I’m on a writing retreat. And it is glorious.
I’ve never been on a writing retreat before, so I was a bit nervous (and of course excited) to go. Would I really be able to write anything? (Spoilers: Yes.) Would I get along in-person with the people that I get along with so well online? (Definitely, yes.) Would there also be fun shenanigans? (HECK yes).
If, like me, you’ve never been on a writing retreat before, there are a few things you should know in order to make it a successful trip.
First and foremost, make sure you understand what kind of writing retreat you’re going on. Some retreats have teaching and/or workshop objectives in mind. Others are just meant to be a place where you can work on whatever it is you need to work on, away from your routine and everyday distractions, and around like-minded people who are trying to get some work done as well. The retreat I’m on has no other objective than the latter, which has been perfect for me.
Two, make sure you have a back-up plan. I went with the intention to work on one book, and ended up working on a different one that I’d shelved about a year ago . . . which is fantastic actually, because I feel like I’ve accomplished way more than I would have if I had stubbornly stuck with my original plan. I’m super psyched about this too, because the reason I had shelved this book was due to being stuck, and getting away from my usual environment and habits somehow opened up my mind a bit more and allowed me to figure everything out. I now know every scene that needs to go into this book, and where each scene needs to be. At least—I do for now.
Three, if everyone going is on social media, and you are too, follow them ahead of time. Chat back and forth. Get to know each other a bit beforehand because you’re going to be spending a lot of time together. Also, you’ll want to feel comfortable talking about your projects with each other because a retreat is a prime opportunity to bounce ideas off other writers and get help where you need it.
Four, prepare for some play too. Because all work and no play makes, well, you know the quote. Most of us have been getting up in the morning, chatting over breakfast and coffee, then settling down to work. Then after a couple hours, we inevitably need to blow off some steam, so a brief period of shenanigans occurs. Then more work, then more shenanigans, then more work, until dinner, then it’s pretty much only shenanigans for the rest of the evening because by then, our brains are fried. Shenanigans at this particular retreat have included labeling everything in the cabin with post-it notes (windows are “nature portals,” the TV is a “basketball watcher,” and the microwave is a “coffee warmer,”) T-rex costume dance-offs, and games of Cards Against Humanity.
Finally, just relax. Even when you’re working, be relaxed about it. And be courteous. Take turns cooking and cleaning. Compliment each other. Laugh. Eat chips and brownies. Enjoy yourself. And make plans to do it again next year because by the end, you will agree that it has gone by too fast.