Writing Events
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

The Wonder of a Writing Retreat

LetsGoWrite_logo Writing retreats and workshops have been much on my mind lately, for several reasons:

1.  I've been running around like a nut job, working on classes, coaching, traveling and other fun things.

2.  Among the "other fun things" noted in #1, I've been planning my first week-long retreat/workshop with my biz partner, Debbie Guyol. (Note spiffy logo to the left.)

3.  Doing all of the above has not left me much time to write.

And, let me just tell you in all confidence that the result of #3 is a cranky Charlotte.  A cranky Charlotte who is desperately seeking ways to enjoy a writing retreat.  And so, herewith, my pithy thoughts on writing retreats and how you (and I) might nab one for yourself:

1. Find an organized retreat, where a group of people come together to create time to write. Sometimes other activities are planned and in most cases, these activities are optional, should the writing be going well. I'm the writer-in-residence at one of these retreats in Nashville, Room to Write, held in December and April. You can find others at Shaw Guides, or if you're looking for the best of both worlds–instruction and time to write check out my retreats at Let's Go Write.

2. Band together with a group of friends and create your own retreat, as I have done on several occasions. Going in a group can reduce expenses considerably, and the camaraderie after writing sessions are over is priceless. Some writers like to read their work at night, either what they've been writing that day, or finished work, and some prefer to keep to themselves and ponder the next day's session. You can rent a house, stay in a bed and breakfast, or find a resort. Just make sure everybody is clear on the ground rules from the outset.

3. Design a personal writing retreat. When you're coming down the home stretch on a project, going off by yourself to work on it can help you finish. Hours of solitude devoted only to your writing fuels a lot of inspiration. Find an inexpensive room in a nearby city and take yourself away to work. I have a friend who often takes personal writing retreats at a college town, because accommodations are plentiful. Resort towns in the off-season are also good. Or check out this site for more options.

4. Go to a writer's colony. This is a bit different in that there will be an application process involved. Writers apply for residencies of anywhere from a week to several months, and in many cases, meals and everything you need are provided. Competition is fierce, especially for the most prestigious colonies, such as MacDowell. But there's also quite a list of lesser-known colonies that might interest you. Either google or check them out here.

5.  If all else fails, design your own retreat while you stay at home.  Inform everyone you know that you'll be focusing exclusively on your writing and then follow through–turn off the phone, shut down the email boxes, refuse to answer the door. Because in reality, retreating is a mind-set more than anything else. It is committing to keeping outside influences at bay while focusing deeply on your own work, that which is most important to you. And that can be accomplished anywhere.

What are your experiences with writing retreats?  Have you gone to an organized one?  Created one for yourself?  I'd love to hear about them.

0 thoughts on “The Wonder of a Writing Retreat

  1. J.D. Frost

    I’ve never been on a retreat. If I ever organize one, I think for my kind of writing the ususal idyllic setting might not work. I write mysteries and thrillers—at least they’re meant to be thrilling. Do retreats ever gather in a seedy hotel on Chicago’s southside or Compton near Los Angeles or 14th Street in the nation’s capital? Maybe I can talk the Atlanta P.D. into offering a retreat, an inexpensive weekend in the Fulton County lockup. I don’t mean an arrest, just a couple of nights in the pokey and let me take my laptop. No internet, of course.

  2. Charlotte Dixon

    J.D., I can just see you wandering the mean streets of Manhattan, notepad and pen in hand, wearing a fedora and raincoat, then repairing to the even seedier hotel room to drink a beer and go over your notes. Re: the Fulton County lockup, be careful what you wish for!

    You do make an excellent point, though, which is that everyone has their own specific idea of what would make a great retreat for them. Once you’ve figured that out, you can either find one that suits your or design your own. Even if it has to do with jail.

  3. Zan Marie

    I want to go on one! The schedule of my husband and the needs of my doggies won’t allow that at the moment…not to mention my funds. : (

    Ah well, I’ll just have to plan an at home retreat. Have a great weekend, Charlotte.

  4. Charlotte Dixon

    Well, Zan Marie, we’ll be doing a lot more in the future! And yes, the at-home retreats can be very beneficial, also!

  5. J.D. Frost

    Charlotte, you have outed me 😉

  6. Patrick Ross

    Charlotte, how exciting you’re organizing a writer’s retreat! I experienced this for the first time in the spring in what was called a “Staycation,” it was in town and we spent all day Monday through Friday writing with lectures over a brown bag lunch, then went home at night. A bit more affordable. It didn’t have the isolation benefits of my MFA residency, but I am now connected to other local writers. One of them lives near me and we have a weekly meet-up at a Panera where we write; it forces me to carve out that time. Another one joined with me to form a writer’s group, and we’ve had 5 meetings so far. So don’t undersell the ability to connect with other writers!

  7. Charlotte Dixon

    Great input on the value of meeting with other writers, Patrick. I seem to recall when you did your Staycation retreat and how much you enjoyed it. Not to mention your MFA residency! It is very cool that you have gotten so connected with local writers–makes a huge difference.

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