@ My Writing Desk

Planning a Personal Writing Retreat

I am a writer!

You are a writer!

He is a writer! She is a writer! We are writers!

Oops, my English teacher mode surfaced into conjugating verbs.

 

Anyway, as writer, you need time to write. You want time to write. You even schedule time to write.

 

 

As a writer, you might, at least at this time, have a full-time job that drags you away from the house, and when you get home, the responsibilities of life somehow eat away at the time you put aside to write. As a writer, you might find yourself exhausted from the day when you sit down to write and nothing but gibberish flows; or you get up early, as many suggest, only to stare at the screen with the still-asleep-fog of a caffeine deprived mind. As a writer, you might find the stress of everyday life a roadblock to ideas.

 

If that describes you, I feel your pain. My full-time job as a high school English teacher and the responsibilities of life found me putting my writing last on my task list almost every day. By the time I had taught five English department courses, ran that day’s theatrical rehearsal, graded papers, put dinner on the table, checked my children’s homework, did the laundry and dishes, and anything else that needed to be done, I had little, if any, time and energy to write with any consistency.

 

The writer in me, however, refused to be silent. I had been writing on and off since kindergarten and had been published in the high school and college creative writing anthology books. As I packed up my household in 2015 to make the move to Tennessee, I realized how much writing I had actually accomplished when I packed up my writing studio and my file cabinets in the basement.

 

I was amazed that I was able to fill at least three copy paper boxes with files and spirals of my writing. I didn’t have time to read the pages, but I didn’t dare throw away the pages. Who knew what they might contain.

 

Where had I found the time and the energy to write?

 

I had written in the little spaces between classes, between grading sets of papers, while my boys had sports practice or music rehearsals, and during television shows and movies and especially the news. I kept pen, paper, and a book light on my night stand. When hand-held personal tape recorders became affordable (and now digital recorders), I learned to use the time it took to drive to work to let the ideas flow and become recorded. (The only difficult part of this was that I had to transcribe the tape, something I rarely had time to do.) Now, if I am on the road, I use one of the speech to text apps on my cell phone – like the digital recorder, I can record my ideas without taking my eyes off the road, BUT later, I can email myself the document (and have a good laugh sometimes at what the program thought I said) or open the companion app on my computer.

 

But now, I need a block of time to jump-start my writing.

 

Enter the idea of writer groups, critique groups (live in your community and on line), writing classes, conferences, conventions, retreats, fellowships, residencies, etc. It boggles my mind at how many opportunities exist for writers to learn, practice, and improve their craft.

 

I’ve been to writer groups, critique groups, classes, conferences, and conventions. All of which have been extremely beneficial to my craft.

 

Several years ago, I was invited to attend a writers’ retreat in Wisconsin. I jumped at the chance until I realized that the dates of the retreat coincided with the end of the school year curriculum development workshops I was expected to attend. In addition, I was overwhelmed with the cost of attending such an event even if it would improve my writing.

 

Living pay check to pay check and the responsibility of family and career, I had abandoned the idea of a writing retreat until recently.

 

Sitting at the dining room table on a Sunday evening and planning the week, I found that the last thing I listed on my schedule was time to write: errands, doctor appointments, housework, crafts, music practicing, and still working to finish unpacking filled my pages. How was it that I was putting my writing as the last thing on my list? Something needed to change.

 

Did I need to attend a formal writing retreat? As I checked them out, I still found them expensive on my fixed income. Well, not the retreat itself. Instead, it was the transportation: should I fly and then maybe rent a car since my step-daughter needs the car to get to work; it was the lodging if the retreat didn’t include a place to stay; it was the food if the retreat did not include meals; and it was the possible necessity to board the dogs.

 

Not to mention that some want the rough draft of your manuscript written, some have a wide variety of presenters, some have critique group time, and some of them give you a substantial time to sit and write.

 

What? Time to sit and write.

 

This is what I need – time to sit and write, but wait, I should be able to give myself time to sit and write.

 

Could I schedule time and specific things for that time and create my own writing retreat?

 

I think I can, and that is what I plan to do at the end of April.

 

 

What’s so special about a writer’s retreat and what do I need to do to recreate that special time?

 

A writer retreat will take you away from the grind of routine and everyday life. (I think every writer at some point in time needs this. We get so caught up in the day to day of life that our passion to write can take a back seat to everything else.)

 

A writer retreat will allow you time to write without distraction. (No dogs to take out, no house to clean, not yard to tend, no meals to prep for anyone else, I can eat on my time, no stoppage of writing to pay the bills or do errands.

 

A writer retreat can impress on others your sincerity to your craft. (It’s going to be me, my computer, pens, paper, and a few books on writing.)

 

A writer retreat can re-spark your hibernating creativity. (I know the creativity is lurking in the recesses of my mind, but it seems that when it tries to surface, life scares it back into hiding.)

 

 

Why would I want to create my own personal writing retreat over attending a hosted writing retreat?

 

  • I determine where I would like to go to write.
  • I determine how much time I can afford to spend away from the routine of my everyday life.
  • I determine what works best with my schedule.
  • I determine what I want to focus on and learn to give myself deadlines. (This is one of the things I really need to work on.)

 

In the next few weeks, I’ll take you through my process of developing the personal writing retreat I plan to take at the beginning of May.

 

 

I leave with my camper for a Gatlinburg campground for an uninterrupted five day writing retreat. Although hubby will be traveling to Gatlinburg with me, he is headed to an artist’s retreat where he will spend five days on big lathes. We will meet up at the end of the week and spend a few days in Gatlinburg at the end of the week being tourists. No dogs – no step-daughter. They are being left home to hold down the fort and keep each other safe.

 

I’m excited and looking forward to the possibilities.

 

Check back with me to see how it’s going.

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