I have been to writing conferences, to conventions, to workshops, and retreats, but nothing compared to the transformative experience of the Writing Excuses Retreat Baltic cruiseI embarked on this past summer.
Accordingly, I’m not going to focus on the clear and present benefits of such an event, the opportunities to network with industry professionals, to learn writing craft, to have some focused writing time away from the daily sturm und drang of life, or the opportunity to find your tribe—wait, I will address that.
Without further ado, here are five reasons you want to book a writing cruise.
1) A chance to set sail for adventure
One of the most satisfying parts of going to a conference or retreat is going someplace you’ve never been before. I’ve always taken a few extra days to do some sightseeing, wherever I travel for writing events. These extra days are often some of the best of the trip.
In the case of a cruise, there are excursions at each port of call. These tours are often a good overview of the local sights and some will be short enough that you can return to a place of interest before the ship leaves port again. It’s a great way to see a new city for the first time.
Book these excursions before you depart and check on any special conditions that might pertain. For example, when we stopped in St. Petersburg, Russia, we couldn’t leave the ship unless we were on one of the authorized tours. We also had to process through customs on entry and departure to get our day visitor visas.
2) A chance to go wherever the wind blows
Challenge yourself. Traveling to a place you’ve never been before is part of that. You want to get out of your comfort zone. Gaining new experiences is part of your development as a writer. Everything you do or see becomes part of your writerly toolbox.
Never been on a ship before? Then it’s time you gave it a try. Worried about sea sickness? Cruise ships are large enough that you won’t feel anything unless they’re leaving or coming into dock, or there’s a big storm. And, even then, the crew knows all the tips and tricks, has all the medications you might need.
It’s incredible to see a sunset where the sea meets the sky with nothing between, to look out from the deck and not see land, or to see it distantly, getting closer. The air at sea has a different quality, a different smell. The ocean wind has the power to take you amazing places. Let it.
3) A chance to try a different tack
Sea what I did there? To change tack is a nautical metaphor meaning to change direction. How do you do that on a writing cruise? By learning in a new environment.
Just like writing in a place other than your usual, learning in a new environment has the effect of heightening your attention, deepening your focus, and improving your retention. Most conferences and workshops are held in hotel convention centers or at colleges or universities.
On a cruise ship, you may be in a lounge, concert hall, or a disco. Just like writing in a cafe or a park can give you new perspective on your work, learning under a disco ball and multi-colored lights while seated on a chaise longue can distract your monkey mind enoughto let the learning take hold in an entirely new way.
Even if you’ve attended similar presentations or panels in the past, you’ll be surprised by what new insights you’ll gain. If you have free writing time, try writing in a bar, where you can people-watch, on deck, or any number of new and interesting places. See what a change of tack can do for your writing, as well.
4) A chance to get into ship shape
A writing cruise is as much a vacation as it is a professional development opportunity. Most cruise ships are well appointed with pools and water parks, casinos and concert halls, gyms and spas. A cruise ship is like a floating city and you’ll want to take advantage of all the amenities on board.
5) A chance to discover you’re all in the same boat
Like any writing event, a cruise puts you together with other writers and authors like yourself. You’ll make friends with people at your level of development as well as those at lower and higher levels. You’re all there to learn.
There’s something about going through the muster (emergency drill replete with life jackets and evacuation points) together, about being at sea together, that will bond you to your fellow creatives in a way you may not expect. The community you gather on a writing cruise will stay with you after you’ve returned home. Many cruises have Facebook groups, or other, ongoing communities of practice that continue long after the ship docks.
Bonus: How do you get on board?
Now that I’ve got you all fired up to take a writing cruise, I bet you’re wondering how you can take part. Surely there can’t be that many writing cruises out there? Au contraire, mes amis.
The easiest way to find out what’s available is to consult our friend, Mr. Google. But … here are a few places to start:
- Cruising Writers – Featuring Margie Lawson. Laura Drake, Rita Award winner, offers a testimonial on their home page.
- JoCo Cruise – Featuring John Scalzi and Patrick Rothfuss in 2018.
- Global Spiritual Adventures with Sequoia Hamilton – Writers’ cruises of the Mexican Riviera.
- The Writing Excuses Retreat – Writing Excuses is the podcast with hosts Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Mary Robinette Kowal. Instructors include several of their guest hosts and industry friends. They don’t have 2018’s cruise details posted yet, but follow the podcast and you’ll get all the juicy deets.
- SiWC at Sea – Yes, the Surrey International Writers’ Conference is starting their own writers’ cruise in 2018!
If you’re concerned about the expense, some of these programs offer scholarships or other financial assistance. Also, if you’re not heart set on a balcony stateroom, the inner staterooms can be quite lovely. You’re not likely to be in your room much anyway, with all the writerly goodness going on around you.
Expense was one of the reasons I hesitated, initially, but my husband asked me if I’d regret not going. I said I would and so we found a way to make it happen without breaking the bank.
If you decide to set sail on a writing cruise, I wish you red skies only at night!
Melanie Marttila creates worlds from whole cloth. She’s a dreamsinger, an ink alchemist, and an unabashed learning mutt. Her speculative short fiction has appeared in Bastion Science Fiction Magazine, On Spec Magazine, and Sudbury Ink. She lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, where she spends her days working as a corporate trainer. She blogs at https://www.melaniemarttila.ca and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.