Winter is cozy season, and cozy for writers often means focused time to nestle in and get a lot of writing done. We dream of escaping to a cabin in the forest for uninterrupted writing time. But not all of us are able to escape the home scene. Good news – you can carve out a writing retreat at home and watch the pages stack up.
If you have even a small window of time this season for a creative retreat, here are some tips that can help you carve out space for uninterrupted writing bliss.
Of course, these twelve tactics work for artists of any medium.
1. Schedule your retreat on your calendar. Find a day or two that are free and X them out for your retreat. When people suggest getting together on those days, say no.
What else can you do to make these days inviolable?
2. Pretend you’re leaving. The week before your retreat, act as if you are going out of town. Take care of all the work and home obligations that need your attention. Consider what needs to be taken care of when you are flying the coop – pet and plant care, clothes for the trip, etc. Don’t let these projects lure you into dismissing your retreat time – the basement declutter project will wait while you write.
What loose ends can you wrap up or set aside to be focused?
3. Retreat from your other roles. Make a list of the roles you play in life: mother, spouse, employee, and writer. Give yourself permission to take time off from those roles to focus on one role.
What roles can you set aside for the weekend?
4. Choose a focus for your retreat. Work on one creative project or several, but know beforehand what this time is devoted to. This will help when you enter the writing zone to get down to work right away.
What do you want to have accomplished by the end of your retreat?
5. Enroll allies. Alert your people to your plans and make it easier to keep your boundaries. If your retreat means simply that you are tucked away in your bedroom or office while the rest of the family goes about their day, make sure they know that. Better yet, help plan an outing for them so they can have their own adventure while you write.
Who do you need to alert to your plan so they don’t inadvertently thwart your efforts?
6. Stock the kitchen. Have healthy snacks, tea or other beverages on hand. Prepare meals in advance or plan to order out so you can eat well but not get distracted by food preparation.
What foods will fuel your writing retreat?
7. Plan your exercise. Moving aids the thought process and helps counter all the time sitting and working. Plan walks, yoga or your regular workout, and don’t skip them!
What exercise will you commit to?
8. Tune out. Unplug the phone, leave your e-mail program off for the day and shroud the TV.
What else can you set aside to be on retreat?
9. Plan evening recreation. Perhaps rent a film about a writer or artist to inspire you. Have a juicy book to read, or make a date with another creative buddy.
What activities will enhance your retreat goals?
10. Consider other fuel that supports your creativity. Inspiring books about the writing life, favorite quotations, photos of artists who are role models may all be part of your retreat. Don’t forget music to encourages your creativity.
What goodies can you line up for your retreat?
11. Get out! Being on retreat doesn’t mean being holed up at home. If working in a cafe or at the library supports your writing, plan for excursions out of the house. Watch out for the errand monkey, who will try to yank you around town on a bunch of his missions!
What outings may you want to plan or enjoy spontaneously?
12. Give yourself permission to step away from your normal routine. Take this time to focus and be in full creative mode. A retreat of even a few hours can be a huge boon to progress on your writing or art.
Notice I don’t say anything about how many hours you will clock on your project. This approach often backfires. When you discover that you grossly overestimated how long you can work, you’ll be disappointed and tempted to abandon the retreat altogether.
What works for me is to have a specific goal of what I want to work on and how far along I’d like to be. Then I start working on that right away in the morning. The momentum of the work pulls me along through the weekend and I never have to worry about whether my hours are adding up.
What have I missed? What works for you to carve out a home writing retreat?