Two years ago I decided to do a self-guided writing retreat in the off-season at an artist residency center. My own space, my own time, alone, just me and my writing. I didn’t even want to negotiate the shared kitchen so I spent an enormous amount of prep time acquiring a small electric kettle, camp plates and cups, crackers, cheese, dehydrated soups, and some lovely patés.
I intended—and so I told the person who greeted me—to go in my room and not leave for a week. The weather was frigid so I put my cheese and paté and butter between the screen and the door for a make-shift cooler, until I noticed that the midday sun was actually making the space quite hot. I made tea and heated up soup in the same camp cup. I made little sandwiches from rolls that got increasingly stale. I made instant coffee in the morning but it was terrible so I drank tea. I washed all the dishes in the bathroom sink.
It was a lot of work and a lot of drama and, apart from the uninterrupted solitude, I’m not sure my writing benefited.
The moral of this story is that longed-for and elusive time off does not necessarily result in the Great American Novel.
At the same time, blocking out several days to put “normal life” temporarily on hold for intentional writing is a good idea, particularly as a way to start the year off right. It is even possible to do a writing retreat on one’s own and get something done. It really is not necessary, however, to isolate as aggressively as I did that year. Time and boundaries are important but also companionship, knowing others are creating at the same time you are, and maybe sharing notes with other writers from time to time.
A retreat for yourself and your writing does not have to be as difficult as I made it. If you can carve out two or three days, you can set your own goal, stay in your own home, sleep in your own bed, raid your own fridge. Along the way you will develop the habit of writing in your own space and time.
Sign up for one of the two Winter At-Home Writers Retreats and you will get
- prep tips
- daily one-minute prompts to get you going
- light structure
- low-stress accountability
- virtual community
Write on your schedule for two or three days and you will have
- a sense of accomplishment
- your chosen number of words
- a great start to the new year!