I used to fantasize about spending a weekend in the mountains, or at the beach with my laptop and a few other writers. With a steaming cup of herbal tea in hand (or, realistically, a jumbo travel coffee mug, but it’s a fantasy) and a tranquil view, the words would flow easily from my brain to my keyboard. But writing retreats weren’t for people like me, I thought.
For one thing, I wasn’t sure who I was to call myself a writer. If I attended a writing retreat, my “peers” would inevitably see me for the impostor that I was. For another thing, I was a stay at home mom. My kids were three and one years old. The baby was still nursing. I found it exhausting to feed them dinner and put them to bed on the best of days, let alone when my husband was out. I couldn’t possibly ask him to run the entire show for 48 hours, so that I could indulge in my little hobby.
And then an amazing thing happened on the patio of a local restaurant when I was out to lunch with a couple of writer friends. We appeared to be three ordinary women, enjoying a meal. We were anything but ordinary, though. Secretly, we were observing everything from the well-maintained 40-something woman at a nearby table with shampoo-commercial honey blond hair, to the cracking bright Spanish tile adorning the doorways and windows. Over salad, grilled salmon, and Diet Coke, we discussed the challenges of the writing life. Joelle lamented her novel was stuck. Dana struggled to find topics to write about. I was bursting with ideas, but could never find time to get them from my head to the page. Perhaps, we thought, if we focused on our writing, in a place free from the distractions of our everyday lives, we could overcome our issues.The idea hit us like a ton of pencils: We could do our own writing retreat @Whatevs_blog Click To Tweet
The idea hit us like a ton of pencils: We could do our own writing retreat. Planning it was much easier than letting go of our insecurities. Here’s how we did it:
1) Choose an organizer.
There are various ways to do this. You could put your finger on that part of your face where your nose meets your cheek, see who follows your lead, and let the last one to figure out the game be in charge. Or you could do it the way our group did: One person selects herself because she’s a control freak who can’t bear another minute of wondering whether this amazing idea will actually come to life. I was the self-appointed organizer of our retreat.
2) Select a date (and let go of self-doubt).
I proposed two different weekends to the other women for consideration. Between us, we have three husbands, six children, two dogs, and three chickens. It was a miracle we were able to find a weekend that worked for all three of us. Even more burdensome than our various domestic commitments, though, was our collective self-doubt. At parties, it was our husbands who introduced us as writers, while we shrunk, waiting for some real writer to come out of the shadows to mock us. None of us were convinced we deserved an entire weekend away from our families to write. The fact was, before there was time to talk ourselves out of it, I’d proposed the dates, we checked with our husbands, who were fully on board, and the plan was in motion.
3) Find a place.
We determined that we wanted to prioritize writing over driving. With that in mind, I limited the search to properties within a 20-mile radius of everyone involved. I scoured VRBO and AirBnB to find with three options to present to the group for consideration, and finally selected the perfect three-bedroom condo in an adorable neighborhood, close to both nature and restaurants.
4) Bring your laptop and a sense of humor.
Our perfect condo wasn’t actually perfect. It offered only two parking spots, so I arrived by bicycle. That way, my two friends could take advantage of the available spaces, which were just the right size for a Mini-Cooper. Unfortunately, they drove SUV’s. With lots of flagging and hoping, we made it work. As for the three bedrooms I could have sworn it had? There were two. Joelle and I shared the king sized bed in the master. Dana had the room off of the kitchen all to herself. Perhaps the Nose Goes method would have done a better job of selecting an adept organizer.
5) Set your intention for the retreat.
Shortly after we arrived on Friday evening, we went out for margaritas and tacos. Then we came back to the condo and discussed our goals. It felt really good to announce our goals in a quasi-public setting. And being tipsy certainly didn’t hurt. Research shows you are 1028% more likely to pen a bestselling novel when you tell your friends your goals.
6) Put your head down and write. Take a break. Repeat.
We were free. For two glorious nights and two amazing days, we were free of our children, our piles of laundry, and our to-do lists. We were not obligated to do anything. Each day we rose before the sun and started the day with a walk or a run. We could have slept in. It would have been amazing. But we were on a writing retreat. We were starting to get it: We were writers. And when writers have writing on their schedule, they don’t sleep. They write.
After breakfast and coffee (or Diet Coke) we sat together, in silence, and wrote. We stopped for lunch. Then we wrote some more. We fixed a fabulous Thai meal together, under the direction of Dana, who happens to be a food blogger. (I highly recommend inviting a food blogger on your DIY writing retreat). We enjoyed our meal. We drank wine. Then we shared some of what we’d written. It’s always scary to share your words, because what you’re really sharing is yourself. But we were in this together and we created a sacred safe place in that stylish AirBnB condo and the sharing felt good, despite (or maybe because of) the nerves and the tears.
We went to sleep, woke up, and did it again.
7) Be amazed at what you’ve created.
When the weekend was over, I looked at everything I’d checked off my list. I felt like a rock star. I had no idea I could be so productive. In two days and two nights, I’d written what normally takes me at least two weeks to produce. Within a few days, three of the pieces I’d created that weekend were accepted for publication, with two of those for pay. Dana drafted seven blog posts and learned how to use Pinterest. Joelle had written 9,000 more words of her novel. When we assessed our progress, high fives and hugs were exchanged with reckless abandon.Before you decide you can’t afford a writing retreat... Click To Tweet
Before you decide you can’t afford a writing retreat, ask yourself what you hope to gain from attending one. If your goal is to focus on writing without the distractions of the daily grind, think about a DIY writing retreat. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or fly to an exotic, tranquil locale. All you need is a writer friend or two and some imagination. Margaritas are optional.