I am a huge fan of writing retreats. Whenever my critique partners and I meet up for a conference, we try to sneak in a few extra days together. Group retreats can be such a wonderful way to focus your creative energy while being surrounded by like-minded people to inspire and motivate you. But they aren’t always feasible.
One of my favorite alternatives is an at-home retreat. Whether it’s because you’re going to have the house to yourself for a rare weekend or you want to make the most of a few days off work, a retreat within the comfort of your own home can be a great way to get that creative focus while minimizing the costs.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your at-home writing retreat.
- Plan ahead. Give yourself a few days to get ready, both mentally and physically. Let the important people in your life know that you’re going to be holed up in your room/house all weekend and that they might not hear from you as regularly as they usually do.
- Clear your schedule. Catch up on the chores and errands you can do ahead of time so you can focus on your writing instead of mentally updating that to-do list. If there’s something unavoidable on the days of your retreat, try to fit it into the least intrusive time possible. I find it helpful to work conflicts into my plan ahead of time so I’m mentally prepared for the interruption.
- Stock up on your favorite snacks and beverages. I usually do a grocery run the day before my retreat to replenish my cheese, chocolate, and tea stores. I also like to plan meals ahead of time and prep them so I don’t have to take huge cooking breaks if the writing is going really well. Some of my favorite easy meals are pasta (especially if I’ve made some pesto or pasta sauce earlier in the week) or soup in my slowcooker (some broth and whatever vegetables and beans I have on hand).
- Set goals. You have a limited number of hours, so it’s really important to know what you want to accomplish in that time. Do you want to finish drafting a short story? Do you want to revise the last act of your book? Be as specific as possible, and break the goals up into smaller, more manageable chunks that you’ll tackle during each session you work. I personally like to set separate morning and afternoon goals for each day of my retreat, but do what works for you.
- Limit your time on social media sites. If you’re like me and need some external motivation to stay off social media, try extensions like StayFocused or Freedom. Freedom does cost money, but I’ve found it to be really worth it since it works across all my devices. Decide what sites you want to block (be honest with yourself on how much time you spend on each!) and figure out whether it would be best for you to cut back or block them entirely. The great thing about social media is that it’ll still be there waiting for you when you return after a very productive retreat.
- Have an accountability buddy. Coordinate with a critique partner (or a sibling, close friend, significant other, etc.) and find a time where you can call or text them with an update on your progress. Having someone else to cheerlead and celebrate your victories can be a wonderful source of motivation.
- Take regular breaks. Stepping away from your desk can be really beneficial, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I try to schedule short breaks every hour and longer breaks around meal times. I personally love taking a hot shower or walking around my neighborhood with some relaxing music, but find what works for you.
- Reward your progress. I consider breaks to be mini rewards, but I also like to pick something special to get at the end of the day or for reaching a specific goal. You’ve hopefully put in a lot of work now so celebrate your accomplishments. Treat yourself with whatever brings you joy, whether that’s a bowl of ice cream, a new item of clothing, a glass of wine, or an episode of a TV show you love.
- Reflect on your accomplishments. Evaluate how the retreat went, and plan for what you can improve next time. Make a game plan for how you’re going to continue when you’re back to your regular schedule.
- Have fun! Remember, at the end of the day this is about setting aside time to give your craft everything you’ve got. Even if you didn’t do as much as you wanted, you’ve spent a lot of time focusing exclusively on creating art you love. That’s pretty amazing.
I really love at-home writing retreats. I especially love how refreshed and recharged I feel after completely disconnecting from the world. It’s led to some of my most productive days. I’ll be honest—retreats don’t always go according to plan. But at their best, at-home retreats can truly feel like it’s just you and your book tucked into a remote cabin in the woods. All it takes is some good planning and some commitment.
Do you have any other tips for at-home retreats? Let us know in the comments below!