I’ve been on a few writers’ retreats over the years. My favorite though, is the one in my own backyard, er, Mom’s backyard, er, Mom’s vacation home backyard. This weekend, I am joined by friends. Not long. Just a three day weekend, but there is something to be said for sun, the sand, good company, any food that I didn’t have to prepare, and the pressure of hearing those keys a clickety-clackin’ in the next room, to get the creative juices flowing.
Ever thought of hosting your own Writers’ Retreat? It doesn’t take much, but here’s a list of a few things to consider.
I am lucky enough to have the occasional use of my mother’s home away from home, a very motherly house on the Mattaponi River. She was kind enough to let me come here with a couple of writer friends. We have kayaks and will put them in the water later… provided our balmy 93 degree fahrenheit temperatures take a dip later in the day/early tomorrow morning. (Somewhere in there, I’ll squeeze in some grass mowing.)
If you don’t have access to a cool venue, you might consider an Airbnb, or other venue suited to a very quiet house party. In the past, I’ve attended retreats at Winter Green Ski Resort, The Porches, a lovely remote, rural setting in Nelson County, Virginia, the guest house at a lovely estate just outside of Culpeper, VA, and a few that took place in conference centers. Consider something with few distractions, a nearby grocery store, and an evening amenity or two.
On the topic of food, you may want to confer with your fellow retreaters on this. On a previous retreat weekend, we broke up meal duties by the number of people in attendance, each of us preparing a meal and snacks – three meals over the course of two full days, six writers. It was a hoot and surprise at every meal. It’s tough though if there are special dietary restrictions or likes/dislikes. This weekend, we’ve opted to just catch-as-catch-can. Everyone is on their own for food prep, but we may decide to go out for a meal, or we can always shuffle on over to the grocery store. (I am, of course, the least prepared among us, so l will hit the grocery store before dinner.)
Is your venue accessible to everyone in your party? Our little troop is small enough, we could pile into the one car (electric) so it has also been very little cost to anyone. Okay, it’s no cost to anyone traveling with and literally pennies to charge at the outside plug now that we’re here.
That’s always a consideration. Well, it is for me. This weekend it is not, but at those past retreats, we have had to figure out the rate per person (if we were renting a venue) and split it accordingly. There is typically one person in charge of collecting all that dough and reserving the place. The cost is a factor for many, so they should know that figure going into the retreat.
In the past, with larger crowds, we have established quiet times during the day. Those are the hours that everyone agrees will be for the express use of writing or another quiet endeavor. Then there are often pre-determined gathering times. In past retreats, we had a time in the evening when we got together to discuss our WIP. (We arranged to have time slots, so no one person monopolizes the feedback time.) Maybe your writing time is in the evenings and mornings are set aside for a leisurely breakfast together. S’all good. It can be a time for critique or a fun time for a game or two. In our case this weekend, one of my friends and I will head out on the water and scope out the wildlife in the marsh. There are curious tracks on the sand that I believe to belong to a family of fisher cat living in the cypress tree on the beach. I’ve yet to see it or catch it on camera. They are very elusive. Maybe we’ll have better luck checking out the marsh.
Best if everyone is on the same page with regard to check-out times, especially if you may incur financial penalties for late check-out. Depending upon your familiarity with your group, you may or may not want a contract informing everyone of “da rules”, check-out times, check-in times, the structure of the day regarding quiet and not quiet times, etc. I’ve participated in gatherings both ways – loosey goosey and contractual. (We’re all adults, used to working with one another, so no contracts this weekend.)
Most of all, enjoy. Yeah, yeah, it’s work, but all work? Well, to work without distraction you might just as well stay home and shut the office door. Have fun!