Lessons from my First Writing Retreat

A couple weekends ago, my brother was kind enough to lend me his space in Toronto so I could get away from my kids, for the first time ever, and focus on my writing. He made fun of me a lot because he thought I would miss my kids so much I’d be back by 9pm the same day that I got there. But I was determined! The more he teased, the more determined I became to prove a point! I could do this. My kids were in good hands with their dad!

I did it, and I learned things that would make the next retreat better, so I wanted to share some tips.

  1. Plan plan plan. Know what your goal is for the retreat. Is it to get to a certain word count? Most likely it isn’t. My goal was to get the momentum going again because I tend to write in a disconnected way, where I write two hours one day, and then have to reconnect with my work again a week later when I finally have time again. I wanted to get to a point where I was so connected to my work, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I got there, so it doesn’t matter that I wrote under 3000 words.
  2. Definitely get away from home. The space worked for me because it was comfortable, food was accessible, and most importantly, I wasn’t home. If I had kicked my family out and stayed home instead, I probably would’ve spent a lot of time cleaning and organizing things in my house that I can never get to.
  3. Love the location. As much as I love Toronto, it doesn’t motivate me. I work in Toronto, so it’s not a change. The place isn’t awe-inspiring anymore. On top of that, it was a cloudy weekend and grey skies are the best thing to depress you and slow you down. So I’ve decided the best place to write is a different environment from the one I’m usually in. Coming from a snowy flat land, the ocean inspires me, mountains inspire me. I would love to write on a sunny resort, or in a cottage by the mountains.
  4. Make sure food is accessible. The last thing you want to do is be cooking 3 meals a day. You also don’t want to have to go to a restaurant to eat every meal. Or maybe you do. To each their own. Make sure there are places to get your caffeine fix whenever you need it. It’s nicer than being cooped up inside, making your own.
  5. Go explore. You’re most productive when you accept that your mind wasn’t designed to be creative for hours and hours without break. I swear, when anyone tells me to get back to work, my go to line is “the creative mind doesn’t work like that.” Because it doesn’t!! You need to go for a walk, to get your ideas flowing; you need to take a break and go swimming. You’ll come back more focused. I promise.

Let me know if you’ve been on a retreat and have more tips to add. I’m still a novice!