Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How to have a great Writing Retreat

Okay, so I've only been on one writer's retreat, so I'm no expert. But I have been to a ton of writing conferences, so I know--- when writers get together, we like to chat! I mean how can we not when we are finally surrounded by people who *get* us?

But...... chatting up a storm and getting writing done generally don't go hand in hand. So what's the number one secret to getting way more writing done?

CONTESTS!

Yes, writers are a chatty bunch. But we're also a competitive bunch, and we really like to win. (Plus, we really like to see that word count climb, so we've got that constantly working in our favor.) There's probably about a billion ways to bring competitiveness into writing, but we did two things.

The first was one the fabulous Elana Johnson suggested. We each brought a prize, and put all those prizes into a pot. The prizes don't have to be big-- we had various kinds of chocolate, fancy notepads and pens, an Amazon gift certificate, etc. Every so often throughout the day, we'd have a writing sprint. We found that 45 minutes worked best for us, but you can do them for any length of time. Then, the person who wrote the most in that 45 minutes got to choose a prize. And ohmygosh. Never did I imagine that eight non-sleeping people in the same room could be so quiet!

The second was an overall prize for the person who wrote the most words over the course of the retreat. Again, this could be anything. As an example, our writing retreat's official name was The Writing Retreat of Joy and Awesomeness, so the person who won overall was crowned Queen of Joy and Awesomeness. Each of us added to the prize pack for the winner and lemme tell you: THAT was what kept people burning the midnight oil to get in a few more words, then waking up much too soon in the morning. How could you stay in bed when you saw your competition already adding to their word count?

The second secret to having a good writing retreat?

LOCATION!

Not as big of a factor as contests, of course, but it definitely makes a difference! Imagine a noisy hotel with elephants stampeding above you. Or an office building, where the floors and walls are all gray. Now, imagine a comfortable mountain cabin tucked next to a lake or stream. Or a high-rise overlooking a beautiful city. These may be extreme examples, of course, but some locations definitely are more conducive to creative juices flowing than others. Location matters. And the third secret:

FOOD!

The better you eat, the better your brain works, right? The right food can make those late nights / early mornings not so painful. Not to mention the better the food, the happier the retreaters. :)

So what about you? Have you ever been on a writing retreat before? How was it? And if you could choose to go ANYWHERE on a writing retreat right now, where would you go?

18 comments:

Cristina said...

now I want to go on a retreat... and sit around and write like a mad person with other writers around me! :)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I have never been on a retreat, but after the couple of crazy weeks I've had...I'm ready for one!!

Melanie Fowler said...

Man I'm such a loser, I got an invite like years ago and I bailed because I'm one poor monkey :) Sounds like fun, and hopefully next time I'll be around to challenge your typing abilities :)

J. A. Bennett said...

I think I need a writing retreat, those contest sound like a blast!

S.P. Bowers said...

A writing retreat would be a blast! I hope someday to go on one. With other people or even alone. With no kids. Quiet. Ok, maybe not alone. I might end up sleeping the whole time.

Connie B. Dowell said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! Maybe one day I'll find the time and the cash to go on a retreat.

Jessie Humphries said...

Where are all the pictures? How come I can't see all the joy and awesomeness??? Hook us up!

Diana said...

Sounds like fun! Definately the thing I need to get my word count up. I think I'd be content with any location as long as there were no kids to distract me. ;)

Kim said...

A writing retreat sounds like a great idea!

I'd be happy with a regular retreat, right now, to replenish the creative juices.

I've always wanted to visit Australia Zoo - chockablock full of beautiful gardens, happy animals and inspiring/uplifting people.

Iain said...

Glad to hear that you aren't dead. Although, if you were, I was going to put in a request for your iPod ;o)
I haven't done a retreat yet, but I do keep thinking about a place over here called the Norfolk Broads. (A massive series of connecting rivers) You can hire cottages on the waters edge, and it's the most peaceful and inspiring place ever.
Glad to hear you got a lot written :o)

Imogen Elvis said...

Oh I so want to go on a writer's retreat now! Hmm, where would I go? I know. I'd go into the bush and stay in a house with a fantastic view and a balcony. I always wanted a balcony.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I would LOVE to go on a writer's retreat, but somehow time, money, kids, dogs, etc. always seem to conspire against it. One of these days though.... :)

Julianne Donaldson said...

I need an invitation to the next writing retreat. Seriously.

tfwalsh said...

Sounds like so much fun... I want to go on a retreat now:)

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never been on a writing retreat. But if I could choose anywhere to go on one right this minute . . . the most isolated part of the country where there are zero distractions and fresh air.

Jay Noel said...

My writing partner is going to one, and I'm totally jealous. I'd love to go to one...especially if it's somewhere scenic and out in the middle of nature.

Annalisa Crawford said...

That sounds so awesome. I've never been on retreat, but I really want to go now!

Katie Dodge said...

Yeah, so I went on this one retreat where we did this exact same thing! I'm still dreaming about the food. :)