Last weekend I went away with twelve other members of my writing group to North Wales for our annual retreat. I’ve been on five retreats now, and they’ve become one of the highlights of my year. Here are five reasons why I keep going back.
1. Kick-starting a project
On retreat, we do our own thing during the day, then get together in the evenings. Because I’m away from home and all its distractions, this time alone enables me to concentrate on nothing but getting words on the page. This year I was about 20,000 words into the first draft of my WIP. By the end of the weekend I was at the 35,000 mark. Now I’ve got that momentum going, getting the first draft finished doesn’t seem such a daunting task.
I don’t spend all day writing; I also go for walks to explore the local area. We always choose beautiful locations in Wales, and being in such breathtaking surroundings never fails to inspire. It’s amazing how a problem with a plot or character can suddenly be resolved in a flash of inspiration in the middle of a walk. Which is why it’s vitally important to carry a notebook.
3. A change of routine
Working from home, it’s easy to fall into the same patterns day after day, and become jaded. Gradually my writing starts to suffer, sometimes even coming to a grinding halt. A change of surroundings never fails to refresh me, and helps me look at my projects in new ways.
4. Spending quality time with other writers
Writing is a lonely business, and I find it all too easy to get dispirited, sometimes to the point of wanting to give it all up. Getting together with other writers is very important to me. It’s an opportunity to be with like-minded people, get encouragement, motivation and inspiration. I always come back from retreat feeling energised and determined to persevere.
5. Living the dream
Let’s face it, the life of a writer isn’t the glamorous life we’d love it to be. Before I started writing seriously, I used to imagine a writer’s life involved getting up when I wanted, breezing through a chapter of my next bestseller in a couple of hours, going for a walk or cycle ride in the afternoon and maybe swanning off to a glamorous publishing do in the evening. In reality it involves getting up at 6am to write before starting my paid work then collapsing, exhausted, at the end of the day. Okay, so I do usually manage a walk at some point, but the swanky publishing events have yet to materialise. Going on retreat allows me to spend a few days in a beautiful location, providing the perfect backdrop for the fantasy lifestyle. For the duration of a long weekend, I’m a successful novelist, living the dream.
What about you - what’s your idea of the perfect retreat?
My writing, research and any other randomness that seems like a good idea at the time.