DIY Writing Retreat

DIY Writing Retreat

I have a healthy appetite for solitude. If you don’t, you have no business being a writer

 Will Self

Have you ever wanted to go to a writing retreat? Maybe one of those supercool ones, hold in a boutique hotel and hosted by a famous writer? I bet you have because I have. If you are anything like me, you love to write but life has a surprising ability to get in the middle, and you find it very difficult to set a few hours aside so you can focus on your story.

For newbie writers it’s usually even worse because writing competes with a day job, family and friends needs, and a tendency to procrastinate because they haven’t yet developed the writing discipline that pros have.

I’ve been there too, and I know how hard can be carving some time for ourselves, without interruptions, to work in our stories. However, those moments are precious to any writer, because solitude is essential to relax and let our creative juices flow.

When I was trying to come up with a system to get more “quality writing time” I found an article on a women’s magazine about turning our bathroom into a “spa area”. The bell went off: since writing retreats were out of my reach, what if I planned my own?

Writing Retreat
Give your writing a few “creative spa” sessions

If you need some focused time to research your book, work in your story or simply to read, daydream and mull over new ideas, you’d love holding your own writing retreat.

Why is a writing retreat important?

Please, don’t think about a retreat in terms of productivity. Of course, if your book goes forward that’s great, but the rewards of solitude are deeper, and shouldn’t be measured in terms of words written only.

  • Working alone equals to focused writing, without the usual distractions, so you’ll be able to concentrate, to generate new ideas or to get unstuck.
  • It frees you from routine. You’ll be doing things in a different place, at a different time or in a different way. Take this chance, and use it to get rid of any unwanted habit that might be impairing your writing.
  • You’ll be more motivated and committed to your writing. You’re going to be working like a pro, so it’s a perfect chance to see if you have what it takes to become a full-time writer.

Before you start

A writing retreat is an adventure trip, so it’s a good idea to do some preparation before you close your home door and take to the road. Make sure that you’ll have a pleasant, fulfilling experience by:

  • Setting a goal: What do you want to achieve? What are you going to use this time for? Write your goal down and stick it where you can see it to avoid using your retreat time for things other than writing.
  • Having realistic expectations: Retreat time won’t save a novel that started badly, but it can help you to find out what to do with it. It won’t instantly remove your writer’s block, but you can come across some new ideas worth exploring. Enjoy this quiet time alone. Don’t push yourself too hard.
  • Scheduling it: Write it on your calendar and, most important, tell your family and friends that you’re attending a writing retreat. Make sure they understand that you won’t be available. Writing time is for you alone.
  • Taking your office with you: Collect all you might need (laptop, charger, pen, paper, inspirational or instructional books, your favorite music…) and keep it at hand.
  • Having a time-management system: You’re going to write like a pro, which means knowing when it’s time to write, when you’re going to have a break, or when can you check your smartphone or your e-mail.

Take that first step

A DIY writing retreat must suit your needs and taste. Do you feel like seeing people and eavesdrop a little? Go write in a coffee shop. Feeling literary and inspired by the masters? Go write in a beautiful library. Write at home, in a picnic area in a nearby park, in hotel lobbies, wherever you feel comfortable and inspired.

This is your chance to enjoy your passion for writing, so take your time. No need to rush. Take small steps, daydream, stroll, and live slowly. Be open to creativity and surprise. Let the words flood you.

At the end of your retreat you’ll have learned something about the craft and, most important, something about yourself as a writer. Trust me.


Echo: Pleasing and Writing

Echo: Pleasing and Writing

Writers write because we love it, because we can help it, we write for pleasure and to relieve the pressure, we write for ourselves but, in the end, we expect others to read what we write. We want some echo.

Have you ever written an article or a post and got no response from any reader? I have. I know that cricketing sound, the tumbleweeds roll-roll-rolling in the empty halls of my head when I get no comments and no feedback. When there’s no echo, even lack of self-confidence might come creeping and crawling: “Am I a good writer? Do I have what it takes to keep on blogging, pitching my stories?” We have all felt this way.

We all want to be read, we want to know that our thoughts, our stories have an impact on somebody else, that there’s people out there who like our style, our voice and our words, and that’s that. We get no echo and we start to feel uneasy. It’s natural, but it shouldn’t be that way.

The “pleasing” game

There’s a lot of information out there advising creative writers to use all the tricks and shortcuts that the advertising and marketing industries have developed: visualize your audience, pick up a single reader, stick a photograph of your “ideal reader” to the wall, know him inside out…All very well when you’re a copywriter but creative writers have no such thing as an “Audience”.

Readers are unique
Juan Gris-The Reader – 1926

Out there, there’re a lot of different people, with different moods and tastes. People who might love our novels and dislike our short stories, people who’ll enthusiastically comment on our posts about healthy eating and ignore our articles about meditation.

We, creative writers, have no “Audience”: we have readers, we have editors and publishers, all of them whimsy and unpredictable – just as we are. We don’t have to please them at any cost…we have to entertain them.

If we try to guess what this or that reader or publisher would rather read, we’re in for a big disappointment. They don’t know what they want to read until they read it. Just like us.

Whom are you writing for?

This a basic question with a simple, basic answer: writers write, first and foremost, for ourselves. To increase our chances of being heard and cause echo – and no crickets – when we put our article or story out there, we’re the ones to please, to convince and to entertain.

Successful writing is a socially accepted act of egotism. We write what we want to read, it’s all about ourselves. There’s nothing like writing about a topic we love: we lose track of time, we immerse ourselves in our thoughts and our writing goes forward much like a good skier descends a slope: with balance, grace and ease.

Please yourself as a writer
Stephen King: writing for himself. Then, for all of us.

Relax, then, and say what you want to say. Be clear, be precise, be accurate and, most of all, be yourself. Whether you’re writing a fantasy-fiction story or an article about poisoning mushrooms, you’re the one to please. If you feel satisfied, there’ll be readers who’ll read you with pleasure. There’ll be others who’ll think you’re a bore, sure, but, who cares about them? They won’t buy your books, anyway.

Featured image by Miroslav Sunjick: