Monday, May 6, 2013

Retreat Into Writing - Five Reasons to go on a Writing Retreat

I've been enviously reading about and hearing about friends going on writing retreats, but the first time I looked at a retreat to see what the pricing was, I suffered a little sticker shock. I realize a good retreat is well worth the funds, and that they go toward the venue (in some cases--some charge separately for the venue), the food, materials, and whatever professionals are there to teach you, but I have a hard time spending money on myself.

I keep looking them up and coveting them, but I decided to choose one and set myself a goal to save up and go to one, not this year, but in the not too distant future. Next year? Not sure. I hope so!

The one I chose is one of several run by a specific person. Page Lambert is an author, a creative coach, and an editor, in addition to facilitating three writing retreats per year. She lives here in Colorado, and I'm excited to say that she'll be coming down to the Springs to speak for Pikes Peak Writers this month (May 21!!). I can't wait! I've heard great things from other people who have heard her speak, so I'm looking forward to her talk. (If you're in a position to come to Colorado Springs for her workshop, click on May 21 above and see what her topic is! I'd love to see you!)

In getting to know Page, I read up on her writing retreats. She leads one into Peru, one is a river rafting trip (this fall), and the one I want to go on is at the Vee Bar Ranch (Literature and Landscape of the Horse). That particular one was recently featured in the Casper Star Tribune, while her river rafting trip was featured in O Magazine in 2006. The one at the Vee Bar Ranch is a week long, you get your own horse, and you split your time between writing and riding. Really, I'd like to go on any of them, but this is the one that's really caught my attention.

By Seth.zeigler [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Since I have a hard time justifying spending money on myself, I figured I'd look at how writing retreats can benefit me, and why I deserve to go on one (eventually), and drag you guys along with me. Plus, there's probably a few of you out there that can help convince me. Right?

What a Writing Retreat Can Do For You:

1. It can get you away from home and the distractions you find there. Sure, I can go to Starbucks or somewhere like that, but that's a short-term thing, and it's still too easy for me to realize there's something else I can be doing and run back home. I still have to do the usual stuff before I head out, and when I get home. In other words, my personal distractions are looming over me when I try to go somewhere outside my house for the day. I'm inclined to get online and get non-writing work done if there's free wi-fi (so I often avoid places with free wi-fi). But when I left home for a weekend to go to my brother's Navy graduation, I was so excited about one feature of my hotel room: my desk. Yes, I was pathetically excited about that sucker. There were no kids, I'd told people I was away and wouldn't be doing any work-work, and I didn't have a phone with an internet connection to check emails and such (now I do, sigh). That meant the evenings when I was there by myself could be all about writing. This tiny little space and me. The freedom I felt was tremendous. Not from my family, but from the constraints I put on myself, the pressure I feel to be good at any work I'm doing, to put it first. I got a break from that for one weekend, and it showed. Guess which story I finished out there? The one that just got picked up for a magazine. Yeah. Imagine what a person could do with a week away that's dedicated to the writer in you.

2. Education. Each of the retreats I've looked at over the last few months has featured different resources and instructors. All offer something, some specifically themed, some not, to make the retreat worthwhile for those attending. It isn't just about writing time (well, probably some are), but about experiences, training, and education. You can learn a bit about writing then immediately put it into practice. A conference lasts a weekend and teaches so much. A week long retreat can teach so much more, while in an often more laid back atmosphere, where you aren't running from workshop to workshop, session to session.

3. Feedback/Critiques. Some, not all, retreats offer feedback of some sort. A space to share your writing and get tips to improve it. I keep hearing how important critique groups are, and here is a way to get immediate feedback over the period of your stay. If it's not offered in the larger group, you can always buddy up with someone and offer to critique for them if they'll do the same for you. And who knows? You may leave there with a critique partner you can email back and forth with.

4. Inspiration. There are many sources of inspiration on a retreat. For one, being around other creatives always inspires me, even if it's for two hours at a lunch or an evening event. I leave conference every year wanting more, needing to write, processing gazillions of creative thoughts that sprang up because I was in that mental space required to be creative. A week away, surrounded by other writers, would certainly inspire me in countless ways. In addition, for me at least, getting back to nature, back to the basics, always gets those creative juices flowing. Riding a horse out on the range, learning how to care for a horse, viewing the gorgeous surroundings on the ranch. All of those things appeal to me, to an ignored part of me that yearns for more of that type of experience. And then, of course, if you've got an accomplished facilitator/instructor, you'll be inspired by them. I know that I look at what Page Lambert has accomplished and am already inspired.

5. Relaxation. There's nothing like leaving behind your usual rigors. It's why people like vacations. Even a vacation that involves physical work is a break from the daily grind. And this goes back to number 1, above. Getting away from all the things on that honey-do list, those to-do's that seem to pile up with no relief in sight, is divine in and of itself. For moms, when we're home we're always on. There's cleaning, homework help, making lunches, packing backpacks, bathing kids, feeding the family, doing laundry, reading to kids, helping in the classroom, so on and so forth. Even when they're in bed, I'm dealing with something, preparing something, thinking about something I need to do the next day. And every one of us has the same sort of thing. Dads, non-parents, everyone. It's work, or it's parenting, or it's volunteering, or it's family, or it's a combination of these and a billion other things. We all need to get away some time.

I don't know if I talked you into a retreat, but it's certainly sounding good to me. The one I want to go to is in June, so no way for me to save up in time for that, but maybe next year or the year after. I know Page has been doing this for 17 years, and I can only hope she'll keep doing it for many years more.

Something else I'd love to do some day is maybe put together a retreat for Pikes Peak Writers. And I can't do that until I've experienced it and seen it from the other side, right? RIGHT?! Or is that just what I'm telling myself?

Can you tell how badly I want to go to do this??

Have you been on a writing retreat before? Did you like it? What did you like/not like about it? What would be your optimal writing retreat? Did you see any benefits I didn't mention here?

May you find your Muse.


  1. I would LOVE to go on a writing retreat! The ones you've mentioned sound fabulous, but I have a hard time spending money on myself, too. Hopefully someday. Only 18 years until the kids are outta the house so the hubby and I can focus on us :)

  2. I attended a weeklong Breakout Novel Intensive put on by Donald Maass and Free Expressions, and it was amazing! It was definitely intense! :)

    I met great people - loved being surrounded by writers and readers! I received feedback on my work from Donald, other editors and fellow attendees. I learned so much about the craft of writing I thought my head would a good way. :)

  3. I've never been on one. But as you pointed out, just like a vacation it's an escape from the routine. No job, no housework, nothing!

  4. A writer's retreat sounds great. I've looked into a couple too, one even came to me! Like you, I have a lot of reasons I don't do them, not yet. It's on my 'to do' list. In time it will happen and I'll probably get hooked! I'll be like the girl from American Pie starting every sentence with, "One time at writer's retreat..." Ha! :)

  5. Sounds so self-indulgent! What a great thing! I forgot about that. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. You sold me!
    Looking forward to your review.

  7. I sure hope you get to go someday soon. If all you've said here is an indication of what a Writers Retreat is all about...then I'll be here for your Post Retreat Review. What I'm sayin' is you go...tell me about it and I'll feel like I've been (vicariously).

    I'll do the same for you...You are interested in a Quilting Retreat...right?

    Great, a writers dream!

    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    Blue Monday~Texas Chicken Farm Photography

  8. I've never been on a writing retreat but I've always wanted to rent a cabin in the mountains and get away with my hubby. He could mountain bike during the day and I could write. We'd be in heaven.

    It's especially hard for moms of young kids like us, not only is there so much on our plates, but it seems there's always something else that takes up financial resources as well.

    I hope you make your goal of going on this retreat and get some awesome ideas for a PPW retreat too!

  9. I haven't been on one in a long time, and I think I need to take my netbook and escape from the internet sometimes.

  10. Sounds like a dream for this mother of four small boys!!!

  11. I've never even heard of a writer's retreat before now. Its something that I think you need to do. Even if its not just for writing, so that you can have a vacation and get away from everything for a while. EVERYONE needs a break sometimes.

  12. That sounds awesome. Have fun on your retreat. One day I'd like to go on one, but I know that won't be for several years before I could.

    I've nominated you for an award in my Reflections post. Loved your A to Z posts! :)

  13. Always wanted to go on a writing retreat. You make it sound even more like a great idea!

  14. I just applied to Viable Paradise. I'd love to trek on one of these beautiful things.

  15. I'd love to go on a retreat one day, but right now I just don't have the money. Maybe one day if my book sells well... :-D

  16. I've always just wanted to away by myself with no agenda. I hadn't looked into retreats like the ones you mention, but boy do they sound right up my alley...but the budget thing is a major constraint. Medical stuff costs an arm and a leg...or a lung...
    Tina @ Life is Good

  17. I think for a retreat to work for me it would need to have less of that potential outdoor-fun component, because I'd be out hiking day and night, and too exhausted to write. I do like the sound of sharing time and thoughts with other writers, and getting feedback from the pros.

  18. You've sold that retreat to me alright. I wish I had the time and money to go to one now. I should really start looking up retreats and conferences in Australia.

  19. You gave 5 awesome reasons. Enjoy!
    Lucy from Lucy's Reality

  20. I'd love to go on a writing retreat, it would be a fantastic experience, but funds make it next to impossible. Maybe one year eh?

  21. (Sigh!) I wish there were Writing Conferences closer to my location. I have attended a Writer's Festival, and found it very useful, but unfortunately they did not get the turnout they were hoping for and are no longer are having it.

    Denise at Organization and Inspiration for Fellow Writers
    Denise Reashore on Facebook

  22. I've never even thought of going on a writing retreat, but it sounds amazing! I'll definitely look into doing this.

  23. I'd love to go on a retreat. Even some kind of workshop. Something more focused on writing.

    At home there are so many distractions and I know I could be writing, but yet I'm not. I don't even have that whole parenting aspect to worry about.

    During NaNoWriMo there is a weekend retreat that you can attend usually on the 1st or 2nd weekend in. Seems really nice, but I don't think I'll have the money for it.

    It isn't so much I don't like spending money on myself — I understand its importance — but more that I never have a significant amount saved up anymore.

    As for the NaNo retreat (or any others for that matter) I worry that there is potential for conflicts among varying personalities. This doesn't seem to be the case with what you've described.

    I almost think I would prefer those stereotypical getaways to a cabin or some vacation spot alone; Me Myself and I. There I could just focus on writing. That or an empty room/office with just a desk and laptop. Though internet distraction is a real threat, but I use google Docs which requires me to have an internet connection.

    Perhaps I will just go old school with pen/paper? That is how I used to do all my writing back in the day, and when transferring it over onto a computer it would evolve.

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

  24. Thanks for posting this! It makes me consider what alternative option there are instead of just dreaming of a day when I can focus on writing without mental or physical distraction. I will certainly be looking into retreats now. Maybe all of us poor folk should host a couch surfing writers retreat. Something low-cost and high focus. Jennifer a.k.a Urban Gypsy Girl