Tomorrow I head out on my annual critique-group writing retreat. I thought it would be fun to re-run a post I wrote earlier this year about a stay-at-home retreat. Happy writing!
Last week my husband took the boys to the Mountain West Basketball Tournament, giving me four days with the house to myself. I planned to use the time as a stay-at-home writing retreat, just Boo and me and fiendish typing.
It was spectacular.
I decided I needed to be prepared but open when it came to this writing time. While I hoped my Klondike manuscript would be back in my possession, I couldn’t plan on that happening (It wasn’t. I worked on it anyway and am thrilled with what I’ve accomplished). My goal was to have a sense of how I wanted to use the four days, but not be so rigid that I missed a creative opportunity. I ended up splitting the time between two projects, one in its very beginnings and the other nearing its end.
I planned ahead about regular commitments and how I’d handle them. For example, I got up at roughly the same time I would have had my family been home. I kept my Thursday running date and attended church on Sunday. But I made room for flexibility, skipping the gym on Friday and going to a book signing Saturday afternoon. As for meals, I pulled a few things out of the freezer, cooked twice (with leftovers for when my family returned), and even ordered pizza one night.
Most importantly, I knew I needed to have realistic, relaxed expectations while still committing to hard work. I am not a fast writer and never will be. With four days stretching before me, it would have been very easy to convince myself I’d do super-fantastic, out-of-character things, like write 10,000 words a day. Not happening, ever. Instead I focused on these things:
- I decided not to serve my ego (those 10,000 words) or my anxiety (worry I wouldn’t accomplish anything), but simply show up and enjoy the work.
- I told myself it was more important to be productive instead of producing. (In other words, I didn’t have to have loads to show for all the time I put in. Creativity isn’t always something that can be measured. I’m learning to be okay with this.)
- I strongly believe that every writing moment teaches me. That makes it worth it, whether it’s eventually cut or kept, whether it sells or doesn’t.
If I ever have the opportunity to do this again, I hope I can enter in with the same mindset and experience the same satisfaction. The writing life is one pretty wonderful thing.
Thank you for this guide – these are my summer weeks, and I appreciate this guide to productive and yet relaxed stay at home working retreats.
Here’s to a (future) summer of satisfying work.
Faith Hough says
So glad you had a good retreat, and thanks for sharing your mindset!
A few years ago, my mom watched all my kids for an entire day just so my husband and I could spend the day in a private “writing conference.” We started the morning with a couple Ted Talks, and then just spent the whole day writing and reading. For a couple INFJs, it was pretty much the best date ever. 🙂
That pretty much sounds like heaven!
So glad you had a lovely home writing retreat. Your guidelines are similar to mine and I do so enjoy this gift when it arrives.
I’d love to hear about your experiences sometime, Vijaya.
Valerie Geary says
These are great takeaways not just for retreats, but for the day to day grind! Thank you for continuing to share your wisdom with us. (And I love that you ordered pizza one night!)
Much of my wisdom comes from bouncing ideas off of / learning from you!
Kimberley Griffiths Little says
What a lovely four days! So glad you had a chance to do that. It’s been YEARS since I’ve had that kind of uninterrupted time. Maybe decades now that I think about it . . . 🙂
Whose book signing did you go to? Hoping I didn’t miss a friend! I’ve missed all the schmoozes so far this year, too, with travel and deadlines. I’ll be driving to Vegas for April’s meeting, too, for the RT Convention. So sad to keep missing everyone! xo
I was just thinking of you! It feels like forever since I’ve seen you. The book signing was for Lindsay Eagers, whose Hour of the Bees just came out. It’s set here in NM, and she came down to UT to present. It was wonderful.
Jennifer Rumberger says
I enjoyed this post, Caroline. I need to train myself to use time alone to write. So many times it is easier to do nothing then try and break through whatever is going on and stay focused.
I was worried about the urge to do nothing, believe me! Thankfully I went in with a game plan and was excited about the opportunity to work in such a different (but familiar) environment. It was enough to fuel me to get going each day.