writing time

7 Tips For a Successful Writing Retreat

ashland writers retreat For my birthday my husband gifted me with a writing retreat.

 

I had one for my Mother's Day gift, and it was glorious.  Having done one I was even more prepared for my second one.

 

It was a DIY writing retreat, not anything fanciful and expensive.  You don't have to blow a ton of money for the best retreat possible.

 

[Tweet "Planning a writing retreat? Here are 7 tips for you."]

 

You want to make it as successful and efficient as possible.

 

1. Reservations 

This may be obvious, but I didn't make them this last time, so I wound up in a less expensive, but also less nice hotel for my stay.  Make sure your room has Wifi, table/desk, good lighting, thick walls, comfy bed, a mini fridge, and a microwave.

 

in the hotel

 

The place I wound up had all of those except good lighting and thick walls. It was not my favorite thing overhearing my neighbors through the night, though I suppose I could use some of it in my novel.

 

2. Food

This is why it's good to have the mini fridge and microwave.  The first time I brought some yummy food from home.  This last time I bought some snacks at the store to bring. I recommend some favorites and make sure you've got both junk food and healthy snacks.

 

pull n peel face

 

You want stuff that will keep you energized, alert, and focused!

 

3. Materials

I brought my laptop, my tablet, my phone, notebooks, note cards, mini notebooks, pens, pencils, chargers for all devices, USB, and my writing books (or at least my favorite ones).

 

I made sure I had everything I could possibly need so that when I wanted to sit down to work I wouldn't have anything keeping me from getting my writing done.

 

3.  Schedule

Not a minute by minute schedule, unless that works best for you.  I had my arrival time, and I knew what I'd be doing that first afternoon and night. Then I had my schedule for the next day.

 

ashland streets collage

 

My first day I walked around the city for some decompressing from my daily life.  I got lost in my mind and in the shops and people around town.  I got some food, I took pictures.  Then I went back to the hotel and got to work.  The next morning I had a tour scheduled at the local theater and then work time.

 

4. Preparations 

The whole week before my retreat I did some prep work.  There were some structural things I needed to work on so I read two of my favorite books on structure to get my brain working in the direction.  I took copious notes for reference as well.

 

I sketched out things that I really needed and wanted to work out and write.  There were some things that demanded my attention before I could continue on with the story. At home, my life is so here and there and everywhere it has been hard for me to scratch out a huge block of time to tackle these harder items. My retreat was the perfect time!  The only distraction I would have would be my own wandering mind.

 

5.  Sleep

I don't mean sleep while you're there.  You need to make sure you're as caught up on your sleep as you can possibly be. In my world, that's getting 6 hours of sleep a night instead of 5.  It's not much better, but it's a step in the right direction. I even took a nap on Friday when the kids were napping.

 

1 am

 

Being tired was definitely something I struggled with when I was out there this time.  My first retreat I stayed up until 4 AM working and the next day I woke up at 9 AM and wrote until 9 PM.  It was glorious.  This time I went to bed at 1 AM (and felt guilty for it) and then woke up early to check out and make it to my tour. When I was writing there was a good chunk of time that I was fighting sleep. I just wanted to rest my head on my desk   *sigh*  but I pushed through and was rewarded for it.

 

6. Know your location

The first time I was on my retreat I spent an hour in my hotel room studying  some complimentary city maps. I planned my routes everywhere.  It's a smaller city, and you mostly get around by walking.  You just find some place to park and then hoof it the rest of the day.

 

ashland shop collage

 

Well, if you're in a 2 hour spot you'll have to go back and find a different one.  That first trip out I spent a lot of time walking around really getting to know the city's ins and outs.  What the locals do, the short cuts everywhere.  Everything I could.  My book is based in this city so it is partly research.

 

ashland park Collage

 

I figured out the best places to eat, the best places to write, where I could plug in, where I shouldn't go.  If I needed to bring a sweater because it was cold.  Where the best parking places were. There is a 4 hour parking lot and there are some awesome side streets to park on that some people haven't discovered yet!

 

This last trip I knew right where to go. Which streets to walk on, park on, etc.  It was very efficient and I felt like a local.

 

7.  Plan

I knew exactly what I would be working on Friday night.  I was working on all my major plot points and my world building.  Saturday I had some research done via a tour. Then I had the rest of my afternoon planned out from 12 - 9 PM when it was probably a good idea for me to walk back to my car before any crazies started popping out on the street. I spent that time planning my scenes and more world building.

 

ashland osf collage

 

I had a plan for what I'd work on and I had a back up plan.

 

I also had a plan for where I'd be working.  There is a local university that has a student center that is supposed to be open on Saturdays.  They lie. They lie like filthy animals.  I had parked on this awesome side street, walked 3/4 of a mile to the center (in the rain) and all the doors were locked.  Each door boasted that they were open Saturdays from 9 AM - 6 PM.  Filthy filthy liars.

 

Back to my car I went, praying the whole way I wouldn't wet my pants.  My bladder isn't that strong after having 4 kids and holding it halfway through the tour.  I drove to another side street and walked another 1/2 mile to the local library.  Yes, I did go to the bathroom. I also found a perfect spot.  It was a lovely desk all to myself by the window.

 

view out window

 

The window did provide a few moments of distraction for me though.  I was at the library until it closed (5 PM) and then I walked to a restaurant, ate and wrote there until I felt guilty for taking up a table. Then I headed to Starbucks and parked it at a table until dark and headed home.

 

I'm so glad I had a back up plan for that stupid student center or else I would've been in trouble.  I couldn't have written outside since it was raining off and on all day.

 

 

For my next trip

 

I wouldn't do anything different except get more sleep and save up some money to stay two nights in a row.

 

That would be harder for me to do since I would have to find someone brave enough to watch all four of my kids for one of the days while my husband was at work.

 

These short trips are perfect for once a quarter and then I could do a longer retreat one to two times a year.

 

 

[Tweet "Here are 7 tips for a successful writing retreat"]

 

Your Turn

Have you been on a writing or work retreat before?  What are some tips that you have found to be helpful?

 

 

 This Friday I'll have a fun surprise for y'all!  Get excited!!

Can't Keep Up? Streamline Your Writing Time

You have this grand idea, this story, this thing living inside you (not an alien), yet you aren't getting it out of you the way you envision.  

You can't stop thinking about it.  So, why isn't it coming to fruition?

 

What's missing?

 

A schedule.

 

 

Now, before you roll your eyes and throw your pen at your screen, hear me out.

 

Yes, a schedule is what you're missing.

 

But, but, but Rochelle!  A schedule doesn't work for me!

 

Okay, dearie, we'll talk about it.  Just give me a second and I need you to put your big-kid undies on.

 

I understand, I really do.  I'm one of those people that take on way more than they can actually do all at once.  I love it.  And then I crash and burn.  I'll map out this dream-world schedule and then never look at it again.  That's lame.  Here's what I've figured out since then.

 

Why it's important

You do know why it's good for you, right?

 

If I want to write a great novel, or a great blog post, or a great book about marsupials then won't I need just the tools, the know-how, and the desire?  You do need those.  But if you're just trying to do it all when you're struck with inspiration or have a bit of time in your busy day, then you won't write consistently, and you won't be where you want to be in a month or a year's time.  Then you'll scowl at yourself and throw a tantrum like my children sometimes do (not pretty) and no one will be happy.  Not you, not me, and not anyone near you when this tantrum is taking place.  Then you'll regress into this cycle of self-loathing and resentment.  But I have a cure for that!

 

There's my son, right about to go into a full-blown tantrum. Take cover!

 

 

[Tweet "Scheduling writing time prevents tantrums."]

 

But schedules are so rigid and unfeeling

That's very true.  If you are a fly-by-your-pants type of person then you may find schedules to be too binding.  I tend to be that way.

 

You've probably heard of routines.

 

They are lovely.  I do these in many aspects of my life.  For working, cleaning, home schooling, writing, and any other obligation I have.

 

What's the difference?

 

A schedule looks like this:

7 am: Wake

7:15 - shower and get ready

8 - breakfast

8:30 - leave for work

etc.

 

A routine looks like this:

  • Wake up
  • shower, get ready
  • breakfast
  • chores

 

You can do most of these out of order (except you have to wake up first).  You just have blocks of time that you need to accomplish these items, or they could be just do it sometime today.

 

Pick whichever one works best for you.

 

I am a hybrid.  I need a schedule for certain things and a routine for the rest.  The things I really don't want to do I have to put into a routine or I'll never do them.  Like cleaning.  Ugh, I hate cleaning. If I say I have to do wash the dishes and sweep the floor and start a load of laundry right after breakfast I'll punch someone in the throat then I won't clean until someone is coming over next month.  If I say, you have these to do as your morning routine then I can do that because it feels less like my mom is forcing me and more like a choice.

 

A hybrid would look like this:

7:30 - wake up

Morning Routine

10:30 - calls to Jones and Montoya

11:15 - email Martin and Johns

12 - lunch

Afternoon Routine

5:30 - make dinner

6 - eat dinner

6:30 - clean up dinner

7 - family time

Evening Routine

 

You list out the items that would be in each routine block.   Or you could have one routine for the whole day and then just do those as you go.

 

I have fiddled with my writing schedule/routine and think I have what I like.  I am still tweaking it a bit here and there.

 

[Tweet "Schedule or Routine? Which do you prefer?"]

 

 Time of day

Now you need to pick the best time of day for writing.

 

clock

 

When do you have a moment to yourself?  Never!?  Well, you'll need to make one then.  Can you wake up earlier?  I can't, so this is a no-go for me.  This would be a quick trip to failure land.  Have time free at lunch?  In the afternoon?  After everyone is in bed?  Hey!  Right after dinner you could take off and write and let everyone else clean up the mess!  Yes!  Perfect.

[Tweet "When is your favorite time of day to write?"]

 

How long?

Well, how long are you going to write for?  5 minutes, 10, an hour, two hours?  Make it realistic and attainable.  If you're swamped every day then don't put in a 3 hour block.  Perhaps you have a really long Tuesday, but your Monday and Wednesday is more open.  Schedule 3o minutes on Tuesday and then 1 - 2 hours for your Monday and Wednesday.

 

You need to schedule some time every day, no matter what.  But you don't have to set yourself up to fail with something that's never going to happen.

 

If you're a word count kind of person, then set a word count goal for each writing session.  Again, tailor it towards your time available.

 

One or chunks?

No, I'm not talking about tossing your cookies.  That's no fun.

 

Would it better if you schedule one writing time per day or a few different times throughout the day?

 

Now, I know I just said you need to schedule time every day, and I do think that's true, but I have heard of some people that schedule marathon sessions over the weekend instead of shorter sprints throughout the week.  That's what works for them.

 

schedule combo

Here's my schedule/routine.  My green blocks of time are when I am transcribing live University classes which means that is a set schedule. Mealtime is scheduled but can be flexible, depending on my children's appetite that day.  My blocks of Home Schooling are a set time, but it is a routine and not an exact scheduled out block of time.  Sometimes that block might be science and history, sometimes art and math.  Just depends on what we're doing that day. I have times dedicated to blogging and writing, but when I have a moment otherwise I'll either be napping or fitting in more writing time.

 

The orange blocks say Blog, but that also includes Writing. I think this schedule that I took a screen shot of just didn't have the blocks filled in with writing and I'm too lazy to go back and screenshot a different day with the correct heading in the orange blocks.  I see the color orange and know that means to get out my laptop, notebook, and pen and get to work.

 

What's clear to me is that I need to give something up to make way for a little more free time!

 

In the end

 

You need to find out what works best for you.  Don't do what I'm doing or what Speedy Gonzales  is doing, or Betty Boop is doing.  Do what works for you and your lifestyle.  If you don't it'll never work for you, no matter how color-coded and pretty you make it look.

 

What kind of schedule or routine do you use?  When is your favorite time of day to write?

 

If you enjoyed this post please Tweet about it!

[Tweet "Streamline your writing time with these tips."]

 

Then sign up to keep up!

[yks-mailchimp-list id="0accab85e8"]