Or any old retreat for that matter. I’ve listened to friends go on and on about writing retreats for years. Holing up in a hotel for a weekend to escape family demands and meet a deadline. Taking off for a family cabin with a group and spending a weekend plotting. Finally it was time to dive in and here is what I learned:
1) Find friends who share your goal for the retreat. If everyone is on the same page (literally)–writing pages or plotting or critiquing–then things will most likely run smoothly–as no one is interrupting another’s pursuits. For our weekend, the four of us all had books in progress that needed to be jumpstarted after the holidays. So our goal was simple: Pages. Lots of pages. We wrote on our own, we used group sprints (1k words in one hour) and took breaks together to unwind, chat about road blocks, to share music tracks. Then it was back to the pages. Relaxed, yet productive.
2) Find a good space. Jane Porter and I lucked out at a charity auction last year and sprung for a big condo in Palm Springs. The place was amazing. Far more than we expected–it was so perfect. Two large bedroom suites, an individual bedroom, big living room, dining area, big patios. Perfect–because everyone found their favorite spot and hunkered down to write. We were not shy about moving furniture around to suit our mood–including taking the dining room table out on the patio so we could eat and write outside. I loved the patio off my bedroom–bright light, privacy and fresh air. Perfect.
3) Collaborate ahead of time. We had a flurry of emails the week before–on goals, expectations, food, groceries, and it all came together quite effortlessly. At least it felt that way. We shared cooking, making coffee and tea. We took turns with those chores and were respectful of each other’s time.
4) Clear your head and keep a clear perspective. Too much writing and togetherness, especially for writers–since we are usually solitary creatures–can be a bit stressful. Take breaks. I went for walks. I went to mass. Closed the door on my room. And bit my tongue a few times. Anyone who knows me, knows that is me showing huge restraint. In other words, it is only weekend. And if things bubble a bit, well, consider that is writers being writers and it is after all, only a weekend.
5) Come prepared to work and share and learn. I had my scenes all mapped out, my notes in order and my pages with me so I could take additional notes as needed. I had them all in one of my Levenger Circa notebooks. I tend to think this is the way everyone writes–only to discover that everyone of us worked so very differently. The coolest part of the weekend were the times we each shared our writing process and explained how we work. Fascinating and so amazing. And yes, I will share what I learned.