Monday, June 13, 2011

Ten Ways to Have a Successful Writers’ Retreat

Jennifer and me at Alchemy restaurant






Jennifer and I spent a glorious, albeit rainy weekend away at our writers’ retreat in Gloucester, MA. And when I say weekend, I mean about 32 hours. But if there’s one thing we do well, it’s make the most of our time.

If you’re planning a working getaway to get your writing on track, here are a few recommendations.

1. Have a goal in mind. Whether you’re writing new work or revising old pieces—or both—you need to clearly define what it is you want to accomplish.

2. Keep costs low. I think this one is as important as #1. The only way Jennifer and I can do these getaways is by not breaking the bank. Including lodging, food, and books at a local indie bookstore, I’ve only spent about $85 total. Food was definitely our largest expense because but ... well ... I like to have one or two nice meals while on retreat.

3. Create a loose structure. We planned to spend more time outside, but it rained all weekend. The wet weather was perfect for writing, but not much else. Being able to adapt helped us focus and get more accomplished.

4. Bring a friend. Jennifer is a great travel partner and writer buddy. Plus, she keeps me accountable when I want to nap my time away.

5. Bring snacky-snacks. See #2.

6. Shift locales. While we had plenty of places to write at our retreat house, we also went to a local coffee shop to work, which gave us a nice change of venue and

7. Brings books. One of Jennifer’s priorities was to “fill the well,” which, for her, meant reading lots of poetry collections. Swapping books lead to many conversations about what we could be doing in our own work.

8. Alternative motives. I won’t lie. A weekend like this meant finding my center and honoring my spirit. This was just as important as #1.

9. Make a plan for next time. I can't emphasize enough the blessing of having time away from life's distractions. It's nice to have a sense of when we can do this again before the year's end.

10. Keep the momentum going. We've invested the time. Now, we have to figure out how to keep that energy going until next time?

The view from Jennifer's room.

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