Sometimes the best thing a writer can do to boost their productivity is to find a way to relax. For some that will be going to take a walk, listening to a favorite song etc. But there are times when a more serious form of relaxation is in order. For those times, I say look no further than the DIY writing retreat.
It’s a simple and effective way that, with some planning, doesn’t have to cost anything. And even better, at the end, you’ll be ready to return to your normal day-to-day life confident that you can tackle what is thrown at you.
[This post contains affiliate links. My affiliate policy can be found here.]
Why I Decided To Try One
I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Blogging taking over writing life so completely that I felt as if I was seconds away from pulling out my own hair. What’s worse, I was starting to feel blocked when I did get a chance to write. My brain just wasn’t able to disengage from blogging and get in the right mindset for writing fiction. I had to do something and my normal methods of picking up a book or reading some really awful fan-fiction just weren’t working. Neither was changing the location where I did my writing or listening to my favorite bands to unwind. I was starting to get a practically Pavlovian headache whenever I did things I normally found very relaxing.
So I went looking for a solution and found some articles on creative retreats for writers. There we quite a lot of them, it was…overwhelming and I ended up zeroing in on low-cost or free, DIY retreats. I sleep terribly the first couple of nights I’m not in my own bed and I cannot afford an expensive retreat anyway. Combined with my how much time my introverted nature seems to demand I take after an entire day interacting with others, something I could so at home seemed the best.
A post on rachelgiesel.com cemented it for me. I would do my own retreat from home. Preferably over a weekend where I didn’t have my bi-weekly writers meet up. It was a Tuesday, I didn’t have my meet up during the coming weekend, and I was desperate. I wrote a note into my Bullet Journal and vowed to come up with the perfect itinerary for myself.
The rest of the week passed by in a blur of blogging related things. A week in which I still didn’t get any writing done. I didn’t even have time to prepare my little retreat and Saturday was completely subsumed by life instead of being day-one of my weekend of just relaxing, unplugging, and doing as little as possible that would jolt me out of a creative mindset.
By Sunday afternoon I was completely pissed off. I hadn’t gotten any time to relax, so I decided to do a mini-retreat that afternoon come hell or high water. The following is what I did during my mini-retreat in no particular order sans the interruptions that persisted during this time:
Listened to Episode 24 of The Hopeless Romantic
The Hopeless Romantic, while not something I’ve mentioned much before now, is one of my favorite podcast. It’s all about writing LGBT Romance and I love the escape and inspiration I get from listening to it. I listened to an episode titled “Gay Elves and Sexy Lizard People” from June. Tension melting out of me during that hour listening to hosts Austin and Amanda talk about how there really needs to be more gay Epic Fantasy and Space Opera.
I even ended up with an idea for lesbian elves. This, of course, was scribbled in my Bullet Journal and made me a very happy writer. I’m convinced the world needs more Fantasy Romance featuring lesbian elves, preferably ones that aren’t your stereotypical elf. And Orc-like beings. I would love a good Fantasy Romance or Epic Fantasy story where the Orc-like creatures weren’t evil or anti-heroes.
Watched Murdoch Mysteries
I love Mystery as a genre. It can be SciFi or Fantasy, or any other sub-genre. So after listening to a couple of podcasts from Writing Excuses—more on that in the next section—I decided an episode or two or my favorite Mystery series, Murdoch, was in order.
While watching TV doesn’t seem like a writer-ly thing for some, Murdoch is an excellent example of how to write a Mystery. I spent the entire episode identifying different bits of the plot, foreshadowing the ending, and quite a few other things I don’t normally do when watching Murdoch. Remember, a writing retreat is relaxation and education with a purpose, and that is exactly how I used the episode of Murdoch that I watched. For those interested, I watched Season 1, Episode 5. It’s a good episode, but it also gave me a yearning for a Fantasy Mystery story with an 1890s-ish setting where being LGBT is perfectly normal and OK. That, of course, also went into my Bullet Journal.
Listened to Writing Excuse
Readers familiar with Eclectic Little Dork know that I love the podcast Writing Excuses. I think it’s awesome and I always learn something from listening to it. Naturally, this means I was going to listen to at least one episode while during my mini-retreat. In the end, I picked 12.26, 12.30, and 12.31. I won’t bore you with details of each one, you can listen to them for yourself. But they were a very good choice for me.
If I was asked which of the three I think others would most benefit from when doing their own DIY retreat, I would have to say Season 12, Episode 26. It’s a Q&A episode that allows access to the minds of other writers and it talks about outlining vs discovery writing/discovering the story as you write. I found the discovery writing bits very interesting despite being an outliner myself. Writing Excuses posts a new podcast each Sunday/Monday.
Written In The Stars Synopsis
In between Murdoch, Writing Excuses, and The Hopeless Romantic I wrote a synopsis for my Romeo and Juliet retelling, Written In The Stars. If you want to know more about this novel project, please see my July 2017 review. Suffice to say, it’s a horrible synopsis. Rushed, sloppy, a bit convoluted etc. and it will need to be rewritten into a better 2.0 version of itself that is actually useful.
But it is the first creative writing I’ve done in a while and I’m very happy to have just gotten it out and onto paper. Crappy quality and all.
What Would I change
I could write an entire short story chronicling what I would change in order to make my next DIY writing retreat better. But it really just comes down to one simple thing:
More Planning, because the lack of it certainly bit me on the ass. I could’ve had a more comfortable, weekend long retreat if I planned better.
I would’ve been interrupted less, gotten more done, been able to relax more etc. So next time, I’m going to start planning two weeks to a month in advance and warn others in the house not to disturb me much during my next writing retreat.
Have you done a DIY writing retreat? What was your experience like?