Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
How do you expect to get any writing done with all these distractions and responsibilities getting in the way? You’ve probably missed out on a dozen literary awards due to the hurly burly of modern life. There’s only one solution: a writing retreat.
But wait! Don’t retreats cost a boatload of money? Alas, attending a snazzy writing retreat costs more than the resale value of my Hyundai Accent. Thankfully, you can host your own writing retreat by following these steps:
- Poll your writer friends to see who wants to join you on your quest to find the muse. Being starving artists, they’ll jump at the opportunity to sleep under a non-leaking roof.
- Search the Internet for deals on places that’ll host a group your size. Proper writing retreats are held in secluded spots surrounded by nature. How about a nice woodland vacation cabin? How much space do you need? Are you cool with rooming with somebody? Remember, your roommate is not family, you can’t just let ‘er rip when you get gassy.
- Divvy up meal responsibilities. Any retreat worth going to will be outside of the Domino’s delivery radius, so you’ll have to plan ahead. One person does breakfast, another does lunch, a third does dinner. A fourth does the 2 a.m. bacon and eggs when you’re all drunk. You will jest that you’re responsible for killing a wild animal for the feast. Everyone will laugh, it seems so silly, ha ha!
- Tell no one where you’re going. You want to minimize distractions. I promise, your life will be waiting for you when you come back, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t.
When You Arrive
- Spend the first hour socializing with your fellow writers. You will know a great many things about each other before you’re through.
- Take a quick hike through the woods to get the lay of the land. Smell the fresh air. Relieve yourself as the animals do; there’s a reason forests are known as God’s toilet. This will also mark your territory in case a wandering pack of writers tries to horn in on your retreat.
- Vow to just let things happen. “Retreat” implies surrender. Submit yourself to the muse, let her take you where she will. Listen to her whispers—Immerse yourself in the mossy pond, she says? Then thrill as the cold water awakens every nerve in your body. Withdraw to the kitchen for a craft beer at 9 a.m., she says? There’s a bottle opener in the kitchen drawer, the one with all the knives. Trust the muse, she knows her work.
Your New Daily Routine
- Eat a proper breakfast of pancakes, flapjacks, hotcakes, johnnycakes, griddlecakes, and crepes. You’re a writer, you should know the difference between all of those. Grab a knife and dig in already!
- Observe how slowly the words flow without deadline pressure to squeeze them out of you. Nature cares not a whit about deadlines or word counts. Here in the wild, blood and bone are coin of the realm.
- Begin to notice how you could slip out of your normal life as easily as shrugging off your winter coat in April. Your regular cycle of work and home already feels old, a chapter of your life you’ve wrapped up.
Your New Nightly Routine
- Build a bonfire. Let the flames burn away the constraints of your old life, releasing your primal self. Let it run free. It may whisper to you to kill an animal and feast on its flesh. It makes a good case. Attuning your mind to mysterious inner voices is a critical part of a writing retreat.
- FYI, remember you’re at a remote cabin in the woods, so there’s a non-zero chance you might’ve stumbled into a horror movie. Keep your eyes peeled for anything spooky. “Listen up, all you Sasquatches and Draculas! Stay away, or I’ll write you into my novel, ha ha!” you say as you take a mental inventory of the knife drawer.
- Your belongings seem superfluous, do they not? It’s not hard to imagine stepping into the forest and keep walking. Just you and the clothes on your back and your sharp knife, wild and free.
- You find yourself staring at the open knife drawer. You have no memory of how or when you came to it, yet you are not surprised. This feels right.
- Drive home. The taste of meat and blood is in your mouth. You’re pretty sure it’s venison.
- Make plans to do it again next year. You may have to follow up with your friends more than once, they don’t seem to be responding to your emails.
Have you set up your own writing retreat? Share your story in the comments!