If you're a writer, you might've heard the term, "writing retreat." If you think it sounds like a fancy place writers go to sip tea and work on their novels, you'd be right...and wrong.
Writing retreats have one goal: to get. writing. done.
That can happen at your own house (staycation, anyone?), a camp trailer in the woods, your grandma's house, or in a fancy hotel or airbnb. As long as it's a place you can devote a period of time to writing with no distractions, you're golden.
I've been wanting to do a writing retreat for some time now, but I've never found the opportunity to do it. But I'm behind on my draft for book 2 in my Rising Elements series, and this week was my daughter's spring break from school.
So I did the thing.
I called my angel mother-in-law and arranged for my daughter to spend a few days at her house. Then I booked an airbnb nearby and voila! Writing retreat achieved.
I came into this week with the lofty goal of writing 10,000+ words per day and smashing my goal of getting caught up on my draft.
As you can probably guess, things didn't go according to plan, haha!
But I did accomplish A LOT! And I'll share exactly how much I accomplished after I go over the 3 steps I followed to have success on this writing retreat.
Step 1: Set the Stage
Whether you're doing your writing retreat at an airbnb or at home on your couch, you need to set the stage if you want to have success. The whole purpose of a writing retreat is to write with zero distractions. So now it's time to eliminate the distractions from your space. Turn off the TV, put your phone on do not disturb, and make a commitment to ignore everything else--at least during your writing sprints.
Another part of setting the stage is making sure that your writing stage is set for you to write a metric ton of words. If you're a plotter, make sure your outline is cleaned up and ready to go, because you won't have time in the middle of a writing sprint to figure it out. If you're a pantser... well, may the writing muse be with you.
Just kidding. Even if you're a pantser, you can take a minute to think about the scene you'd like to write before a writing sprint starts and jot down a few notes--or just keep them in your mind so you have a generic roadmap to follow once you start writing.
Step 2: Know Your Limits
Remember how I mentioned my 10,000 words per day goal? That was me NOT knowing my limits. Listen, even if you set aside 12 hours per day to write, that doesn't mean you can mentally or physically WRITE for that amount of time. (Maybe some writers can. If that's you, YAY! But it's not me.)
I found that I could work in 2-hour chunks, and then I needed a break. So I did a few two-hour sessions throughout the day and took decent-sized breaks in between where I ate lunch, checked emails, and worked on other work-related projects.
During my two-hour writing sessions, I did four 25-minute writing sprints. 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. On my 5-minute breaks, I got up and stretched, moving around until my body felt more limber. The longer I sit in a chair, the more stiff I get!
I found out through trial and error that 6,000-ish words per day is my sweet spot. This left plenty of time to work on other work projects, relax, and rest my eyes from the screen. For some, that might seem like a lot, but for this busy mama who hustles just to get 2,000 words a day, that's HUGE!
Step 3: Get your butt in the chair and WRITE!
This is the hardest part. It's time to tune out the distractions, shake off the procrastination, and DO THE WORK.
I found myself continually getting distracted during my writing sprints. I would start thinking about what to eat for dinner or what my daughter was doing with Grandma or the work emails landing in my inbox. I had to keep redirecting my thoughts back to my manuscript, and it took some discipline, but guess what? IT WORKED!
This writing retreat was such a success for so many reasons. I had 4 whole days to work with no interruptions, and that was worth its weight in gold. I may not have written 10,000 words a day like I'd originally planned, but I did write almost 25,000 words in that 4-day period. Not only that, but I had the chance to read some excellent craft books, get caught up on work projects that had been sitting on the back burner (audiobook fans, where you at? Fun news coming soon!!), and spend time ALONE.
I'm an introvert by nature, but these days I never spend time alone. It was really nice to spend a few days where no one needed me. No one (except myself) asked me for a snack every five minutes. I had zero responsibilities except to my writing, and that was liberating.
My overall takeaway? I'll be doing a writing retreat again very soon.
What are your thoughts about writing retreats (or any kind of retreat, really)? Have you ever done one? Would you consider it? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next week!