So let’s be real here – I am a cheapskate and would never have planned a writing getaway for myself. Ever. Luckily, I am married to the perfect man for me. For my birthday, he booked me a hotel room in the small, beautiful, weird town of Bisbee, Arizona. It is a hippie-liberal haven in the middle of a red state. While Tucson, where I live, is pretty liberal as well, Bisbee takes it up a notch. The mild climate (compared to Tucson), interesting folks, and Victorian architecture set atop foothills and mountains made this the perfect summer getaway town for me. Plus, it was only a 90 minute drive which was the perfect amount of time to listen to some inspiring podcasts to set the tone for my getaway!
While writers who have the time and money may seek out residency retreat programs like the prestigious Yaddo, the vast majority of us need something a little more flexible. However, there are still some guidelines to follow when planning a writing getaway if you really want it to be successful. You absolutely must go alone, or at the very least, schedule vast amounts of alone time while on the getaway. But you NEED to get away from your people. It’s not that you don’t love them, but they are a distraction. Plus, you see those assholes all the time, so branch out! Talk to new people – or no one at all. That’s the whole point of the “getaway.” Secondly, make sure you go somewhere that will inspire you whether it’s a nature retreat, a quaint town with neat little coffee shops, or a bustling city. Where will you find your muse? Lastly, make sure to get comfortable accommodations where you will be able to write. Don’t expect to spend all of your writing time out on the town or in the middle of a grove of trees. Eventually you will want a cheap glass of wine (or a nice bottle of wine!) but will want to continue writing. This is best done in your hotel room or airbnb rental home.
So what do you get by going on a writing getaway? Isn’t it just a waste of money? Well, no. Not at all. Here are the top reasons that you should start planning your getaway right away:
1. It’s kind of like a vacation – you get the hotel, new location, new experiences – but you get shit done. We are all creatures of habit. This is not news. Oftentimes, our home lives devolve into never-ending cycles of working our day jobs, taking care of our people, cleaning, scheduling, paying bills, and embarrassingly binge watching Netflix or HBONow. It’s not your fault. Life is hard. But it’s time to break the cycle and reignite that passion for writing and creativity.
2. You can write in your underwear. Yep. I’m doing that right now. In my hotel room, alternating between the lounge chair, the bed, and standing at the adorable breakfast bar.
3. Since you’re in a new spot (even if it’s a staycation), use your breaks from writing to go take some pictures! Whether you’re blogging or writing content articles, people love it when you include pictures. Visual appeal is increasingly important in the digital age, and good or at least interesting pictures will increase the appeal of your blogs/articles. If nothing else, walking around and taking pictures gives your brain a break from putting words on a page while still nudging the creative muse onward.
4. New experiences tend to get the creative juices flowing. As a high school English teacher (in my day job), I saw a prompt on a benchmark assessment that asked students to assess whether Allen Ginsberg sought out experiences in order to have content to write about or if he just wrote about his experiences as they happened. Now I don’t know about Ginsberg, but I do know that interesting and new experiences can lead to insights and stories that otherwise would never come to fruition. If interesting experiences aren’t just naturally happening to you, consider pushing the boundaries to create interesting experiences for yourself. This doesn’t make the experience any less genuine. In fact, it might be more genuine because you went out looking for excitement – you took charge of your own life. Book your writing getaway in a place that will facilitate this process.
5. A writing getaway provides you with the perfect opportunities to spend some time talking to interesting people (even if you hate it). Just like #4, you are unlikely to have interesting content (or happiness for that matter), if your life is boring. Sometimes, you can make your life more exciting just by talking to people. I know, I know… talking to people is hard. Most of us writers tend to be more introverted, but I promise, you can do this. Sit yourself at a coffee shop, chill in a park, or peruse some local stores, and try your best not to look like an asshole. If you’re in a pseudo-friendly town, most likely someone will attempt conversation with you. They might say something like “How is your day going?” or “Wow, it sure is hot out today.” These are invitations for conversation. In response, you could tell the person something about yourself – try “I know, it really is hot out. I’m a writer and was planning on getting some blogging done today, but I think I might wait until it cools down!” This tells them something about you so that they can ask more questions if they want to continue the conversation (it also, potentially, gets you another reader/follower). Alternatively, you could ask the person about herself/himself: “It is hot out! Do you live here? Is it usually this hot?” You never know who you’re going to meet, what stories you might hear, and what content it might give you to write about in your next book or blog post!
6. You get to call the shots. You don’t have to take pictures, or talk to people, or do anything I just said. If you don’t want to talk to anyone, then don’t. If you don’t want to leave your hotel room, then don’t. This is YOUR writing getaway. This is exactly why you need it – so that no one can make you feel guilty or pressured to do something other than what you want to do. You already know where you draw inspiration and where you are able to focus and write. So do that. Maybe you already have all the inspiration you need and you just need the time to sit down and write for 16 hours. Great. You can do that. Or maybe you are completely stuck and need to find your muse again by splashing in a secluded lake or roaming a ghost town. You can do that, too. The writing getaway can be planned to meet whatever need you are trying to fill.
7. Whether it’s 1 night or 1 week, you will return home invigorated and committed to your writing. It’s like church camp for your career. Be inspired. Write some good shit. Commit yourself to your writing. Research new ways to market yourself. Find your muse. Rip everything up and start over. Write more good shit.
Re. #4 & “creative juices”: one of my favorite thoughts on the question of which comes first — the experience/inspiration or the writing — comes from Marvin Bell, who said: “I tend to write only when the pot boils over, but I have learned how to turn up the heat.” [Bell actually said a bunch of things on writing I really love. He’s up there for me with Ann Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts”! More here, if you’re curious: http://coffeeandablankpage.com/2014/08/29/all-part-of-the-poem-stuff/%5D
Good luck with the rest of your underwear-writing! 🙂
oops! looks like I messed up the link!
Trying again: http://coffeeandablankpage.com/2014/08/29/all-part-of-the-poem-stuff/
I love that! It’s good to know how to “turn up the heat!”
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LOVE, LOVE, LOVE retreats that are not scripted. Been to several. One at Kenyon College, OSU, Wooster College, bookstores, a co-teacher’s farm, a couple, local wildlife camps that I drove to everyday for a week, but my all time favorite was (is) Maria Stein. Small town (think Loudonville small) German ancestry (think Amish clean farms and neighborhoods) and this beautiful Catholic church/chapel/labyrinth and monastery/dormitory on a small campus. Not TV – no phones – no reason to go out because all meals were included, and beautiful paths to walk and contemplate (on the right week, there was even tractor squaredancing practice for their up-coming fundraising festival) – not to mention relics in the earliest chapel, a museum, bookstore and a small town to walk to for ice cream when inspiration needed a boost. Probably not the best place for you – but I would love to find a place like that down here. I think you just inspired me (once again) to get on the stick and find a similar place. Hmmmm…how do I google that one??????? =)
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I think I remember you talking about or going to Maria Stein. Sounds exactly like the type of retreat I would expect you to go to. 🙂 Since most of my writing is via blogging right now, I wouldn’t be very successful without Internet! I’m sure that you can find something similar in NC though.
I have an upcoming vacation in October. Can you send me more information about the Writing Retreat? Thank you. firstname.lastname@example.org.
I didn’t go to an official retreat that was organized by anyone (other than myself). For me, it was enough to just get away from everyone and spend time writing in a different town where I spent the night in a hotel. Other people prefer the structure of a planned retreat with other writers, though. If you know other writers, I would recommend asking them if they have gone to any retreats that they might recommend. Or start searching online to see if you can find a retreat that meets your needs. I posted another blog post about my specific trip, but again, it wasn’t an organized retreat. https://tryniakaufman.com/2015/06/30/bisbee-az-and-the-work-of-greatness/
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Thank you. I will also look at the other blog.
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