Friday, August 19, 2016

Writing Retreat at Home (Tips)

Last month, I addressed planning a DIY writing retreat.  It is less expensive, there isn't an application, and you can pick a venue more suited to your needs.  But, if the options presented during the last post aren't feasible, perhaps creating a retreat at home is what you need.

First, a caveat:  Not every tip will work or benefit every person.  
Take what you can and/or want.
1. Schedule your retreat and let everyone know.  
Figure out when you have time and schedule a weekend (or other span of time) to have your retreat.  Unless there is an emergency, don't cancel.  It is easy to dismiss a retreat at home as unimportant.
After you schedule, let your friends and family know you won't be available (or will only be available on a limited basis).  Tell caretakers what your plans are, what you need from them, and how this might change your interactions for a few days.  Let everyone who follows you on social media know so they don't think anything is wrong.

2.  Disconnect from online... and television... and cellphones.
If you're constantly checking Twitter, or are on your fiftieth cute cat video, you are probably not writing.  Cut yourself off from distraction.  If you need to research something for a story, make a note in the margin and look it up when the retreat is over.  Can't stop social media entirely?  Give yourself a half-hour before bed and no more.

3.  Pack your bags.
Get yourself in the right frame of mind by packing.  Put all the clothes you intend to wear for the duration (including extras for various accidents) into a suitcase and ignore your dresser while on retreat.  Gather your pens, laptop, notebooks, and anything else you would need to write and add them to your stuff.  Everything should be in one place for your needs and will help keep you focused.

4.  Plan your meals.
For those who do your own cooking, prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them so preparation time doesn't distract or cut into writing time. Those who don't cook for themselves can still save time by having discussions about meals in advance.  No one has to interrupt your creative flow to ask you what you want to eat when everyone knows beforehand.

5.  State what you hope to accomplish, but go easy on yourself.
Know what you want to get done, put it into words (write it down, record it on a sound device, etc.), and visit your intentions every time your day begins while on retreat.  Give yourself a goal.  Don't just leave it at "write every day", but try something specific.  Do you want to complete your novel's first draft?  Do you want to write six poems?  Are you in dire need of finished (and brainstormed) blog posts?  Make it clear what you're working towards.
But, if you didn't accomplish everything you wanted on your retreat, don't hate yourself afterward.  You might have had chronic pain flare-ups for two days and couldn't function.  You might have had news from a doctor that stopped your progress.  Things happen, in the skins of cripples and gimps.  Focus on what you managed to get done, no matter how little.  Progress is always something to celebrate.

6.  Try to write near nature...
A change in environment can do wonders for creativity.  Try writing outside your home one day during your retreat, if you're able.  If you can't go outside, sit beside an open window for awhile to feel, see, hear, and smell a different slice of the world.

 7.  ...or change your surroundings.
Your sleeping and/or writing area may also benefit from alterations.  Borrow different art from a friend and switch it with what's currently on your walls.  Buy a blanket in a different texture (one you like) and put it on your bed.  Put on a CD that has nature sounds or soft music.  Find an appealing, subtle fragrance you enjoy (that no one in your residence is allergic to) and add that to your room.  Give your senses pleasing things that aren't daily occurrences, but remember any allergies or sensitivities.  No one can write on overload.  Anything added to your environment should enhance your experience, not distract from your writing.

8.  Remember your comfort and health.
Wear comfortable clothing.  Find a spot to write that gives you the least amount of pain.  Take your medications.  Eat.  Stay hydrated.
Your health, comfort, and safety come before your writing.

9.  Write!
It's what you made time for, right?

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