How to plan your own writing retreat

Have you been wanting to write a book but struggling to get it done? Have you sometimes thought, if only I had more time, I could start working on it? If that sounds like you, perhaps you need to consider a writing retreat. I’ve done a few of them in my time so I thought I would share how you can create one for yourself.

I should clarify here that I’m not referring to a writing retreat where you jet off to a lovely hotel in beautiful surroundings…(although if you do fancy one of those, check out some options here).

No, I’m talking about a retreat that you host for yourself with the aim of creating something during that time. It can be for a day, 24 hours, or even longer if time permits. I would recommend two to three days if possible.

The last one I did was a couple of years ago when I was working on The Perfect Lie. In my case, I’d written 75% of the book but had hit a wall. I’d been working on it for months at home and knew I just needed to get out of the house, away from the distractions of daily life in order to finish it. It was exactly what I needed so I thought I would share the steps to creating your own writing retreat.

Step 1:

The first thing you must do is clarify the result you want to achieve. If you just schedule a retreat with the vague aim of working on your book, you will waste the first few hours thinking about where to start. Ask yourself what you want to produce during your retreat. Your desired result will depend on what stage you’re at with your book, for example, brainstorming, researching, writing, editing, or submitting.

Here are a few ideas:

  • A one-page outline of your book idea

  • A first draft of the first five chapters

  • A synopsis and covering letter for submission

  • Five potential ideas for your book

  • Edit ten chapters

In my case, I wanted to write 10,000 words of my novel. I had a concrete goal that would define my retreat as a success.

Tip: Be as specific as possible and define just one outcome.

Step 2:

Next, it’s about choosing your location. By changing your environment, you’re removing those everyday distractions and allowing for fresh inspiration. Think about a place that energizes or inspires you. It doesn’t have to be expensive; it could be a rented workspace, a quiet coffee shop, or your local library. If you do have a budget, research some potential hotels and book a couple of nights. During my last retreat, I booked a weekend in a local boutique hotel. It was absolutely beautiful, very quiet, and had a sea-view. I then began to make a list of what I needed for the retreat, everything from my laptop and charger to the smaller details, such as the brand of water. I even arranged for a delivery meal service. It may seem like overkill but my aim was to make it as easy as possible to focus on the writing and not have to make too many decisions. This frees up a lot of mental space, allowing you to be more creative. I also thought about what I should take to energize myself during my retreat. For me, that was a yoga mat and some reading material.

Tip: Ask yourself, what do you need to produce at a high level?

Step 3

The next step is to schedule your retreat. Now, if you’re busy, this may feel impossible but with good planning and a little help from family or friends, it can be done, even if it means sacrificing your weekend. For me, I knew it would be more relaxing than a weekday. I didn’t have to worry about the school calling or a client expecting an email from me. I also worked with my husband so he could handle the home-front during that time too. I should add here that communication is crucial; explaining what you need and why you need it - in advance - makes a huge difference. Whatever your circumstances, plan it, book it, and look forward to it.

Tip: Look ahead to any upcoming public holidays for some extra leeway.

While creating your own writing retreat might feel slightly indulgent, there are huge benefits to setting a block of time aside to focus on your book. As much as I talk about the discipline of writing, I also believe that creativity needs time and space. Thinking, dreaming, and writing can feel at odds with our hurried, hustle-focused work culture but by creating your own writing retreat, you’re re-affirming to yourself that your book is important and not just a far-fetched fantasy that is continually put on the back-burner.

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