Nibble writing is a great way to keep your writing moving, but there are still times when reaching your writing goals requires focused attention. If you have the time and the money, organised writing retreats like those run in the UK by The Arvon Foundation are a great solution.
It is amazing how much progress you can make on a project in a short time when you are away from the distractions of everyday life (at Arvon there is no TV, and each person assists with the catering once in the week, so that the other nights are free of chores).
If time or money does not permit formal writing retreats, you can still achieve similar results with a bit of thought and a few affordable resources. Planning is the key to making the most of the few hours you may be able to spare. Let’s look at what do you need to get started?
Space for Your Writing Retreat
The amount of space you require will depend on whether you are arranging your writing retreat alone or with friends. Libraries will often rent rooms out very cheaply, and sometimes a friendly local bar or coffee shop has a space you can use either for a small fee or in return for allowing them to cater the event. In the summer, writing outdoors can be fun, and in the winter, try a local museum or gallery if they have a working space – being surrounded by art can spark some surprising ideas. Even if you are working alone, leaving the house can be a benefit so that you are not distracted by household tasks. If you are holding your writing retreat at home, turn your phone off (warn your friends and family first if necessary).
Before you start, gather your writing tools of choice and make sure they are thoroughly prepared. If you use pen and paper, have a notebook you love and a good supply of pens and ink so you do not run out. If you use a laptop, make sure it is fully charged. Have a supply of water, tea or coffee, and some healthy snacks handy. You do not want anything to interrupt you once your writing is flowing.
Judy Reeves’ The Writer’s Retreat Kit has some invaluable tips on how to make writing retreats work for you. There is some great advice on using short blocks of time, and on how to make the most of full-day retreats, and even longer breaks. Not only that, but the boxed set also contains a deck of cards full of helpful prompts for themed retreats on topics like food, travel and the seasons.
Other books which I’ve found helpful for getting the ideas flowing on retreats include Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write, for building a creative mindset, and Jack Heffron’s The Writer’s Idea Book, to kick off story ideas.
Or, of course, you can use one of the many online prompt sites such as CreativeWritingPrompts.com, but beware! If you allow yourself internet access you will have to be rigorous about keeping to the purpose of the retreat and not using the time for browsing or chatting. After all, a writing retreat is all about stepping away from the world, to focus on something that is important to you: getting words on the page.