Writer’s retreats: boot camp, bad-girl camp-out, or nunnery?

Retreat of Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz, painted by Miguel Cabrera, who presumably did not interrupt her writing

Retreat of Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz, by Miguel Cabrera, who presumably did not interrupt her writing

Retreat is sometimes the only way forward. For writers who have a big series on their plate, a looming deadline, an empty well, a crisis of faith, or just a dire need to kick back, a retreat can be the cure.

Sometimes you just need to get away with some writers and whine about your career. (Complaining is our last tax-free pleasure. May as well enjoy it while we can.)

And sometimes that book just has to get finished.

What’s your favorite flavor? I’ve done all three. In my experience it’s a lot easier to get writer friends to agree to do a bad-girl camp-out than to meet somewhere and cocoon with their muse, or to help each other out with that pesky series concept that won’t gel, or to fix a plot that is bogged down six weeks before the book is due. But maybe it’s just that all my writer friends are party hounds.

Some writing tasks go easier when you have a team.

Some writing tasks go easier when you have a team.

Boot camp group activities for writers:

  • Give your characters tarot readings
  • Brainstorm plots, character names, new paranormal hero/monster types
  • Collage the new series
  • Interview resistant characters
  • Blitz-write short pieces to find your author voice
  • Tinker with GMC, conflict boxes, enneagrams, snowflakes, and other graphic writing tools
Complaining tastes better with refreshments

Complaining tastes better with refreshments

Things writers do at a bad-girl camp-out:

  • Go shopping
  • Watch Broadway shows, movies, roller derby, burlesque, or the circus
  • Hit the spa for massages and pedicures
  • Hike in the woods and on the shore
  • Go kayaking or swimming
  • Hunt berries and get mosquito-bitten
  • Cook everything high-calorie
  • Drink way too much wine and blender drinks
  • And, as always, complain

What a writer does on a nunnery retreat:

  • Write, write, write
get away from it all!

get away from it all!

Places to go for your retreat:

  • Coffeeshop up the street
  • Cabin in the mountains
  • Downtown hotel
  • Dude farm
  • B&B just about anywhere
  • Family vacation home
  • Rental beach house
  • Vegas resort

No, hiding in your office doesn’t count. That’s just battening down the hatches and locking all the doors and standing over yourself with a stick, saying, Write or die! That is not a retreat. A retreat is an act of kindness you do for yourself, so that you can heal up after the stick treatment.

what's going to soothe your soul?

what’s going to soothe your soul?

So there’s one thing you absolutely have to do on a retreat, no matter where or with whom.

And that’s treat yourself better.

What do you do for your writing—and yourself—when your muse is in a coma, the book isn’t coming together, flying monkeys chatter menacingly outside your window, and you’re tired, tired, tired?

If you have a favorite retreat location, can you post a URL for it in the comments?

 

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Writer’s retreats: boot camp, bad-girl camp-out, or nunnery? — 7 Comments

  1. The real question (as with vacations) is, are there going to be other activities? Or is it going to be purely restful?
    Other activities ideally involve research for the book. It inspires that Muse, to see the actual Pyramid you are writing about, and in theory all of this will be tax deductible.
    Purely restful? I like the Caribbean. Antigua or St. Thomas. This will cost you probably as much as going to Egypt or Hong Kong or wherever, and so a researchy outing almost always wins.

  2. Every June a bunch of local writers do CampCon. Camping with laptops/writing retreat with camping.

    We have one campsite designated “quiet zone” with lots of extension cords and surge protectors, awnings over tables and chairs nestled in the woods. And a coffee pot. The other campsite is food and social–firepit, food, music, food, laughter, and beer/wine. This year 18 writers produced a combined total of 131000 words over 4 days.