This past year, I’ve had more on my plate than ever. I’m homeschooling my two daughters while running the family farm. I’m also taking on freelance projects and finishing my doctorate. I felt like I was at my breaking point so I decided run away from home.
Well, not really. But what I did do is get away for a little bit and give myself a “writer’s retreat.” It might seem selfish to completely remove myself from other responsibilities, but it ended up being exactly what I needed to map out the semester, do some hardcore writing and return home with clear plan on how to finish my doctorate in the next 20 weeks. I feel very grateful I had the support and means to give myself this time to focus, so I wanted to share how you can plan a writer’s retreat for yourself.
First, work with your family to identify the best time for you to get away. And once you’re on your retreat, ask them to respect it. That means you are unavailable for texts or “Mom, where are my tennis shoes”-type calls that weekend. Your number one priority will be writing and only writing. Set aside large blocks of uninterrupted time to put thoughts to paper. Getting ahead of your writing deadlines will allow you to be more present when you head back home.
Next, pick your location. I recommend a place no farther than 40 minutes from home so you don’t spend too much time driving when you could be writing. Airbnb has great affordable options and you can turn on the traveling for business filter to ensure you’ll get a devoted work space and WiFi. Don’t be afraid to tell the host that you’re staying there for a writing retreat and need peace and quiet.
Next, pack nourishment. The amount of brain power required to complete doctoral-level work can take a lot out of you. Plan a clean diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and water. I bring my food and snacks with me to the Airbnb so I don’t need to pause work time to grab it later. Bagged salads and pre-cut fruit will save you preparation time as well. Eating healthy will keep you from getting bogged down with that too-full, need-to-nap feeling.
Next, make a clear goal for your weekend and bring everything you need to achieve it. Perhaps you need to complete 20 pages of writing. Maybe you want to finish a whole batch of assignments or review a list of sources. Take any and every office supply that you might need to get the job done. Sometimes I bring a notebook, a calendar and scads of sticky notes. Other times, I even bring my printer. Write your goal down and put it up somewhere visible while you work.
Most importantly, sleep. I make 10 p.m. my cut-off time, and when I finish, I promptly go to bed. Resting your mind and body will ensure you are at your best when writing. Remember, your writer’s retreat shouldn’t fry your brain — it should do the opposite.
A writer’s retreat might be just what you need to achieve your goals. With some preparation and visioning, you can walk away from your retreat fulfilled, accomplished and ready to take on the next challenge.
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