Columns > Published on May 2nd, 2017

5 Ways A Short Writing Retreat Can Provide Big Results

I have never encountered a writer who claims she has far too much time to dedicate to writing. There are things that come up every day that are necessary (and sometimes even enjoyable) but take up valuable creative time. You know, little things like working a job, running errands, getting enough exercise and sleep, and having some semblance of a social life.

I noticed recently that I have not been giving my writing priority, and I desperately needed to hit the reset button and bring attention back to that part of my life. It’s a simple fact that I’m not as happy when I’m not working on something creative. The possibility of planning an extended solo writing retreat is unthinkable for me right now. The time will come, but it won’t be tomorrow. Or the next day. Or even within the next year. The press of a button is a quick motion, though, isn’t it? Instead of trying to carve out a huge chunk of time for myself, I planned a three night retreat just an hour from where I live and was stunned with how much I gained from that short amount of time.

If you’ve dropped off the healthy writing habit train, a short time away will get you back on in no time.

1. You’ll use your time wisely (because there isn’t much of it!)

With the limited amount of time I had, I made sure to figure out exactly what I wanted to accomplish. What would make this retreat worthwhile? Days before, I wrote out a daily log to keep me on track which included when I wanted to wake up each morning, how long I wanted each block of writing time to last, and I even scheduled specific times to check in with friends and loved ones. You know how people say working within limitations can actually be freeing? In my case, it absolutely was.

2. The planning is less stressful all around

A shorter trip meant both lower cost and less time off work. Simple! I got a reasonably priced, but spacious and adorable AirBnb, and only had to take off one work day in order to schedule my retreat. The low stress of planning everything meant that I was able to invest all my energy into the excitement of the trip rather than worrying about losing money and falling behind. It was a completely positive experience.

3. You can set the bulk of your focus on one important project

All work and no play is the worst. Even on a writing retreat.

I decided to use my three night retreat to focus on the big thing I wanted to accomplish, which was to outline and begin the first draft of a new play I’d been thinking about for months. The vast majority of my scheduled time was carved out for this one project, and using it as my foundation allowed me to tackle a few other important things as well: time for recharging, organizing my planner/smaller projects, and catching up on reading. Two hours of playwriting meant a half hour of secondary goals. These calculated shifts in creative focus ended up working to my advantage.

4. You can still make time for relaxation 

All work and no play is the worst. Even on a writing retreat this short, I made sure to make time to look up bookstores in the neighborhood, go for a walk on the beach, and make a reservation for a nice dinner the night before I left. I stayed in an area that had a downtown to explore, but wasn’t overwhelmingly huge. I got a decent sense of the neighborhood in just a few hours and really enjoyed myself. I didn’t feel like I was burning myself out on writing, nor did I feel I was squandering my time. Balance is key, friends.

5. It’ll be easier to take good practices back into your regular routine

Perhaps the most surprisingly delightful thing I gained from my short solo retreat was more writing time in my day to day life. Because I hadn’t had a month (or months) to focus solely on my writing, I made it my mission to not let the momentum of what I had started fade away. After I returned home I made it a point to continue scheduling time for my project because of how successful this pre-planning had been while I was away. I am very pleased with my progress!

As responsibilities and plans pile up, it’s far too easy to forget to make time for your craft, and as time goes on it only gets easier to push it to the side. Take a page out of my book and plan a quick writing retreat for yourself. Three nights may seem short, but pretty soon you’ll be shortening these retreats to two nights, one night, and perhaps just one hour.

What matters is you’re writing. You’re making it work. You’re getting better. You’re making the time.

You’ve got this.

About the author

Christine J. Schmidt is a writer originally from New Jersey. After receiving her BFA in Dramatic Writing from SUNY Purchase, she worked at Seattle Repertory Theatre as their artistic literary intern. She recently left Brooklyn, where she was a bookseller and events host at WORD, to reside in Los Angeles. She has previously written for New York Theatre Review, and her plays have been read and produced at theaters in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Washington. Coffee is her favorite thing.

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