‘I am going on a writing retreat!’ Now that this becomes more popular, I hear the same questions I asked myself for a long time all around me. ‘What is a writing retreat?’
Okay, let me play Captain Obvious for a moment.
A writing retreat is a location where authors can withdraw to focus on their work. This can be anywhere, but most retreats are organized in rural areas or cities. Writers can work in solitude or groups. Some retreats offer events, courses, or workshops that the writer can participate in. Others ask the author to prepare a class themselves.
So a writing retreat is all about, well, writing. There, I said it. You have your answer. But is it that simple? Of course not. There is a lot more to it than meets the eye. So let’s see what goes on in a writing retreat and why you should go on one as well (spoiler alert: it doesn’t even have to cost you money).
The purpose of a writing retreat
Imagine: you work a 40-hour job but also want to invest in your writing career. But the hours that your boss keeps you hostage often go beyond said 40, you want to spend time with your partner, the house needs cleaning, you need to do groceries, your friends want to see you, you have to cook, there is a book you want to finish and let’s not forget the gym.
Before you know it, you’ll find yourself sitting down for an hour max. And of that hour, it takes you ten minutes to get into the zone… If you are lucky.
The purpose of a writing retreat is to get out of that daily rat race. To have a moment in time where there are no whining kids, where your meals are being delivered to your door and all you have to do is relax and write. Make sure you take plenty of time to unwind. See it as some me-time for authors.
Change of scenery
In the Netherlands, where I am from, we have a saying that roughly translates to a change of food that will make you want to eat. In other words, when you step out of your everyday environment, you’ll find a different sort of motivation and energy.
Writing retreats play right into this idea. Going to a different location, if even for the weekend, can spark your imagination. You will see that the different surroundings and a different view does wonder.
For me, it’s like somebody flips a switch in my brain. I can just go. Now and then, I book myself a hotel room or housesit for a friend. Who can say no to some free me-time? I do like to indulge by ordering room service or take out so that I can spend all my energy on writing.
But you can make it as expensive or cheap as you like. You can even do a DIY Writing Retreat at home. I like to venture out into nature, but there are many options to choose from.
Kumbaya or flying solo
There are as many writing retreats as there are flavors. Some of them will place you in a group so that you can have writing discussions and help each other out when you get stuck. Other retreats are for authors who prefer to work solo.
Then there are retreats in the middle of nowhere, where you are cut from any form of communication with the outside world. And then there are the opposites, retreats that buzz with life. Where you can join yoga classes, go horseback riding, follow fishing classes, and much more.
To be honest, the last one would only keep me from writing. With all that fun stuff, it is more of a regular retreat. But, that is personal. Some writers would thrive in such an environment. The best one is the one that fits your personality and makes you feel comfortable.
What I love most about taking a writing retreat is that it works hella motivating. You can focus better, but you ‘allow’ yourself to focus on your work without the pressure of other tasks.
You will also explore what routines work for you. Writing until deep in the night or waking at the crack of dawn, you will find out.
I write my first draft best in the early mornings, for example. I wake up at five, blink the sleep out of my eyes, grab my laptop and just go. My brain doesn’t object just yet. But during the writing retreat, I found out that when I’m getting in the right mood, I can keep going deep into the night, and that is where my most original plot twists are born. That is fuel in my tank!
If you like groups, you have the benefit of being able to brainstorm, discuss and test your work right there and then. The feedback of other writers, their insights will push you even harder. I say score!
Writing retreats have many benefits, but they all serve the same purpose. To pull you out of your daily life and create a safe environment so that you can focus on what you wish to do. Write. Who the hell can say no to that?