Fresh Air and Fresh Ideas: Why Every Writer Should Go on a Writing Retreat
Picture the scene: Dipping your toes in a babbling creek, taking a deep breath of the fresh air, and placing pen to paper with newfound inspiration.
Then quicker than the inspiration struck, it’s gone and you’re stumped again. Maybe you just can’t seem to get that conversation between your protagonist and her mother to ring true, or you don’t know how to connect that childhood flashback with the next chapter of your memoir.
Luckily, just down the creek is a writing instructor prepared to answer your questions. And later, you’ll have the counsel of a group of fellow writers to help you workshop this doozy of a chapter.
No, this writer’s utopia isn’t a missing chapter from “Eat Pray Love” – this is real life. At least, it can be if you make the decision to embark on a writing retreat.
What is a Writing Retreat?
With a writing retreat, you can literally “retreat” from your everyday routine to recalibrate and recapture your inspiration.
Writing retreats typically last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and take place in scenic places away from the hustle and bustle of home. They’re led by experienced authors who guide workshops, generative exercises and other activities throughout the stay.
You’re joined by fellow authors all connected in their desire to improve their writing and dive into the depths of their creativity.
The thought of a writing retreat can be intimidating in ways — it’s not everyday that you commit to being stranded with strangers, with the goal of having your work examined under a group of microscopes (not literally...we hope).
But with countless retreats occurring year after year all over the world, it’s not hard to see that with the right retreat, the benefits for your writing far outweigh the risks.
Between the constructive feedback, change of scenery, and a new network, a writer’s retreat is certain to help reignite your creative spark. Here are 4 reasons every writer should go on a writing retreat.
Seek Support From Fellow Writers
Being a writer can be isolating. You’re either writing, thinking about writing, or getting through your busy schedule and using any free time at the end of the day to write some more.
Unless you know other writers, it’s hard to find people who truly relate to your struggle. Sure, you can bounce your ideas off your best friend, your mom and your dog, but in the end they’re just not as invested in the subject as you are.
A writing retreat provides the solidarity that many writers don’t get in their everyday lives. Some will be more experienced than you, some less. But you’ve all gathered for the same reason, which is to grow as a writer.
At a writing retreat, you can receive thoughtful and informed feedback. Not only that, but reading their stuff might give you a new perspective on your own writing. Not a bad deal!
Flourish in Fresh Surroundings
Working from the same place all the time can be the opposite of inspirational, and can put a serious damper on your mood. But changing your environment through a writing retreat can help boost your creativity.
Being outside has been proven in countless studies to help improve mental health and boost levels of creativity.
One study from Stanford University even showed that as people spend time in nature, their view of time shifts. A sense of awe is engaged, making time seem more expansive and consequently relieving a sense of pressure we face every day.
The great outdoors can also help boost your energy levels, improve your memory, and rid yourself of writer’s block.
Nature-centered retreats can be found all over the world.
The Centauri Arts retreat in Costa Rica takes place right in the middle of the rainforest. If you’d prefer keeping it in the States, the Northern California Writers Retreat takes place in cozy cottages tucked in a beautiful forest near Ben Lomond, California.
Longing for the beach? There are retreats for that too, like the Beach Shack Writer’s Retreat on Hilton Head Island, where you’re greeted with a free cocktail and a free 5 day bike rental.
Persevere with Professional Guidance
Sure, you listen to podcasts about inspiring authors when driving to the gym (just kidding, who has time for the gym?).
But have you ever had a whole weekend where you can ask your favorite author anything you want? Many writing retreats provide an environment to do just that.
You’ll have the opportunity to hear the journey of accredited writers, as well as schedule a face-to-face assessment where you can discuss your own journey and get solid guidance on your next steps.
Or if you’re a woman who would like the solidarity of other female authors, give the Women Reading Aloud retreat a shot. Workshops are led by bestselling author Jaqueline Sheehan and poet Julie Maloney.
Rise Up To Risks
If you’re feeling a bit boxed in with your writing, it may be time to take some risks and try new things.
“New” is a recurring theme of writing retreats — new ideas, new faces, new tools and new places.
Taking the risk of going on a writing retreat surrounded by new landscapes and peers is a huge step in taking a risk in your writing endeavors. And the more risks you take, the more you see your true potential, and the bigger you dream.
How to Choose a Writing Retreat
Like any vacation or conference, not every writing retreat will be for you. To choose one conducive to your goals and life experience, consider the following:
Setting: Think back to a time when you felt inspired by your surroundings. Was it a trip to the rainforests of Thailand? Perhaps it was simply floating around on a kayak in a lake nearby. What about it made you feel that sense of awe? Chances are, there’s a writing retreat in one of these settings.
Budget: Don’t worry, not all retreats require you draining your savings account. There are plenty of retreats with writer-friendly prices that can get as low as $25 a night.
Organizers/Facilitators: Take a look at who’s facilitating the programming and the organizers behind it. Try to choose someone whose work you admire or intrigues you.
Structure: Keep your writing goals in mind and let them help you determine what retreat structure would be best for you. If you’re craving alone time, go on one that allows plenty of individual writing time. If you get enough of that at home, aim for an activity-packed retreat.
Red Flags: If something makes you feel uneasy beyond the discomfort of trying something new, look into it more. Avoid retreats with inexperienced leaders, work duties, or a leader who’s inaccessible.
The combination of a change of scenery, new peers, and experienced guidance is the magic recipe for reigniting or growing your love for writing. You’ll leave a writing retreat feeling confident, rejuvenated, and ready to keep the momentum going.
If you need more opportunities to improve your skills (who doesn’t?) you can also take the conference route.