5onFri: Five Tips for Making the Most of a Writing Retreat

by Bess Mcallister
published in Community

Writing retreats can be a fantastic way to spend a weekend. Whether you’re starting a new project, finishing one up, or just needing a few days away from the hustle and bustle of life to really focus, they can be a great way to get a lot of good words on the page. And they don’t have to be in a cabin in the woods, or for a super long amount of time. Even if you’re just setting aside a Saturday to hole up in your office or at a coffee shop, these tips will help you make the most of your chunk of undistracted writing time.

1) Set Goals

Research has shown that visualization is a powerful tool for achieving a goal. Before you begin your retreat, take a few minutes to think about what you want to accomplish, and also what’s realistic. Ask yourself what you’d like to have done at the end of this retreat. Set concrete, ambitious but achievable goals and then picture yourself attaining them. It will put you in the right headspace for getting sh*t done!

2) Be Forgiving On the First Day

A lot of times, when I start a writing retreat, I’m actually exhausted. Generally, that’s why I need to go on one in the first place! Work has gotten super busy. Life is hectic. I haven’t had a weekend in forever to really just sit down and write. So, I’m not usually starting the retreat with a lot of momentum already established. It can be hard to go from writing on my phone while standing on the subway to butt-in-chair for eight hours straight. So, if you’re having trouble on the first day really getting into the groove of writing, try to go a little easier on yourself. Break up writing time with other useful activities like going for a walk, stretching or brewing a second cup of coffee. You’ll be at full-speed in no time.

3) Create Ambiance

Whether you’re in a cabin in the woods, a work conference room, your home office or a hotel room, setting up the space for writing can help you put words on the page. A few things that I have found useful for creating a writing atmosphere include lighting a candle, loading up a writing playlist or favorite movie soundtrack, shutting the door, opening the window, bringing a few little desk decorations that remind me of my book and setting out a bouquet of flowers. Oh, and turning off the internet and putting my phone away!

4) Dress for Your Success

I know plenty of writers who prefer to stay in their pajamas all day when on deadline. I’ve found that putting together an outfit– even if it’s just jeans and a sweatshirt—and doing my hair and makeup makes me feel more put together and ready to work. When prepping for your writing retreat, ask yourself what dressing for success looks like for you, and pack accordingly!

5) Take Breaks – Including Sleep!

Marathon writing sounds awesome, but it’s not usually sustainable. If you’re writing for eight, ten or fourteen hours a day, it’s important to get away from your desk at least for little breaks. Getting up to go for a walk, and letting your eyes rest away from the computer’s glare will make the time in front of it more productive. It’s a chance to recharge, re-focus and be ready to go in the morning . . . maybe with a cup of coffee 🙂

What do you do to make the most of a writing retreat? Let me know in the comments, or on social media, using the hashtag #5OnFri!

Bess McAllister writes epic books in expansive worlds from a tiny town in the Midwest. Previously, she lived in New York and worked as a fiction editor at Tor Books. Now, she spends her days telling stories and helping other writers tell theirs. Her work is represented by Brooks Sherman of Janklow and Nesbit Associates.
Check out her editorial services and connect with on Instagram.

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