Lessons from a Writer's Retreat

40. Lessons from a Writer’s Retreat

Even if you can’t get away from it all to work on your book right now, you can apply these lessons from my writer’s retreat.

Recently, I shut down work, left my family behind, and checked into a hotel for a week.

In this episode, I share what I learned from my time alone, working on my book.

These tips will help you get focused, write consistently, and go deeper with your book whether you’re writing on the beach, in a cabin, or at home. 

Mentioned in This Episode

A timed 30-minute writing session with music for focus

Episode Transcript

Hey there. Welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m our Author Coach, Candice L Davis.

In this episode, I want to share with you some of the lessons I took from my writer’s retreat last week, some of which you can apply right now, without going anywhere.

Early this year, my friend Anita and I got together and planned a writer’s retreat.

Like me, Anita is an author coach. Like me, she loves to get outside in nature. And like me, she’s currently writing a book.

We decided a writer’s retreat would be a great opportunity to work more closely with our existing clients and a great way to welcome new clients.

We chose a great location.

We planned our itinerary.

We created a list of brilliant women we wanted to invite.

And we decided fall of 2020 would be the perfect time to host our retreat.

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. COVID-19 happened.

Anita and I are both believers in science, so we didn’t even need to have a conversation about it.

Our retreat was postponed until circumstances changed.

But as the months went on, and my husband, our younger daughter, and I spent all our time in our house together, I found myself working on my book less and less.

My business was doing well, and I was really happy to be coaching my clients to write great books during this time.

But I wasn’t giving my own book the attention it needed and deserved.

So I planned my own writer’s retreat. A writer’s retreat for one.

I checked into a hotel just 20 minutes from my home. I chose a hotel rather than an Airbnb just because it was easier. I didn’t have the bandwidth to search through all the available rentals and try to figure out which would be in just the right neighborhood.

I chose a hotel in a neighborhood I know well because we used to live there.

I picked a location where I could walk to restaurants to pick up food if I chose to, and I made sure I had a room with a refrigerator so I could stash food and limit the number of times I had to go out.

These are some of the lessons I learned from my 6-day solo writer’s retreat.

Lesson #1: Give yourself to time recover from everyday life and work. I had planned to take the weekend off to recuperate from my long workdays, but I actually ended up working all weekend and even Monday morning before I left for the retreat.

This was not ideal. I was wiped out by Monday afternoon, so I didn’t do any writing that evening.

In fact, even though I worked on the structure of my book on Tuesday, I napped off and on all day.

Lesson #2: Decide in advance how much contact you want with the outside world. I knew I wouldn’t be taking in any news and very limited media, but I didn’t want to go all week without talking to my daughters, my sister, or my husband, or video chatting with my nearly perfect granddaughter. So we had brief conversations during my walks or when I was driving to get food.

Lesson #3: Eat great food, and let someone else provide it. Unless cooking is meditative or just plain enjoyable to you, let someone else take care of your meals while you’re on your writer’s retreat.

I sort of managed that by purchasing my meals at the start of the day or buying enough food to get through a couple of days at a time. We’re in a pandemic, so I didn’t dine in any restaurants, but that’s a great option too.

It also served me really well to have juice or salads for breakfast and lunch. As much as I love a good restaurant meal, eating heavy food isn’t exactly conducive to the creative process, so I ate really light during the day, and then had whatever I wanted for dinner.

As an added bonus, I got back into my pre-pandemic jeans by the end of the week, so it was a win on all fronts.

Lesson #4: Get outdoors. In a perfect world, I would’ve been at the beach, but I wasn’t so, I didn’t really care about having a view. Most of my time was spent looking down at the screen or the page, so no view, no problem.

However, I did find it beneficial to get outside every day and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, which brings me to lesson #5.

Lesson #5: Walk. Walking has been demonstrated to increase your creativity, and several studies have found that as little as 15 minutes of walking can increase your creative output.

I walked every day, and during every walk, I found myself whipping out my phone to record voice memos about the book.

Concepts I’d struggled to articulate finally clicked on my walks. I made new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. In fact, I was on a walk when I figured out the defining principle for the structure of my book.

Lesson #6: Give yourself time to get into the work. Depending on how much time you spent working on your book in the days and weeks coming up to your retreat, you may need to ease into it.

In my experience, the longer you’ve been away from the work the more time you require to get back into it. That means a three-day retreat may not be good enough.

Lesson #7: Minimize input from other people. That’s not to say you need to live in a bubble. But if you go on a retreat and you start your day with the news and social media, you’re still in consumption mode.

It’s incredibly difficult to create and consume at the same time. So cut back on what you’re taking in.

And finally Lesson #8: Don’t be afraid to discuss your ideas. Most evenings, I called my husband and we talked about my writing. He asked great questions, which helped me clarify my ideas.

You don’t have to go into total isolation to have a productive writer’s retreat.

Depending on where you are in the process, talking your ideas through with someone can help you see holes in your theories or missing plot points in your stories.

You’re not necessarily looking for feedback ,but just the act of articulating your ideas or sharing the high-level points of your story can inspire shifts for the better, which you might not have made on my own.

If you can get away and work on your book, I encourage you to do so.

If that’s not an option for you right now, you might decide to do a stay-at-home retreat if your house isn’t too crowded. Or you can apply some of these lessons to your regular writing routine.

That’s all for this episode. If you enjoyed it, please share it with that friend you know really wants to write a book.

Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis, and I’ll see you next time.

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