I just wrapped up a COVID-style, week-long, at-home writing retreat and (just to push how many hyphenates I can fit in one sentence) I got a s*it-ton of writing done.
It was kind of last minute. I was lamenting, to my husband, how slow my progress has been on this draft. I work on it (almost) every day, but there are so many distractions in the house lately, what with the kids home-schooling. I’ve had trouble really digging in, finding my flow.
My husband works in the film industry, which has serious ebbs and flows. As it happens, his work load is light right now as they wrap up post on a film, but his schedule is pretty unpredictable. Projects tend to pop up and need his attention (like, all of his attention) with little warning. So his response to my lament was pretty much: go, do it now while I’m able to cover everything else.
Of course, going anywhere for a writing retreat right now is fraught. So we decided I would hide out in the guest house. We have a folding table back there. I carried back my chair and my laptop. I created a little stockpile of snack food and coffee. I set an auto-responder on my email.
Diving In To My DIY Writing Retreat
Then, Monday morning, I started writing. I wrote all day, went into the house for dinner, then went back out. I crawled into bed at the end of the night and then got up and snuck back out there before the kids even woke up.
I wrote for 12-14 hours a day. It sounds crazy, when I write it out like that. But something kind of magical happens when I get into the flow of writing. Hours fly by.
Sometimes I would sit back for a coffee/Oreo break and think: what have I even be doing? But the stack of marked-up pages on my left were gradually being flipped face down on my right.
In five and a half days I managed to get through the whole draft and damn does that feel good. Not only did I get about two month’s worth of work done in one week, but I dealt with a lot of larger issues, the kinds of things that you really only catch if you read over a big chunk of the manuscript all at once.
Carving out big chunks of time for a writing retreat is so critical when you’re working on a longer project. I’ve blogged about a few of the different ways that I’ve managed to do this over the years (check out 5 Ways to Find (or Make) Big Chunks of Time to Write), but this was the first time I’ve done it at home.
On the plus side, it was free. Yay free! It was also very comfortable as I had my own chair and slept in my own bed. It was also nice that I got to see my family at dinner. Previous retreats I’ve done have been pretty isolated and a little human interaction was actually very grounding. Also, on Saturday, my daughter made me an Oreo cake (see above – very on theme) to celebrate my week of hard work.
The only real downside of staying home was that I didn’t have as much freedom in my schedule. Our guest house isn’t big enough to have the desk set up and have the Murphy bed down, so I couldn’t take naps and I was conscious of waking the family if I came into the house too late, so I kept a pretty normal schedule. I guess too that I was a little self conscious about how gross I can be on retreat. I made an effort to shower and change clothes and stuff, which (if I’m being honest) I don’t always do when I’m on a writing retreat.
But all in all, it was a big success. The results speak for themselves. I have a few final notes I need to research, a few little things to loop back and address, but I’m getting very close. Can’t wait to share it with you all.