Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Is a writing retreat right for you? To some, it sounds indulgent, but there are other ways of asking the same question. For example, do you find yourself working constantly? When you slow down and take time for yourself, do you feel guilty? Are you in a constant state of busyness? For some, this feels like the only sure path to success. For others, it seems like a necessity – there are simply too many responsibilities and too few hours in the day.
Many authors face this tendency whether they write full-time or in addition to their day job. After all, if they don’t hold themselves to high standards and strict deadlines, who will? The fear is ever present: if I slow down or take a break, I’ll fall behind, stall out, and be unable to start up again.
Ezzie Spencer confronts this idea in her book, Lunar Abundance. Far from encouraging readers to be lazy or take excessive time off, Spencer shows that by incorporating intentional periods of selective relaxation into our creative routines, we actually boost our productivity.
We fear that if we are not striving and working long hours, then we will not be as effective. That is not the case; in fact, slowing down… is where we double our power.
– Ezzie Spencer, PhD, Lunar Abundance
This is one of the driving ideas behind the writing retreat: you go to a secluded and quiet place to rest, relax, and focus on writing as a singular task. If you have the means to go on a retreat, I hope you will; it’s an incredible opportunity. But if responsibilities or insufficient funds prevent you from going on a traditional writing retreat, you’re not excluded from the benefits.
Let’s look at the hallmarks of a retreat, find out what makes them so effective, and explore how to use the core principles to support your writing routines both on retreat and at home.The principles of a writing retreat can be used to make you more productive at home.Click To Tweet
Maybe the most obvious characteristic of a writing retreat is that you get away from the normal routines and responsibilities of daily life. Here’s how a few retreats describe the experience they offer writers:
Rest, relaxation, and a chance to do the work at hand, whether that be brainstorming new ideas, catching up on recreational reading, swinging in the hammocks, or watching The Writing Barn deer romp and play.
This weekend writing retreat… is centered on the belief that when writers leave behind the distractions of their busy lives and gather in a supportive community, they can make important breakthroughs in their writing.
Travel transforms us. When we journey out we uncover mysteries within. A change of setting in a new destination has the power to take your writing in new directions.
Where do you need to go to get some downtime to write? What daily responsibilities or expectations of your time and energy stand in the way of you getting your work done? You might need to make a trip of it – buy a plane ticket, pack a suitcase, and hole up in a cabin by yourself. Alternatively, maybe a night in a hotel, or just staying somewhere with friends will work. Sometimes, it’s getting outside of the norm and taking some downtime that provides the clarity we need to spark lasting change in our routines and patterns.Writing retreats are less about where you go than what you get to leave behind.Click To Tweet
If you’re sticking closer to home, can you create these same conditions right where you are? Arrange for someone to care for your kids or pets. Delegate your responsibilities for a day or two. And take some time just for yourself and your writing.
Learning to unplug
Getting away gives you permission not only to slow down but also to unplug. It’s no secret by now that we are constantly connected to the world through the internet. We’re inundated with information, unfettered access at the touch of a button. That affects us at both a conscious and subconscious level.
By simply unplugging from that constant source, your mind experiences an immediate sense of space and ease. Can you commit to a few days away from your phone, email, and social media? Can you give yourself over completely to being in the present moment without the distraction of a screen?
Imagine the boost that might give to your creativity. Going on a traditional writing retreat will create an environment where it’s easy for you to unplug, but it’s also possible to create those conditions at home. Put away all the screens. Turn off your phone and put it in another room. Open the windows. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or tea. Put on some gentle music. Set aside a few hours or even a few days. Gift yourself this space. You’ll be amazed at what floods in to fill the space you create.
Soaking in inspiration
One of the draws of the writing retreat is the opportunity to immerse yourself in a creative environment. Retreats are offered in many beautiful, often secluded locations. Some boast a resident writing coach who can offer advice or host workshops, and facilities often give writers access to luxuries like catered meals, spa amenities, or local attractions for exploration.
Immersing yourself in such a pampered environment can help stir the fires of inspiration. It’s funny how letting your hair down and having a good time can push you past writer’s block.
Most writing retreats have this feature built into their programs, but you can always design your own excursions. This is an especially tempting option for those who may need to conduct research for their writing. If you’re writing about a place you’ve never been, consider taking a self-directed retreat in that locale, turning this getaway into a research trip. Just be sure to include plenty of time for relaxation.If you’re writing around a full-time job, some focused relaxation might be necessary to reach the next level. Click To Tweet
If neither of these options are available to you, consider a staycation. Visit your favorite places, do your favorite things, eat your favorite foods, or try a handful of things you’ve never done. You’re the expert when it comes to knowing how to tap into your creative spirit. It’s shocking how – even if you’re still only writing on an evening – your productivity increases from feeding your mind in this way.
Taking self-care seriously
I hope you’re feeling inspired by all this talk of rest and relaxation. Remember, it’s not about lazing about but restoring for the purpose of cultivating greater productivity. If you are able, I hope you’ll book a spot at a retreat right now. If you can’t make it work, you have a handful of ideas now about how to plan a retreat at home. Whichever approach is right for you, I hope you’ll treat yourself to this restorative experience. Your work will prove it was worth it.
In the words of Ezzie Spencer:
It is through the dance between the doing and the being, the allowing and the initiating, the receiving and the giving that we find our greatest effectiveness in this modern world.
Have you ever been on a writing retreat? Share your wisdom in the comments below, and check out How To Carve Out Time For Writing Without Losing Sleep, How To Make The Most Of Your Research Trip, and 7 (Free) Online Writing Tools That Will Make You More Productive for more great advice.