5 Tips for Getting the Most from a Writers’ Retreat

Writers’ retreats are a great way to boost creativity and get more done! But don’t just take our word for it. This week, guest blogger Jennifer Way shares why she takes several retreats a year–and how she makes the most of that time.

I’m a lazy writer.  There.  I’ve said it.  Writing doesn’t come easy to me, but I love the finished product.  Taking something out of your brain and making it a reality is addictive.  I just don’t have the time to do it. 

The truth is I’m constantly distracted.  Out of pure desperation to get something accomplished, I stumbled upon the idea of going somewhere for a long weekend to do nothing but write.  I decided to stop beating myself up for lacking self-discipline and merely put myself into a situation where I would have nothing to take me away from writing.  It was a life-changing decision.

My first retreat wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it was unbelievably successful so I did it again.  During the course of two years, I spent about 35 days or more on writing retreats.  I worked on personal writing projects and work projects.  The value of the retreats became evident.  Retreats offer:

Productivity. Retreats increase my level of productivity by five to ten times over normal results.  I can get more done—a lot more.

No distraction. I didn’t realize the level of distractions in normal life.  Getting away cut through all of that—no beds or dishes, spouses, children or pets to contend with (God bless them).

Allows for creativity. Peace breeds creativity.  Some of my best ideas have come to life at my retreats.

Guaranteed results. Retreats are a sure-fire way to make sure something gets done.  No more talking about it—way more “doing it.”

After a lot of trial and error, I’ve finally realized there are some rules to make a retreat as productive as possible.  Here are my best tips:

1.  Block at least 2-4 days. Try to go on retreat for at least an evening and two full days or more.  This gives you the first evening to unwind and get acclimated.  It’s hard to just jump right in and get productive.  We need time to disconnect from daily life and get into the create mode.

2.  No distractions. No matter how much I like writing, I still run from a blank page.  I learned that I will use ANYTHING to distract me from what I’m really doing there.  I will talk to people, talk on the phone, read, listen to my iPod, answer/clean out my emails, surf the web, watch TV, and anything else I bring under the guise of “maybe I’ll have time to….”  Then there are the distractions around the location itself like the local antique mall, shopping or whatever.  Even trying to decide where and what to eat can be a problem.  I won’t even allow myself to bring a book or magazine.

3.  Go with a goal in mind. Set out with a goal in mind and preferably with several smaller goals that will be easy to attain and measure.  I try to work on one project at a time.   My goals are always more than I can do, but I make WAY more progress than I would if I wasn’t on a retreat.   I also track my accomplishments so I will remember what I actually did do while I was there.

4.  Inspire creativity. It’s about creating an environment where amazing things can happen. To do this, most people need to slow down the pace and quiet the mind.  I find that I allow enough quiet time during these retreats that I will “catch” a streak of creativity where ideas pop into my mind with a much greater frequency than normal.

5.  Only take a “work” buddy. If you decide to go with someone, make sure the person you bring is dedicated to working on some sort of project themselves.   It can be great to share the momentum and talk over your progress during dinner, but if you go with someone who wants to be entertained, you will both end up frustrated.

Writing retreats have been a game changer for me.  Whether it’s writing for work or my personal projects, it feels good to get a lot accomplished and leave on a motivational high.  I always come home feeling like I’ve been on vacation.

MyWritersConnection.com hosts writers’ retreats and workshops to help you reach your writing and publishing goals.  See where we’re headed next. 

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