The Do’s And Don’ts Of A Writing Retreat

Whether it’s professionally organized, a DIY job, with fellow writers, or flying solo, a writing retreat is a great way to spend focused time with your current WIP.

It can help you hit deadlines, make editing progress, give you the space and time to create an in-depth outline or write anything from draft one to draft twenty.

It sounds awesome, and those who have been on a writer’s retreat know that it is awesome. I’m about to go on my second, and using last year’s experience, here are some do’s and don’ts that you might find handy if you’re ever planning to go on your own!

The Do’s And Don’ts Of A Writing Retreat

Do Pick A Date

Step one is to pick a date that works for you and anyone else who will partake in the fun. It’s also handy to pick a date when you’re least likely to have outside influences mess things up.

While the unpredictability of life can’t be helped, if you’re going away on a weekend when things at home or work will fall apart without you, you’ll only spend your retreat worrying about other things. Aim for a time when things are going as smoothly as possible so you can enjoy being away, stress-free!

If it’s a group setting, being able to pick a date that suits most of the people you want to invite means more writers to share the fun and the cost. Having a set date also makes it real. Everyone knows it’s coming up and can prepare, not only to leave their lives for a weekend but to also decide the writing project they want to work on.

Don’t Go Too Far

You don’t want to spend most of your writing time getting to the actual retreat as that will cut into your precious creative time.

Select a place that everyone can get to within an hour (the less the better) so you can settle in and then get to writing as soon as possible. A quick traveling distance also makes for a shorter trip home at the end of your retreat, which is always a relief if you have work the next day. There’s also no better way to finish a weekend away than by getting back home with as little trouble as possible.

Do Make A Plan

While the point of a writing retreat is to go somewhere else and simply write, a solid plan is still a good idea to have in place.

As writers, we all know how well “just write” goes down when we have a few spare hours or a free writing day ahead of us. “Writing” turns into scrolling social media, procrasta-baking, doing a load of laundry, or the sudden need to spring clean the house even though it’s winter.

“Just write” is not a plan. “Write from 9am to 12pm” is a plan. “Lunch from 1pm to 1:30pm, then editing until 3pm” is a plan. “Tea break at 4pm and a chat about plotting with writer friends” is also a plan and the kind you should make on your retreat.

Look at the hours you have away, block out meals, downtime, sleep, and walks, and fill in the hours you have to write. When you have those hours, plan what you’re going to work on during that time, I.e. chapter 4 editing, chapter 12 descriptions, writing chapter 20, scene 1, etc.

Making a plan and sticking to it will keep you on track and up your level of progress.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Distracted

You already know how easy it is to get distracted from writing when you’re by yourself, and when you have others around to talk to and do things with, the urge to do anything but write is strong.

You are all on the retreat for a reason, though. There is work to be done, and you have allocated time for it. You have also singled out time for being social, so don’t worry about missing out on cheese plates and fun conversations—you won’t!

Keep any distractions, like your phone, out of reach with a phone jail or by putting it in another room, and use the fact that others will be working around you as motivation. If everyone works on their words at the same time, it’s much easier to focus on your own tasks and complete them.

Do Get To Know Everyone

You could be on the retreat with friends you know, or new people who you are meeting for the first time. In either case, get to know everyone. Who knows, a chat about a plotting problem you’re having, or the love for the same chocolate during the afternoon snack break might lead to a new writer friendship, some deeper bonding with the writers you’ve known for a while, or a new story idea!

It’s a fabulous chance to enjoy time with creative-minded people who you may not get to see/spend time with as often as you’d like.

Don’t Forget To Enjoy It

Even though a plan and reaching set goals are essential parts of a writing retreat, so is enjoying your time there.

If you don’t meet every goal, don’t stress! Chances are you will make more progress on the retreat than you would have at home, so take that as the win.

Another perk is the support you’ll get. Even if at the end of the retreat you feel like all you did was talk about your WIP rather than make solid progress, it’s still a positive thing. Sometimes bouncing ideas off others, or just speaking about your plans, is enough to get the creativity flowing again, and that will carry over when you get back home.

Enjoy every moment of your writing retreat, whether you hit those goals or barely make a dent in them. Share all the food, enjoy all the laughs, and learn as much as you can from your fellow writers. Support each other in your writing dreams, and keep these do’s and don’ts in mind!

— K.M. Allan

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