From Edith, in the only-partially frozen reaches north of Boston.
Many of you know I am fond of going away on writing retreats. Addicted, one might even say! Even if all I do is occupy a friend’s empty house in the next town, I love getting away from home (and all the obligations and joys thereof) to focus on nothing but writing. A couple of weeks ago I had a hugely productive solo five days at a friend’s empty beach house not far from my town. And I have my routine down by now: what I bring, what I wear, how I work.
Of course the Wicked Cozys also go on an awesome group retreat every year, but we’ve covered that here several times, here and here and here, among other posts.
So I thought I’d poll some other authors pals who also like to go on retreat – some of whom I have been on retreat with, but not all – to see how their experiences compare with mine. Here are answers to my questions from Tiger Wiseman, Ramona DeFelice Long, Liz Milliron, and Holly Robinson – their bios are at the end of the post. Thanks for sharing, ladies (mind you, none of them saw the other’s answers).
Caveat One: I have edited down the responses a bit in the interest of space and reading time. Caveat Two: Everyone had such interesting and useful things to say (well, they’re writers, after all!), the post was getting really long. So I’ve split it into two parts. We’ll have the second part a month from now. This part has more to do with the purpose and feel of a retreat, while Part II will get into some of the practical side.
What’s your favorite part of getting away from home with a focus on writing?
T: Knowing I won’t have to worry about anything except being creative and productive –
Tiger at her very own Vermont retreat house
things that normally fall second to mundane necessities of cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.
R: Leaving behind all duties, from writing to meetings to housework, that interfere with creativity.
L: The removal of the distractions. With two teenagers, someone always has to go somewhere and someone almost always wants something. And then I have a husband to pay attention to. And the laundry. And the dishwasher. And, and, and… It’s always nice to get away for a day or a weekend where the only thing I have to worry about is feeding myself and writing.
Just that: the ability to focus! Even though my children are now out of the house, I find that between household chores, work deadlines, husband, dog, etc., it’s very tough to find the mental space to focus on fiction writing, especially when I’m starting a new project.
It’s so wonderful to be able to go to bed thinking about whatever you’re writing, and to get up in the morning and sit down to it first thing, with your papers scattered around just the way you left them.
E: I’m seeing a theme, here! All those comments apply to me, too.
Do you prefer to go away by yourself for concentrated writing, or with others? Why?
T: I prefer being with others in a structured environment. I like the company of others after the writing day is over, but during writing hours I want total silence.
R: This is a tough one, because I love both. I like being with other writers, but I need a private space to write, sleep, and think. A small retreat with private bedrooms and studios is ideal.
L: I like going with others as long as there are solitary writing times built in to the schedule. I’m fairly good at shutting out the world, but knowing that this is my time and I’m relieved of the burden of being social lets me really concentrate. But all writers get stumped, so having a group to brainstorm with is always
Liz in pink shirt on right. Photo credit Paula Smith.
nice. And of course, after the writing is over, hanging with friends for snacks and wine is a great way to recharge for the next day’s writing.
E: I like both, but as Ramona says, only if I have a private space for work, sleep, and thinking.
Where is your favorite place to retreat to?
T: Vermont, LOL. Lake, forest or mountains. Actually for me a retreat needs to be quiet (no traffic, planes, kids); provide space for long walks; not have TV or too many sites of interest which I’ll want to visit; good restaurant in case I’m too lazy to cook.
R: For overall enjoyment, the beach. For productivity, a quiet country setting. Specifically, Rehoboth Beach for a solo retreat for a few days. Long term, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA).
L: I love the woods. My chapter does an annual retreat and we have frequently gone to the Laurel Highlands, about an hour outside Pittsburgh. If I could hole up there every few months for a weekend, I’d be a happy girl. Little wonder my series-in-progress is set there.
H: I usually go to mid-coast Maine in winter, because it’s so quiet and it’s very cheap to
Split Rock Cove
rent condos on the beach then. I occasionally go to a writer’s residence in the Berkshires (Wellspring House). I also like Split Rock Cove up in Maine—very cheap off season, and the woman artist who runs it is fun to get to get together with in the evenings. Mostly, it’s important for me to be in a place where I can take long walks or runs, and there can’t be too many shops or restaurants.
E: I’ve been to Wellspring House a couple of times. I also head down to a Quaker retreat house in West Falmouth on the Cape, but only when I can have the house to myself. Otherwise house-sitting or group retreats are my usual places.
- Tiger Wiseman is an aspiring mystery writer & confirmed foodie.
- Ramona DeFelice Long writes every morning at 7:00 a.m. in her home in Delaware. She is an independent editor specializing in crime fiction. Twitter: @ramonadef.
- Liz Milliron writes The Laurel Highlands Mysteries. Her short fiction appears in Blood on the Bayou, Fish Out of Water, and Mystery Most Historical.
- Holly Robinson is a novelist, journalist, and celebrity ghost writer whose newest novel is Folly Cove. Visit her at her web site and on twitter @hollyrob1.
Readers: Do you ever go on retreat, whether writing or otherwise? Share your experiences!