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View Full Version : Writer's Retreat: My Story and Yours.



xbriannova
05-09-2016, 06:45 PM
Hi guys!

So I was wondering, what do you guys think of having a Writer's Retreat?

Personally, I've only done it once, and the execution was poor.

Basically, I was just done with university, and I can tell you guys that I was limping through my final examinations. I was even late for one of my last papers by one or two hours because I was writing late into the night the previous night, and I misread my exam schedule (though I still couldn't figure if it was because I exhausted myself or if I was just being careless). Regardless, that was over anti-climatically, and I needed to focus on my writing. I was limping just as badly in the craft, averaging about 500 words a day, which is below the 1000 I set for my daily goal.

I needed to recharge, I needed to get away from all the distracts that would come predictably after the end of my university life. So I decided: Writer's Retreat.

Only thing was, I didn't have much savings leftover from my freelance work and allowance - The repercussions of this was the said poor execution. In the end, I chose to go to Brunei, and stay at my relative's bungalow. I decided to stay there for two months.

The good news was:

1) I have a room about four times the size of my pitiful pigeon hole back in Singapore.

2) Food, water, lodgings, transport and even entertainment was provided for.

3) It's a pretty good place to get inspired for what I'm writing. Looking at the jungles helped, and the Malay society reminded me of certain aspects of one of my characters.

4) I brought nothing but my writing laptop and a few books on purpose. Zero distractions from yours truly.

6) I was topping myself off with beverages, snacks and luxury all the time, ensuring a princely condition which was optimal for writing.

However, the bad news were legion:

1) There's a multi-generational, large family of over 10, sometimes over 20, under one roof. So I can hear them pretty clearly through my door at times.

2) The company can be distracting, even if good.

3) And then, there's the bad company. As it is Brunei, a traditionalist, hyper-religious rural society, I don't mix very well with them, what with my progressive, agnostic and urban sensibilities. For the most part, the differences didn't matter, but then there's a few bad apples...

The result is that I was writing 1000 words on average, sometimes more, sometimes less, to the tune of about 60,000 words by the end of the couple months long Retreat. The effect of the Writer's Retreat even carried forward to when I got back home. So inspired was I that I continued writing at this rate, until I was running out of time to submit my manuscript for a local competition, in which case I started writing 2,000 words a day, 3,000, then 4,000...

By the day of the deadline, I've pumped out 155,000 Words in total. Here's a run-down of my word count during the entire course of the writing of my first novel:

1st Month (Languishing in Academic Exhaustion in Singapore): 15,000~ Words (500 Words a Day average est.)

2nd and 3rd Month (Writer's Retreat): 60,000~ Words (1,000 Words a Day average est.)

4th and 5th Month (Return to Singapore): 80,000~ Words (1,333 Words a Day average est.)

Long story short, I lost the competition big time, because I didn't even have the time to edit my manuscript. I noticed the competition late, so yeah...

So I can't help but to wonder... How much more could I have achieve had all the disadvantages of my retreat dwelling been none-existent?

What do you guys think?

I'm eager to hear about your exploits in going for a Writer's Retreat, and I'm eager to hear some advice on going for a Writer's Retreat.

Because if things go as planned, I'm going for another after I quit my first permanent job, maybe 11 months later. With the money I saved up, I could probably go with twice or thrice the budget, therefore find a suitable place with none of the disadvantages of my relatives' house and all the advantages I had back then, and more.

juniper
05-09-2016, 09:41 PM
Hmm. I've never gone on an actual "writer's retreat," just vacations where I try to write. With varied results. I've never gone for two months, like you did. The longer time would be beneficial, I think, as the first few days could be for relaxing and fun, then you could settle down for the work of writing.

My definition of a "writer's retreat" is a little different from yours. I envision a house or facility that's devoted only to writers, with only other writers there to sometimes mingle with. And the talk would be mostly about writing ... perhaps over communal dinners or in lounge areas or patios.

So an actual *place* for writers or artists, rather than planned time off. There are a few nearby that I'd like to try sometime.

Samsonet
05-09-2016, 09:47 PM
Does it really make that much of a difference to go writing in a new place?

edit: this is genuine curiosity, not snark.

Jeneral
05-09-2016, 09:56 PM
Sometimes it can. I can get easily distracted at home, and think of plenty of other things that need doing (dishes, laundry, sweeping up dog hair) when I'm writing at home. Going somewhere else removes all that.

While I haven't been able to take 2 months off of work, a couple weeks ago my RWA chapter had a weekend writing retreat. There were 10 of us, we rented a 5-bedroom house for the weekend, and we all brought food. The space was big enough that a couple people could brainstorm their WIPs in the living room, a couple more could talk self-publishing, trade tips and ideas in the dining room, and others congregated on the pool deck for full-on writing. I had a really tough spot in my MS I'd been having trouble with, and I was able to hammer it out to the tune of 2100 words in an afternoon. So it was a success for me!

xbriannova
05-10-2016, 09:16 AM
Hmm. I've never gone on an actual "writer's retreat," just vacations where I try to write. With varied results. I've never gone for two months, like you did. The longer time would be beneficial, I think, as the first few days could be for relaxing and fun, then you could settle down for the work of writing.

My definition of a "writer's retreat" is a little different from yours. I envision a house or facility that's devoted only to writers, with only other writers there to sometimes mingle with. And the talk would be mostly about writing ... perhaps over communal dinners or in lounge areas or patios.

So an actual *place* for writers or artists, rather than planned time off. There are a few nearby that I'd like to try sometime.

There's about as many kinds of Writer's Retreat as there are writers. Mine just happens to be a little more lonely. If you search up Writer's Retreat on google, you'd see all kinds of stuff, including my kind of Writer's Retreat and yours.

Unfortunately, my country outright hates writers, so there's no such thing as a Writer's Retreat in your definition here. It'd probably be more ad hoc if it can be arranged, and out of the country.


Does it really make that much of a difference to go writing in a new place?

edit: this is genuine curiosity, not snark.

Yes, it definitely does.

There could be people, things and responsibilities you might want to get away from, that's distracting you so much.

Then there are people, things and responsibilities you could gain on a Writer's Retreat you might want to have, that would help you so much.

For me, I needed to recharge as well, so there's the element of the holiday setting. It helps that I'm relaxing in a foreign country where I have no responsibilities.

I needed to get away from distractions, both good and bad, namely my family, my friends, my computer games.

The change of scenery could be inspiring. Who knows what your story needs?

And of course, the location of my Writer's Retreat gave me the peace and quiet (for the most part) I need to write.

There's so much more... You should try it for yourself :)

NRoach
05-10-2016, 03:56 PM
I can distract myself anywhere, with anything. In an empty room with nothing but a typewriter, I'd still not work if I didn't want to.
I very much suspect such a retreat would just turn into a holiday I'd feel bad about afterwards, for not having worked.

Taylor Harbin
05-10-2016, 04:05 PM
Sometimes I assume I'd like to be in an isolated cabin somewhere in the Smokies, or maybe a quiet beachside house on the Gulf Coast. But I'm shackled to my job. And if I was in a place that beautiful and exotic (unless I'd been there before), I'd want to go experience it instead of writing all day.

Now what I WOULD love is a house of my own with a sound-proof study and a job like teaching that guarantees weekends off, plus holiday breaks, summers, etc. I'm starting to give serious thought to that.

As far as meeting other writers goes, I'd like to hit up another convention.

xbriannova
05-10-2016, 05:16 PM
I can distract myself anywhere, with anything. In an empty room with nothing but a typewriter, I'd still not work if I didn't want to.
I very much suspect such a retreat would just turn into a holiday I'd feel bad about afterwards, for not having worked.

I guess it depends on your motivation and discipline huh?

I had a deadline 3-4 months away when I started my Writer's Retreat, so that was a very good motivational factor, a target to hit if you will.

Otherwise, it's no problem if you truly want to write.

Even then, there's nothing wrong with enjoying yourself a bit. I certainly wasn't locked away in my room the whole time. There were days when I didn't write at all. I'd just make up for it by writing double the number of words the next day, for example.

mrsmig
05-10-2016, 05:27 PM
I did a mini Writer's Retreat two years ago - spent a few days in a historic home in rural Virginia that's dedicated to writers. It's a good 20 minute drive away from the nearest town (and its few distractions), cellphone reception was lousy and the "quiet hours" from 9-5 assure that you won't be distracted by TV, others' music or conversation.

It was lovely, but man, was it intimidating. All that time. All that distraction-free quiet. I think I spent the first day just twitching and trying to settle in. By evening I'd finally found a groove and the rest of my time there was productive, but the evenings were sort of lonely. For the bulk of my visit I was the only writer in residence (I was there mid-week). I'd do it again, but I think it would be fun to go back with writer friends, just to have some conversation and someone to share dinner with in the evening.

Maggie Maxwell
05-10-2016, 05:33 PM
While I haven't been able to take 2 months off of work, a couple weeks ago my RWA chapter had a weekend writing retreat. There were 10 of us, we rented a 5-bedroom house for the weekend, and we all brought food. The space was big enough that a couple people could brainstorm their WIPs in the living room, a couple more could talk self-publishing, trade tips and ideas in the dining room, and others congregated on the pool deck for full-on writing. I had a really tough spot in my MS I'd been having trouble with, and I was able to hammer it out to the tune of 2100 words in an afternoon. So it was a success for me!

My critique group did this last year. Rented a cabin in the mountains that slept 15 of us, everyone cooked something for one meal, and we did as we liked: writing inside or out on the porch, hiking, hot tub, there was a pool table and an ice hockey table and board games downstairs... I ended up writing 5000 words that Saturday, my best day ever. A few days out away from society with people who understand what you need to write, including downtime, is wonderful.

Curlz
05-10-2016, 05:45 PM
I dig the concept, my "retreat" is in the garden when it's sunny and warm, with the scents and the greenery all giving an immense burst of creativity... but the result is seldom there ;). "Retreats" are great to relax, get focused and all that. Eventually some ideas pop in your head, yes, that's absolutely so. Then you sit in front of that blank page and... and that's where it gets all the same. I still get distracted. Make cuppa tea, see what's on telly, make pancakes because you feel like it and we are all soooo relaxed and feelgood and creative. Wordcount - not a lot ;). I've had some great ideas while in the "writers retreat", but putting them down into words would most often happen when I'm sitting inside the house in my regular and not so retreaty location. Thing is, when you write, you look down and block out everything around, so it doesn't really matter where you are, really.
And if you go away someplace really nice, why waste time make yourself sit down to write? If the inspiration strikes, sure, but otherwise just going to a nice place and working instead of entertaining yourself, that's a no-no :snoopy:

xbriannova
05-11-2016, 08:25 AM
Thing is, when you write, you look down and block out everything around, so it doesn't really matter where you are, really.

I guess it doesn't always work that way with everyone. It's either something happens that interfere with your writing severely, or you needed that one catalyst to set you down on the path to writing. Personally, it was the former for me. Too many pressures being put on me back at home, so I ran :D


And if you go away someplace really nice, why waste time make yourself sit down to write? If the inspiration strikes, sure, but otherwise just going to a nice place and working instead of entertaining yourself, that's a no-no :snoopy:

It doesn't work that way. You definitely can't lock yourself into a cabin 24/7 to write (You'll suffer from cabin fever, with or without the flesh-eating disease), and you can't be having fun outside 24/7 (you'll get mistaken for a hobo and beaten up/set on fire/mugged). That's the beauty of a long-term Writer's Retreat in my opinion. In your downtime, you're taken cared of like a king/queen, and the optimal conditions will ensure that even if you're just writing a couple hours a day, they'd be your finest hours.

Now, imagine if you're so determined and disciplined that you're writing like 4, even 6 hours a day. You'd have finished your novel in that one or two months you're in your Writer's Retreat. Stephen King, if I remember correctly, finished the first draft of one of his novels in two weeks, though I'm not sure if he had the luxury of a Writer's Retreat.

Laer Carroll
05-13-2016, 12:53 PM
Retreats are like any other writerly activity. It works for some and not for others.

For me, I've GOT to write every day unless I'm in the middle of my or someone else's emergency. It doesn't matter what; I'll spend some time at it. (Though it may only be me wandering around saying to myself "If I point my plot that way... But if I point my plot THAT way... Or maybe... No that won't work. S***!")