So here I am in Santa Cruz, California, sitting in LuLu’s Coffee shop across from my sister. Disheartened by our inability to keep a steady writing schedule on our projects, we decided to create our own mini writing retreat.
Yep, I’m drinking Lavender tea (it’s Santa Cruz for God’s sake!) but it’s only noon and we’ve both been writing since 8am. I blasted through revising ten pages and now get to go back and start taking notes.
See that hammock, in the photo? That’s where I’m gonna be swinging for the next five days.
There’s something about the start of summer (kids being home from school, routines disrupted,) that can wreak havoc on your writing schedule. Suddenly there’s carpooling, annoying camps you have to drive your kids to, or in my case, a son home from college and another teenager at loose ends until he starts his summer activities. There’s also swimming, the beach and other tempting distractions.
To fight back against the enticements of summer, my sister and I decided to set a week aside to completely focus on our pages.
Here’s what we did. She sent her kids off to the cousins’ house for five days, I hopped on a plane, and we’re working at her house. It’s perfectly quiet, and we’ve set our intentions for the week.
She’s going to outline her book, and I’m going to finish my first draft (I’m near the end,) read through my project, and make revision notes.
The power of a pattern interrupt can be huge in either jumpstarting your writing schedule or creating a new one. You’re far away from your normal life, and jolting your brain this way, removing yourself to another location, can clear the space for you to institute a steady writing practice.
Here’s how you can create a DIY writing retreat of your own…
1.Pick a week. A week that you are relatively free. If you have a full time job where you have to show up to an office, maybe it’s one of your vacation weeks. If you’re a freelancer, pick a week. Don’t schedule any clients or assignments for those seven days.
2. Find a location. Does your family have a vacation home? Do you have a friend who’s going out of town? Could you stay at their place? Watch their pets? Water their plants? Find a location that is NOT where you normally write. Book it.
3. Set an intention. Figure out a challenging (but doable) goal for the week. Do you want to write 2 chapters? Act I? Act III? Do you want to dive into revisions? Make your goal specific and achievable.
4. Don’t let things that “come up,” destroy your plan. Tell everyone you know that you will be unavailable for these days. You will be WORKING. Do you have to lie and say there’s no wifi where you are staying? You have my permission.
5. Arrive at your mini retreat and work your butt off. Keep to your daily goals, and give yourself small treats. A walk midday? A special kind of dinner you love? A fancy Pinot?
6. Don’t stop until you’ve reached your goals.
7. Once the week is over, find ways to bring the retreat back home with you. How can you use the same patterns to keep the rhythm going? Could you not look at email until 10am? Could you get up early before work and drink a cup of that special lavender tea while writing? Could you take a mid day walk after you finish your writing for the day?
Take Action! Design a mini writing retreat (by yourself or with a friend.) Set it in stone. Write down an intention for the retreat. Write each day. Create a routine. Give yourself treats.
And if you can’t manage to find a new place to stay, then find a coffee shop you’ve NEVER SET FOOT IN BEFORE. Make it your retreat hot spot. Go there every day from 7am until 10am.
Watch your page count grow!
All right, I gotta get back to my lavender tea. And my pages.
Later, my sister and I are going for a walk in the woods.
I better get crackin!
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