How to Retreat! Retreat!

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: Expanding a story
Mood: Widening

Last weekend, I went to the Oregon Coast with some writer friends for a beach retreat. (I accidentally typed “treat” and it WAS a treat.) Writing retreats are enormous fun, of course, but I also want the time to be productive. So here are some of my suggestions for a productive writing retreat:

Jessa-beachGo to the beach at a yucky time of year.

At the Oregon Coast, you can be guaranteed gusting rain November through July (and prohibitive prices August through September). So usually the horizontal “moisturizing and exfoliating” is enough to keep us inside at our computers.

Here’s a picture of me, measuring how many words I have yet to add. See, this is why you go to the beach in bad weather. Sunshine DEMANDS a walk on the beach.

beach-friends

Bring the right friends.

It’s best to surround yourself with writers who share similar productivity goals. Friends who constantly tempt you to walk on the beach as the sun sets are counterproductive.

Sadly, it turns out I am that friend. So don’t bring me. Except you have to bring me because I always bring the mint brownies.

beach-house

Find an inspiring spot.

Not only is the right physical spot important — like this lovely little beach house surrounded by chirping frogs — but the right spot in your mindset and your work in progress.

I try to prepare for a writing retreat by making sure I have the right sort of project and that I clear my “real life” of distractions that might creep into the weekend. Actually, this last weekend, I did a bad job of choosing the project. I’m working on revising, and I found that I did not do as well as when I bring a hot draft to a retreat. I’ll know that for next time.

beach-foam-and-skyNever mind the inspiration, just focus!

Part of my problem with choosing a revision project instead of a hot draft, is that when I’m revising, I tend to stare off into space while I think. When I’m at home, in my little office, there’s not much to look at and I quickly go back to work. But at the beach… I just stared at the waves for hours! I needed to bring my focus closer.

A good writing retreat has a clear focus, whether it’s writing, brainstorming or just refilling the well. Be sure you know what purpose your retreat will serve.

beach-sunsetTrack progress on the retreat days.

Like tracking the sun across the sky… It’s easier for me to stay accountable if I track my progress in three chunks during a retreat day: morning session, afternoon session, evening session. If I only review my progress once at the end of the day, I might find I didn’t do enough, but now it’s too late. If I track in chunks, then a slacker morning session (sun on the beach!) can be rectified in the afternoon, or a slow afternoon (afternoon nap on the sunny beach!) can be made up in the evening (no sun).

beach-sunset2Indulge.

As much as I want a writing retreat to be productive, well, it is a retreat. I try to capture some of that glory — and some of that sun — and take it back with me to rainy Portland.

Do you have a favorite getaway that never fails to rejuvenate you? Do you bring back souvenirs? I love to find good rocks.

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