration from my experience of having a Writing Retreat at home!