A vacation has to be one of the best things in the world. It's a time when you ditch reality, burn a hole through your bank account and buy useless items on impulse to carry back and wonder why you did that.
No, really. It's fantastic.
Yet, not all of us can afford to go offline while on a holiday. For many, work still haunts us and we can't fully relax on our trip especially when our phones go off. For writers, it's nice to go off-grid for a few days. But after a while, our brilliant minds supply us with countless what-if scenarios that we think would make the bestseller. Yet when we have a blank document in front of us, all that fantastic plot vanishes before our eyes.
Can't relate? Lucky you. For everyone else, there's an easy solution for this.
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Say you're presently faced with a tight deadline and the four walls of your home office are driving you crazy. You have responsibilities for living a regular life like walking your dog, making lunch and sending your children to school. Some of us have more responsibilities like working a regular job but there's this writing competition deadline that you know if you had ten days away from life, you could finish it.
What do you do?
Book yourself a holiday trip with you, internet access, room service and a laptop of course! I'm talking about a writing retreat.
#1: What is a writing retreat?
Think of it as a getaway to chase your dreams. A vacation is a time when you get away from reality and indulge in something responsibility-free. A writing retreat isn't that much different. The only exception is how you're on a trip to accomplish something related to your writing goals.
Think of it similar to a work holiday for a period of time. You still get to visit places, meet new people, and enjoy tourist activities but in the time that you are not doing that, you're on your laptop working on the next masterpiece away from distractions.
Writing retreats are good for a few reasons. It removes that stagnant energy that drains our creative energy. A change of place and pace is sometimes required for content creators. So often we burn out without realising it. Going to new places, setting new routines, meeting new faces and observing new cultures can help to reboot our dying minds.
It's a misconception that writers are hermits who hate humans. Most of us still prefer a friend or two on trips to enjoy the experience together. In fact, there are writers who host annual writing retreats as a group. When you put more than one brilliant mind working on the next great creation with a like-minded talent, the amount of genius energy is explosive and contagious.
Nothing better than a healthy and inspiring support system to help each other grow as individuals. Sharing can happen in writing retreats and it would be a bonus if you learned some new insights from fellow wordsmiths on your trip!
#2: What to prepare before a writing retreat?
Apart from your usual travel essentials, something to note different from a regular holiday is that you're going on a trip with goals. There are many preparations as a writer on a writing retreat.
Personally, I'd say to prepare all your research, drafts, outlines and character profiles in an offline storage device such as a thumb drive. During a writing retreat, you want to get in and STAY in the writing flow. I've talked about how could write 10,000 words in a day in another blog and this should be your goal in a writing retreat. Do not give yourself the reasons to procrastinate or sidetrack from your goals.
Sure, you can plan a day or two within the retreat period to go sightseeing and shopping. After all, why spend all that money and not have any fun? However, the main objective of a writing retreat should be to accomplish the writing goals that have been hindered by life. Get the priorities right and iron out any potential obstacles you know you would have when writing.
I would not recommend using the internet as much while on a writing retreat. Only use it when you're out or when you hit a roadblock you cannot overcome in your writing. If it isn't a crucial elements such as the collective noun for goats (it's flock), you can highlight that unsure word in a bracket for editing after you return from your writing trip or towards the end of it after you finished all your primary writing goals.
#3: How to maximise my writing retreat?
As mentioned above, remove writing distractions as much as possible. Do your research well and plan to be efficient. This isn't just applicable to writing itself. I'm talking about doing research about the place where you book your accommodation.
Are amenities conveniently located? Do you know where you're going to eat all your meals? What's the best mode of transport? Do you have travel plans? Where to? Which day are you going? How long would that take?
For those who go on holidays without making a holiday itinerary, you'd have to do it for a writing retreat. It's not a free-and-easy holiday. If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail.
#4: Pros and cons of a staycation writing retreat vs an overseas experience
So you have everything on the checklist above but your bank account is limiting your mileage options? Don't worry. If there is a will, there will be a way. Writing retreats are a little different from regular holidays. You're not mandated to book a plane or stay in a four-star hotel. If anything, you can do it in the next town or at a relative's house. You can even do a day staycation where you pack everything and head to the quietest Starbucks to sit from nine in the morning till ten at night before heading back feeling fully accomplished.
Naturally, there will be a difference between a local and overseas writing retreat experience. I'd recommend an overseas option because it really takes you out of your element. A staycation option could still trap your mind because of familiarity. Most people need a lot of stimulation to get out of their comfort zones and going overseas has to be the easiest way to break that pattern. However, if options are limited, it isn't impossible to make a local retreat work. You just need to have a lot of self-discipline to make that happen.
Not all of us can afford luxurious writing retreats but it doesn't have to be expensive to be effective. Just remember that the purpose of a writing retreat is to give yourself time to indulge in your inner writer and let go of everything else.
Go finish your dreams today! Book yourself a writing retreat.