What Makes a Great Writing Retreat?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In less than ten days, I will be heading to a writing retreat. Not only will I be participating in it, I will be leading it.

Leading is a misleading term, in this case. It will be a completely loose weekend. There won't be any let's-all-gather-together-and-write-to-the-same-prompt times. There won't be any guest speakers. We'll eat. We'll write. We'll eat. We'll meet with our response group partners a couple of times over the two-day span. We'll write some more until, reluctantly, we have to go home.

I've taken part in many writing retreats, and I always try to distill the experience down to its very essence as I analyze what worked and what didn't. Thinking about it, what I need in a retreat is hopefully the same as what others need...

In my opinion, this is what makes a great writing retreat:

Things to nibble on--I know that doesn't sound crucial, but for me, the chance to get up occasionally to get a handful of pistachio nuts ensures I occasionally get off my rear end. When I roam over to the snack table, I get some think-time. (The pistachios are still in their shell, which adds to the think-time. I drink lots of water for the same reason. When I have to get up and go frequently, that helps move along my writing process.) Taking the focus off my writing for a moment means I can focus onto it in a different way.

Something to stare at--This place (we've had our retreats there for several years) has lots of glass. When I need to, I can gaze out at the landscape outside. There's stained glass surrounding us, which can also give me a momentary break as I stare. However, it's also easy to ignore as I'm hunched over my laptop when the words are flowing like floodwater.

Time--Of course, this is the best thing about the writing retreats I love. Having large expanses of time to write and read over my writing is a luxury I don't get to enjoy very often. When I have all morning to write, or all afternoon or all evening, that means that when I get into a groove, I can keep the momentum going. There's nothing tmy progress to a screeching halt.

The icing on the top: I'll probably take a nap that will most certainly involve drooling and snoring. Thankfully, I have a room to myself, so no other humans will be harmed by my napping.

How about you? What would be the components in your dream writing retreat?

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher by day and (judging by this week) a drooler on the couch by night. She rescues dogs for Love a Golden Rescue and is working on her manuscript not-consistently-enough. If you're intrigued (and not horrified, by this point), check out her blog.


Margo Dill said...

I love any writing retreat that I've gone on like this--my writing group has gone from 1 day to 3 days, and we make sure to have food and time. As a matter of fact, that's really all you need as well as fellowship with other writers.

This year my writing group is going to the beach for spring break (and bringing our children), but I think we all hope to crank out our laptops at some point and get busy working. I can hardly wait. :) I feel very lucky to have the opportunity.

Best of luck at your writing retreat! I hope you get a lot of writing done.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Thanks. Your beach writing retreat sounds like a lot of fun (even though I'm not crazy about the beach). Are you going to have a couple of you watch the kids and the rest write, and then switch places?)

Sara H. said...

Sioux, I love your description! I'll be leading my first writing retreats this fall after only having led yoga retreats before, and I decided to do it because I realized how being in the mountains really brought out the best in my writing. I thought, "Hey, if this is true for me, it must be true for some other writers out there!"

I don't need things to nosh on, but I definitely need a cozy environment, QUIET, nature, and a group (anywhere from 3 to 12 people) of others who are also on the same page (hee hee) as I am. I also have found regular activity breaks, for walks or yoga or whatever, make a huge difference: I can't sit for more than 1.5 hours and expect my brain to produce worthwhile writing. Oh, and having a private room is a MUST! When my brain decides to compose a poem and wakes me up at 3 a.m. so I can write it down, I don't want to worry about waking up a roommate in the process. :)

Have so much fun on your retreat!

Margo Dill said...

Yes, Sioux, we've been talking about that--and a couple of the kids are older too. SO they couldn't all go down to the water together, but they could play outside with the older kids. :) I might just take a journal or a printed manuscript so I can sit at the beach with the kids and record thoughts or do a little editing.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Jealous! The retreat sounds relaxed and fun, Sioux! With you leading it, how could it not be fun?! :) How big is the group? I'd like a small, focused group, a place to be braless, maybe some yoga to recenter and help get my mind focused, some kind of water--beach or pool and jacuzzi--nature, good food and lots of coffee. After my nursing job finishes, which is hopefully next week (!), I'll look into a writing retreat, even if it's self imposed. Great tips!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sara H--Have a blast. I make goody bags for everyone, with corny phrases centering around gum brands and candy bars. Even those who only eat healthy food enjoy them.

Margo--Enjoy the beach. I love the sound of the ocean. I just don't get along with all that sunlight...

Angela--Me go braless? Oh, so you want me to clean the carpet while I'm there...

There will be 16, which is our largest group. However, we'll be in groups of 3 for response groups. Definitely look into one, or create a DIY retreat. I'm always amazed at how much writing I can get done.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Squeee! So looking forward to this.

Linda O'Connell said...

Sioux, I know your leadership will not lead anyone astray; you are a focused writer who can spin a yarn, craft a story, and keep 'em laughing and engaged. I enjoy retreats in nature. One of the most memorable was in the Botanical Gardens. I wrote a lovely poem about music from watching rain drip on a fern. Great post!

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