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.
I hope you enjoyed this piece and learned a little something. If you found the content valuable, tips are hugely appreciated.
Carmen I says
Great idea! I should do my own “DIY Writing Retreat” and maybe I will get something done. Just shift my brain into writing retreat mode. I live by myself and cat. Have a dedicated, very large room, to work in, plus a cottage what is bigger than any tiny house (useless during tundra Minnesota) in my backyard, yet I keep getting distracted constantly.
Absolutely. Sounds like you’re all set to make it happen.
Just turn that phone off and set an auto-reply on your email and you’re all set to go.
Good luck with it!
I will certainly remember this…and hopefully sometime this summer be able to do this myself…
Sometimes it helps to put it on the calendar way ahead of time like that.
Start telling people you’ll unavailable for that week. Start psyching yourself up for the work.
Good luck, and tell me how it goes!
Caroline Wampole says
Thank you for this post. I’ve been contemplating taking a writing retreat so I can finish my memoir draft by April, but Covid and budget concerns have held me back. You’ve convinced me that there’s no place like home!
Indeed. It’s always nice to get away. A change of scene can do wonders, but if Covid has taught us anything it’s that we can’t always have things the way we want them. Good luck with it.
Sarah Yetter says
Bravo!! ?????? Love that you were able to buckle down and there’s nothing like getting lost in writing for that many hours! Thanks for sharing this. ?
It did feel good. Daniel even began (jokingly) to refer to the guest house as my opium den. I would be so spaced out when I came in for dinner. LOL
Inspiring! Glad you were able to do this.
Thank you Rachel!