Writing is, for the most part, a solitary occupation. While many of us like it that way, even a happy writer can get tired of her talking to herself and the imaginary people in her head. That’s when Twitter and tumblr and blogs and online discussion threads come in handy. We can connect quickly and easily with tens, hundreds, even thousands of like-minded people in seconds. But that’s still no substitute for being in the same room with real live, breathing, coffee- (or wine- or Scotch-) swigging specimens known as other writers.
It’s for this reason that I am a very, very lucky writer indeed, because a few times a year, I participate in a fabulous endeavor: a writers’ retreat. This past weekend, I had my summer retreat (which used to actually happen in the summer, so to us it is still the summer retreat). The five of us in the group met through one of my first writer friends who was in a critique group with me years ago. First we became RWA conference buddies, and then one crazy February, I invited the other ladies to my house for a writers’ summit, which consisted of dinner, wine, after-dinner drinks, dessert, liqueurs, and, oh yeah, discussions about writing, publishing, and marketing. We had such a great time, several months later we decided we should do it again, but this time instead of just talking about writing, we should do some writing, and voilà, our writers’ retreat was born.
We’ve found the best way to do to run our retreats is to meet at a retreater’s house, rotating hosting duties. The host provides the main dishes for the meals, and the other retreaters provide side dishes, desserts, and snacks. We have been known to venture out to local restaurants, but that does involve changing out of our holey sweatpants (but if you choose to venture into public in your writing garb, we will not judge).
In addition to the obvious advantages of a writing retreat (too much coffee! too many snacks! staying up too late talking about books!), there are creative perks. Maybe it’s shared pain, maybe it’s all that coffee, or maybe it’s just good old-fashioned shame, but it’s tough to sit in a room with three or four other writers wearing their earbuds, typing away on their keyboards, and occasionally muttering to themselves (or more likely their characters) without feeling motivated to get words on the page. By the time I left our host’s house Sunday afternoon, I had written more than 8,000 new words, had tweaked four already written scenes, and had significantly tightened Act I of my WIP.
Just as importantly, I came away with more information about the hot genre called New Adult, heard some behind-the-scenes information about successes in self-publishing, and compiled a list of must-read titles to add to my TBR pile. (I also came away with about five more pounds than I had when I arrived Friday, but it’s all in the name of creativity.
Not everyone is a joiner, and not every writer would enjoy working on their craft with others madly typing or scribbling just feet away from them. But if you know and like writers near you and think you’d like to organize a weekend of wild writerly abandon, I highly recommend giving it a try.
Have you ever been on or considered a writers’ retreat?