The Five Benefits of a Writing Retreat

Being a writer these days isn’t easy. The majority of writers have day jobs, especially those writers  just starting out, but even those who have been writing for many years often have day jobs to cover their bills. So with the stress of the day-to-day pressing in on you, it can be difficult to find time—or even the desire—to write.

Most days when I get home, all I want to do is cook supper and spend time with my loved ones. Maybe read a book. The last thing I want to do is often sit down and look at a computer yet again (my day job consists of looking at a screen almost 8 hours a day). Some days I push through, but other days it’s impossible. Sometimes, the best way to get writing done is to do it all in one large chunk of time.

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Which is why I love writing retreats. A couple weekends back, I had the opportunity to go on a quick two-and-a-half day retreat with my writing group. We’re lucky enough here in Saskatchewan that there are a few places built for retreats. Which means simple rooms with no distractions (just a bed and a desk), and three cooked meals a day (very time saving), all at an affordable price. Below are my top 5 benefits of a writing retreat, whether it be for two days or twenty.

1    Uninterrupted Time to Get Work Done

I’ve tried before to lock myself up in my house to get work done, but the fact remains that home has many distractions, from family members, to cute cats who demand attention, to the TV, the floor that needs sweeping and the bathroom that needs cleaning, and those distractions all seem pretty fun when compared to spending twelve hours a day rewriting that one pesky chapter. Going on a retreat removes all those temptations, especially if you pick a retreat out in the country, far away from the interesting hustle and bustle of the city.

2    New Sights, New Thoughts

This point slightly contradicts point 1 above, but sometimes what us writers need to inspire new work is a change of surrounding. A new place, new visual cues around you (or a lack of them), can spark the imagination in a different way.

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3   New People, New Conversations

While I went on my writing retreat with my writing group, there were other writers at the establishment as well that we shared meal time with. While conversations were saved for the dining table or the evening when most of us were wore out from working, there was still plenty of time for talking and sharing. We spoke about ourselves, our work, what inspires us, and even read a bit of what we were working on to get some feedback. All of this is much needed writer-therapy that I could probably use more of.

4   A Change in Habit

There are many tricks to try if you’re suffering writer’s block, however mild. Like changing the font set of your document, or writing with paper and pen instead of on the computer, changing your place of writing can also help you look at your work with new eyes. I often find that taking a piece I’m working on to a cafe will illuminate the manuscript in a unique way, and show me a new angle to take that will improve the work or help me just get on with it if I’m stuck. The change to regular habit that a writing retreat provides is a great kick in the pants.

5   A Lack of Connectivity

While there was internet at my writing retreat, it was slow. And if I didn’t put in the password when I arrived, it was non-existent. Even though I did end up connecting, the speed wasn’t the same as it was at home, which meant streaming endless cute cat vids on You Tube wasn’t the draw it sometimes is. Not only that, but being away meant if I wanted to use my cell phone, I would be chewing up data and paying more in the long run. Not to mention that since I’d announced I was going away and on a retreat that friends and family didn’t text me as much as they usually did. The decrease in interruptions meant and increase in productivity, and I got a lot of work completed during my time away.

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If you’ve never done a writing retreat, but have been thinking about it, I definitely recommend the experience.

Have you ever done a writing retreat?

JEH

Writing 365,000 Words in a Year Update #24

If you’re caught up on my blog then you know that I spent this past weekend at a writing retreat. I had all sorts of dreams about pounding out 30,000 words in one weekend. But what actually happened was that I finished about 10% of that goal, and spent a lot of time workshopping, rewriting, and reading Jane Eyre instead. But the retreat location was perfect: quiet, remote, and with no real distractions (though they did still have wifi). Below are a couple of pictures from the location, including a gorgeous sunset (which was one of the few distractions, good thing it was short lived!)

Where I’ve been struggling with my writing goals is TIME. I haven’t been setting aside the approximate 30 minutes a day to get my 1,000 words done. I keep telling myself that I’ll have “a big weekend” and get back on target, and then it doesn’t happen. The thing about writing on the weekend is that there is always something better to do be doing, whether that’s hanging out with friends or family, going to the farmer’s market, jogging, or checking out a new movie or season on Netflix. Since September, I’ve noticed that I write more on the weekdays, the same days that I do my day job, and it’s because there is less distraction. While I spent 8 hours in my office, once that’s done I often come home, which leaves me with a lot of time to get my word count in. On the weekends I often go out, leaving me with too much distraction and too little focus. I guess I’ll have to spend the next few months improving this habit. Below is a look at my word counts since May 1st.

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I have to admit that this week I’ve also been distracted by my KindleScout campaign for Under Jupiter. If you haven’t had the time to nominate the book, that’s alright. But please head over and click the big blue button sometime before May 29th. You will get my eternal thanks, a shot at getting a free copy, and let’s be honest, each book I eventually sell goes a long way toward keeping this blog running!

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Now that I’ve finished Under Jupiter, my 365,000 word writing goal has turned to focus on two of the other projects that were on my initial list of five: Half-Moon Blood, which is something I’m writing for WattPad, and MF (which still goes by a code name), a stand-alone epic fantasy.

How’s your word count going?

JEH