It’s getting close to Mother’s Day, and while I am a mother and I do enjoy my Special Day, mostly it means that my tight group of writerly friends and I get together for our annual writers retreat. Like NaNoWriMo, the retreat is similar in that we do marathon writing sessions; but we also take time out for connecting about our daily lives, discussing the publishing industry and polishing off a few pitchers of margaritas at the end of a productive day. Our retreat takes place over a three-day weekend at a suitable lakehouse, and many times the immersion in our projects spill into the following weeks. If you can swing the time and expense of a writers’ weekend, it is worth it.
However, planning a successful writers’ retreat takes some thought if you want to get the maximum productivity out of the weekend. After indulging in an annual retreat for seven years now, here are my tips to plan a successful weekend of writing.
Step 1. Get someone else to do the planning.
I’m half kidding. But if someone in your group likes making travel plans, let them run with the ball. We are lucky to have one person (ICU Jeanne!) who thrives on searching for a suitable house to rent for a weekend. She compares apples to apples for us. Otherwise we go through endless email chains debating merits of available wi-fi connectivity and if it’s worth paying extra to use their linens or if we should bring our own. Hash out a list of must-haves and a list of nice-to-haves, and then let them go for it.
Step 2. Make sure everyone is there to write.
It goes without saying, right? But sometimes potential retreat buddies aren’t interested in working, they are looking for a getaway from the kids or aren’t in the proper headspace to write. That’s fine if they can respect your desire to get work done. But if they can’t, think twice about inviting them along.
Step 3. Have a goal in mind.
I’ve found that if I give myself a doable target to shoot for, say, finishing three chapters of a current WIP, or line editing 200 pages, that I’m less apt to be distracted faffing around with character studies or research. A goal keeps me focused. The weekend will go by faster than you can imagine, and every hour is precious.
Step 4. Divvy up chores equally.
Nothing torpedos the camaraderie faster than someone doing all the work or someone else shirking. Take a couple of minutes to get on the same page. Who is going to make lunch? Take care of the dinner dishes? Spring for that extra bottle of wine? Having everyone on the same page avoids uncomfortable situations later.
Step 5. Respect each others’ space.
Say that it’s dinnertime, but one writer wants to finish a scene or go for a thinking walk. Let them. Everyone has their own journey.
That’s it! My tips for a great writers’ retreat.
Have you participated in a writers’ weekend? What are some tips that you can share for us? Some cautions? Please let us know in the comments.