Thursday, June 22, 2017

Writing Retreats: Yay or Nay?

It seems like every day I log onto Facebook and see another author who is on a writing retreat.

And I’m so jealous.

I’ve never been on a writing retreat, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve researched different retreats and decided that for me, the best writing retreat is nothing more than a place away from home where I can write without interruption for hours on end. More to follow on that in a minute.

I decided to write this post because I want to hear from other writers—have you ever been on a writing retreat? What was it like? Where did you go? How long were you gone? Did anyone else go with you? Did you get lots of writing done? Was it worth the expense?

There are lots of writing retreats advertised online. After doing some research, what I found is that most of them include hours upon hours of workshops, tours, and activities. As far as I’m concerned, those things defeat the purpose of going on a writing retreat because they take valuable writing time and stuff it full of other things.

It’s possible that I’m just missing the point of a writing retreat. There are obviously lots of writers who enjoy these retreats, but to me they sound like more of a vacation than a time to really focus hard on a manuscript.

And they’re expensive. It’s not uncommon for them to average $2,000 for about a week (and often only five days). And that doesn’t include travel expenses to the exotic places where they’re held.

Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to visit all the places where writers’ retreats are held. I just don’t want to work while I’m there. If I’m going to Wyoming or Costa Rica or Paris or Greece, you’d better believe I’m going there on vacation.

So here’s my dream of the perfect writing retreat:

1.      It’s within easy driving distance of home—not more than, say, five or six hours away.
2.      It’s not at the beach.
3.      It’s a place I can rent. I love VRBO, Airbnb, etc. You can get some great places at low rates.
4.      It’s a place with a rural/woodsy/mountain feel to it.
5.      It has a view. Doesn’t have to be a sweeping vista, but I don’t want to look into the neighbor’s bathroom.
6.      I leave my family at home. It’s not that I don’t love them, but I'm there to work.
7.      Another writer joins me, preferably one who shares my goal of getting a lot of writing done.
8.      I can make meals ahead of time and take them with me in a cooler.
9.      There is wine for the evenings.

With all this being said, I should note that I have taken brief writing retreats in a study room at the local library, though I don’t think of them as real retreats. The library works beautifully. I get tons of writing done, it’s close, and it’s free. What’s not to love about that?


Linda Thorne said...

I've never been on one either, but I can see a retreat in a place like your picture here shows. I'd want to go somewhere like the Tennessee mountains that are only about two or three hours away and stay in a cabin. I wouldn't mind a retreat that had a workshop here and there (to get me motivated and teach me something), but too many extra-curricula activities would defeat the purpose (like you said). No, I wouldn't want to go to Greece or Paris either. If I went there, I would not be going to write. If there's going to be lots of activities, you get that at a writers' conference. I can't speak from experience though since I also have never been to one.

Amy Reade said...

I think the mountains of TN would be a great place for a retreat--too bad it's so far from me. The last picture in the post is from a state park near me--no cabins available, but a great place to go hiking if you want some time to just ruminate on your manuscript.

Sharon Aguanno said...

Well, as you know, I am not a writer, but all I could think of while I was reading what you would like to have was "Build it and they will come!" 😀

Amy Reade said...

Sharon, I think you're right. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what a lot of writers are looking for--just a place where they can get away from it all and concentrate on their work in progress.

Maybe you've hit on something there--maybe I should open a place like that. I would certainly make more doing that than I do writing!!

Sharon Aguanno said...

There ya go, a new venture! And guess what, your son could work with you. 😀

Patricia Gligor said...

I really enjoyed your post, Amy. The first thing that popped into my head as I read it was the old movie "Seems Like Old Times." I can still see Chevy Chase playing the role of a writer on retreat in a mountain cabin when two criminals abduct him and force him to help them rob a bank. LOL

Like you, I've never been on a writing retreat but I agree with all of the points you made. As much as I love the beach, I wouldn't get any writing done and that's the point of a retreat. :)

Carol Mitchell said...

I've never been on an organised retreat but like you, I've felt a short-lived twinge of envy when I hear of others doing it. While I wouldn't want a tonne of planned clssses and activities, If I paid to go to a retreat I'd want a schedule that a. got me up in the mornings (albeit not too early!), b. encouraged some exercise, and c. expected me to set writing goals and held me accountable for them.

Liane Spicer said...

I agree with you about those expensive retreats that are packed with activities.

I've been on one writing retreat. Two or three years ago two friends and I rented a house on our rugged north coast for a few days. We had a lovely sea view but there was no beach to speak of, just waves crashing on to rocks some distance below. We had meals together and did some walking when the day's writing was done, but the rest of the time we spent writing either in our rooms or in different parts of the house. It worked beautifully as all three of us got a lot of work done. I think the fact that there was no WiFi helped us keep focused. We also took along already prepared and easy to fix meals.

Maggie King said...

I haven't been on a retreat, but would love to go. I know people who go to Nimrod Hall and The Porches, both in Virginia. Also the local Richmond Hill.

There's one writer who goes on retreats constantly (or so it seems) because she says she can't write in Richmond!