5 Ways YOU Could Benefit From A Writing Retreat
Writing retreats have exploded in popularity over the last ten years. But how do you know if a retreat is right for you? Read on to find out…
From intensive one-day workshops, to weekends away in the countryside, to week-long sojourns (or longer) in foreign countries, creative writers are spoiled for choice.
This doesn’t mean you should go on a retreat though, just because you can. Not everyone will benefit. You might not have the time, or the budget.
But for many of us, heading away from home to indulge in some serious writing time is just what the muse ordered. This could be you.
How do you know?
Maybe this article will help. I’m quoting from creative writing tutor and publisher Amanda Saint and two of her previous writing students. Read on to see if what they say strikes a chord with you…
- Retreats Take You Away From Your Everyday Distractions
In his book On Writing, Stephen King mentions that he often listens to loud music when he writes. Guns N Roses and Metallica being favorite acts, if I remember. He does this to shut out the world and avoid distractions.
You… probably can’t do this.
After all, writing huge novels is King’s job. No one complains when he spends hours every day earning his living.
You probably have another job, for a start. One that eats up far too much of your time.
Or you have kids you need to take care of – or at least speak to, occasionally. Maybe you have to make them dinner when they get home from school.
Or maybe you have to take the dog to the vet this morning because he got a scratch on his nose from the neighbor’s cat and it just isn’t healing.
Or perhaps you’re retired – or close to it. Yet your daughter phoned up to ask if you can look after your grandson for a few hours.
At this rate, you’re never going to sort out that plot problem in chapter seven. Much less work out why you’ve stalled altogether for the last few weeks at chapter fourteen. And it was all going so well…
As London-based writer and marketer My Ly says, retreats are “a fantastic opportunity for you to get away from not only your usual writing spot but also the constant distractions of your everyday life.”
Novelist and short story writer Ruby Speechley agrees:
“If you need space and peace to write, time dedicated completely to coming up with story ideas or working on a writing project with no interruptions, then a retreat is for you.”
As Ruby says: “Creativity thrives when we’re relaxed and daydreaming. I also discovered what a luxury it is not having to worry about cooking every night, cleaning or shopping for food, because someone else is doing that for you!”
For Amanda Saint, who’s been running or organising writing retreats since 2012, getting away from normal life is a must:
“For residential retreats, a beautiful setting has to be a top priority. Somewhere that is going to make the writer feel very removed from their normal life.”
- You Will Write More…
And You Might Even Make A Serious Breakthrough
It’s easy to get stuck with your project. To let life get in the way and stall your progress (see point one, above).
Of course, the point of getting away from all that for a little while is mainly to get some writing done. Isn’t it?
Well, according to Amanda, this always happens at her retreats:
“All the writers that have come on one of my retreats have learned a lot, got many new words written or edited, come up with new story ideas…”
My and Ruby are both eloquent on this point, too.
“A week or even just a weekend retreat can move your writing beyond your expectations. Quite often for me, it’s marked a breakthrough,” says Ruby.
My is clear that setting goals and being productive are key reasons to attend a retreat:
“Whilst attending the writing retreat, use your time wisely to progress your work-in-progress project,” she says, explaining: “this might be to achieve a specific word count, to network with other writers or to discuss and find a solution to a plot twist that you have not been able to solve by yourself.”
- They Can Boost Your Confidence
Of course, hanging out with a bunch of people you don’t know can be intimidating, as My points out.
“Potentially they can be a bit more challenging for extremely shy and introverted writers compared to those who find it easier to socialize and meet new people,” she says.
However, “since everyone is attending for the same (or similar) reasons, you’re bound to get on with at least one other writer!” she adds.
My explains that, as supportive as friends and family are, no one understands a writer’s challenges like… other writers:
“Getting to know fellow writers can also benefit your confidence,” she says.
Ruby adds another interesting point, saying, “Tutored retreats have usually included one-to-ones with authors. Their feedback has given me confidence and inspired me to improve my writing.”
Indeed, she adds that “Meeting one tutor led me to take a six-month novel writing course which helped me to become published.”
Now that’s pretty cool, right?
Imagine having that level of confidence in your work. According to these writers, a retreat can be the perfect way to develop it.
- You Get To Meet Strange Creative People… Just Like You
Amanda actually says this is the most fun aspect of the retreats she has run – the connections her students often make with one another.
“Seeing friendships blossom is great,” she says. “Lots of writers I know have met in person for the first time on one of my retreats and are now in regular contact online and off.”
Being surrounded by other writers all there to focus on their work, as you are, is a huge boost to one’s creativity, she adds.
“Being amongst other writers and talking about writing is a joy because it is a shared passion,” says Ruby.
While My adds that meeting a varety of other writers from different background and varying levels of experience in the craft is “all part of the charm!”
Fellow writers are “the only ones who can truly understand and empathize with your difficulty with the whole writing process,” My says, adding that she enjoys getting support from “like-minded writers who are going through the same process.”
- Because Why Shouldn’t You Indulge Yourself A Little?
One of the reasons creative writing is hard is because people around you often don’t take it seriously.
After all, most of us are taught to write (badly) at school, so what’s the big deal?
Or if it’s not that, there’s the dreaded: “How much money are you making from that, then?”
Maybe it’s because of this that people have a hard time justifying a writing retreat.
It feels indulgent. It feels decadent. It feels selfish.
I mean… flying to another country – without your partner or your children or anybody – just to write! Unbelievable. What would your mother say, eh?
I mention mothers because of a personal story I think is important here.
My girlfriend’s mother works so hard and so much that it’s almost impossible to get her to take any time off at all. We’d come back from an afternoon at a local thermal spa with a money-off voucher, thinking: Let’s give it to your mum, and she can go.
But she wouldn’t take it. Going to a spa? To indulge herself?? When there’s work to be done???
It’s maddening. And makes no sense unless you’ve brainwashed yourself into thinking that fun and relaxation is bad. Or that a little self-indulgence is bad.
Well, if you need permission, I hereby grant it to you. Indulge. Have fun. It’s essential to a balanced life, after all.
Amanda agrees with me:
“Good food, wine, and a relaxed atmosphere are also essential… Down time is important too so that writers can digest what was covered in the tutorials, have a chance to write, take a walk, have a nap, and do some daydreaming.”
“I don’t know of any other way that you could take yourself out of your everyday life and dedicate yourself totally to writing,” says Ruby.
My thinks attending a retreat is a great chance to indulge in your writing goals, so you should treat your time there seriously – as well as make the most of any contacts you make even after you’ve returned home.
“It’s always useful to find a fellow attendee that you get on with and someone that you want to keep in touch with after the retreat who can give you a nudge when you might need it and most importantly keep you on track for actioning that writing goal that you said you would do!” she says.
So there you have it. Five reasons why you might benefit from a writing retreat, from three women who know what they’re talking about.
If you’d like to read more information about our upcoming writing retreat with Amanda, click >>here.
Or if you have any questions, or you’re interested in organizing a retreat of your own, drop us a line using our contact form.