Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Retreating to Write

When life gets busy, a writer's thoughts can turn to getting away from it all. Finding a quiet room somewhere with a desk, a chair, a light, and a bed. One that won't break the bank. Maybe even one where simple meals are delivered a couple of times a day. No phone, no laundry, no Internet.

In such a setting, I dream of being super productive. Writing furiously for days on end, broken only by a daily long walk and a nap. Completing the last 100 pages of the work in progress. Doing an entire edit. Starting a new idea. Crafting a short story start to finish.

In reality, as Aine Greaney points out in
Writer with a Day Job, there's often a few hours or a day at the beginning of adjusting, of settling in. Still, I think I'm gearing up for carving out some time. Aine recommends the Wellspring House in Western Massachusetts (whose room is pictured here), a retreat house for writers and artists. Or perhaps my friend Deb's beach house is empty for a weekend. Anywhere away from home where I can have more than 5 hours of uninterrupted time would be superb.

There are established artist retreats where scholarship winners can stay for weeks, even months. MacDowell in NewHampshire. The Norman Mailer Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Oregon Writers Colony. Dorland Mountain in California. They are competitive to get into with a long application lead time, though, plus then you need to be able to take the time off work to actually work there.

Possibilities for the future, sure.
For now? Which weekend in the fall can I just claim?

And how about you? What kind of writing retreat works the best? Have you found a good one?


  1. All a retreat does for me is help me break out off my routine and refocus.

  2. My Dad has a small cottage on the 27 areas in Kentucky where he and his wife run a holistic health center. They were offering it as a personal retreat site - for someone who feels the need to get away from it all. I told him to offer it as a writing retreat as well. Little cottage, with a kitchen, tucked into quiet woods. Pretty much all anyone would need to write.

    Unfortunately, I can never find the time to get away.

  3. Edith, I've started applying to retreats and colonies. Cross your fingers. I would love two weeks or a month of solitude. I've done several group retreats, but never a solo one. It sounds like bliss.

    Do you know that the National Park Service offers a number of artist residency opportunities?

  4. Ramona, good luck! I'd love to hear more about the Park Service residencies (yes, I know, google is my friend...).

    I've been to the Pyramid Lake Writers Retreat a couple of times. On a pristine lake in the Adirondacks, it is very low cost for a whole week, and features workshops in the mornings and readings in the evenings, with afternoons free. One option is to just go but use the mornings to write, too.

  5. That's the WOMEN'S Writers retreat. Lots of smart and friendly women.

  6. Edith, my dream is a month in Scotland in a small "self catering" cottage near Cullodden, so I could research and write. Probably just a pipe dream--I'd want company. And one of my sons said he thought it would be smarter to spend my money on improved hearing aids. Crash--there goes a dream.

  7. I've been dreaming of that lately too. The closest I get is to go to Toronto when my sister and her husband leave for a few days. They have no TV, though there is Internet. But there's no one there, and I don't have to leave the house except to get groceries, plus there's a nice coffee shop about 3 houses down that has both outdoor tables and nice big, usually empty tables in the back. Last time I was there, I did 15,000 words in 1 week. I'm going again next month for a week and with luck I can get my current WIP first draft done. I can also meet my agent, too.

    But if I could dream, I would love an isolated cottage on a river. No TV, no Internet, no people. A mountain view would be nice, too. (since I'm dreaming)

  8. Edith, thanks for mentioning my book and my love for retreats. I've been longing to get away as well. It's always so much more peaceful and productive--or at least most of the time. I tend to like Wellspring because you can choose to be alone or socialize a little. You can also cook there, which works for me. But the delivered meals sounds great, too. Once, I was so desperate to get some work done that I booked into a Comfort Inn!!! It was actually good. The North Shore needs a writers retreat!!!!

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Judy and Pat. It all sounds good (even the hearing aids. I think...). And you're welcome, Aine!

  10. Another writer friend and I were talking about this very thing last week.

    Last year, we both attended a writer's retreat at a scenic, historic locale, which was lost on me because I was either in lectures or had my nose to the keyboard the entire weekend.

    So we kicked around the idea of a group of writers holding a small, very basic - write all day/critique or brainstorm at night - retreat at a business-class chain hotel like a Hampton or Courtyard.

    On-site breakfast. Pool and gym to dodge the the creakiness of the desk-bound life. Housekeeping. Business center for printing. Free WiFi (not for idle surfing.) Close enough to a sit-down restaurant. Maybe go often enough to cut a decent group deal with the hotel during its off-season days.

    So, Aine's Comfort Inn retreat sounds exactly like I have in mind. :)

  11. Sounds good, Rhonda. Thanks for stopping by.

  12. I've been to Seascape, and although I didn't get a lot of actual writing done there, I learned a tremendous amount of writing craft to keep me going.
    My favourite retreat: Nantucket off-season, when it's quiet and you can get a reduced rate room and just write, write, drink coffee, and write.

  13. Seascape was incredible, but it was a workshop, not a retreat. I like the thought of Nantucket off season. Thanks for coming by, Tiger.