DL's Writers Retreat

It's a hard fact for us aspiring writers -- those of us with full-time jobs -- that time is a rare commodity and finding enough of it to ply our craft is easier said than done. Before I get lambasted by stay-at-home mom's or dad's, I realize that finding time to write for them isn't necessarily a piece of cake either. We all have our struggles with this, which I've lamented the point on numerous posts here before.  We each find a way to carve out just enough time to hold that fire inside of us at bay, a fire that can only be quelled by ink and paper.

Some of us are night birds, preferring the wee hours of the night to write, a time when most of the world (in our time zone) is asleep. Others are early-risers. Again, a time when many are still slumbering and the stillness enveloping the world has yet to be disturbed. We often choose these times to let our imaginations loose, and its because we don't want disappoint the people in our lives by withdrawing into our writing shell while they are still active. So we wait, anxiously, for a time when one of our passions won't conflict with the others. It comes with a price, however, and usually it's paid by sacrificing our own respite. No one ever said this was going to be easy...right?

I've found my own way to tackle this time issue, and it's in the form of my own personal writers retreat. At various times over the course of the year I'll pick a weekend, timing it with key development points for my projects, and I'll schedule a full-time writing weekend. Usually I'll tack on a couple vacation days to make it a long weekend, trying to maximizing my time, but it's not a requirement. I'll make sure it doesn't conflict with a family event or something that all of us would want to take part in, then I let everyone know what I've scheduled. I give plenty of notice (at least a month) and everyone in my family has been really good about working that into their own calendars.

When the weekend arrives, I've prepped as best I can (i.e. research, critiques, music playlist, coffee, etc.) and as soon as I leave work that first night I dive in. I write, revise, edit until late at night, grab a couple hours of sleep, then get right back to it first thing in the AM. I'm wearing my headphones the entire weekend and no one disturbs me, because they all know what is going on.  When I come up for air (or a potty break), the family will ask how the project is going or if I need any pages read (which they are always ready to do), but no one is there trying to pull me away or assign a chore. The entire weekend is just about writing...and it is pure heaven.

I've never been to an actual writers retreat.  The picture below kinda represents what I think one would be like -- seclusion in some hard to reach location, all the needed tools, and an environment conducive to creative thinking. From what I understand the only thing mine is missing (other than an exotic location and the exorbitant price tag that goes with it) is the interaction with other writers. That's a key omission, one that could prove really useful when brainstorming plot points or character traits, but usually I've already worked through that sort of stuff ahead of time with my critique group. All I try to achieve with my retreat is seclusion, focus, and acceptance from my family by pre-planning it so it has minimum impact family activities.  Doing it in a chunk, rather than depriving myself of sleep (which is never a smart thing) over the course of weeks, just seems more effective to me. I'm also one who doesn't enjoy reading a book and having to put it down lots of times. Given a choice, and the time, I'd consume it in one sitting. I guess I write the same way.



I have another retreat planned for the coming 4th of July weekend. I have a major revision to my latest lined up and its time. Wish me luck.

How about you? How do you manage your writing time?

13 comments

  1. This sounds lovely. I may have to implement something like this. Dedicating time to your craft which cannot be stolen away by daily nonsense is vital. It's a skill I've yet to develop.

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    1. I HIGHLY recommend it! The work I accomplish over the course of a weekend saves me MONTHS! :)

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  2. I do the same thing, but I do try to get myself away from my own home environment. Too many distractions there. Good luck to you over the 4th, DL.

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    1. If I get distracted, its because of me...not my family. They are really supportive of my retreats! :)

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  3. Sounds like a great idea. Glad your family supports you when you go into writer retreat mode.
    I work best with three to four hour chunks of time. When I'm writing, it's every night no matter what. My wife knows that won't last forever.

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    1. Yes...give me large chunks! The hour here and there just doesn't work for me.

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  4. This is a perfect, perfect idea. I would love to do this. I think I'd be more likely to allow family to disturb me, so my version might involve going to the library or a cafe for an entire day. Hmm. I'll have to think about implementing this...

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    1. Give it a try one weekend. I think you'll be surprised with the results you're able to achieve. :)

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  5. So that's your secret. ;) I wish I could do the writing retreat thing, but I'm just not that fast...or I'm just way too distracted. I think the most I've ever written in a single day was 12,000 words, and it killed me for at least 3 days. I'm better with a steady 500 to 2,000 words a day. (2,000 when I'm steadily drafting.) The hard part there is clearing the time and pawning off family so I can make it happen in the 2 hours available.

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    1. I fully expect to get through my revision of PRICK - or at a minimum the vast majority of it - this weekend. It's more a matter of FOCUS than speed for me. :)

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  6. The retreat in your picture has a lovely view; not one that distracts but one that calms and helps focus on what you're doing at that time.

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  7. Sounds like a great way of going about it. When I'm on deadline and need to get serious words written, I sometimes take a day off and go to the library to write. I can usually knock out a good 7K in an afternoon there, while I usually struggle to get 2K a day in otherwise, working around my job, kids and other responsibilities.

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  8. I love this idea, DL! I need to do this!

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