I asked myself today why I’m writing a blog — and these words popped into my mind: inspiration, ideas, empowering your creativity. I write this as a writer’s journal, not a how-to write, not craft articles, and not how to query agents and get published. You can find better authorities on those things. This is where I accumulate my own personal sources for inspiration, ideas, and empower my own creativity. This is my personal writer’s diary, where I can refer back to things I’ve learned or found. The DIY Staycation Writer’s Retreat. All the romance novels set in Italy. Magical realism in poetry and fiction. More
Hooray for finishing my DIY writing retreat! Balloons rising into the air!! I’m celebrating that I now have a full draft of Novel #2 – better known as The Romantics.
After nearly full week of making this new book my primary focus, every morning, noon, and night, I met my goal.
How I Did It
Here I am on a weeklong stay-at-home, self-designed week of working on my new novel — my DIY writing retreat — and I’m thinking, “What do you do on a writing retreat during breaks? You talk to other writers!”
So here I am, kibbitzing with you, fellow writer. I hope you’ve had an hour or more of writing today — possibly you’re even on your own DIY writing retreat — and that it’s going well. My goal is to complete the first draft of my second novel, The Romantics. It’s a tale of two estranged half-sisters who inherit a house on the Ligurian coast of Italy, along with its resident ghost of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who once lived there. Their story explores the price of individuality and the depth of love of family, as well as the value of heart over head in mapping out a meaningful life. There are some love interests, but the two opposed sisters are at the heart of this love story. More
I finished my 10-day Do-It-Yourself At Home Writing Retreat, and I learned some new things about my creative process . I got a lot done:
- Edited the first third of my novel manuscript
- Wrote three new poems
- Prepared ideas for cover art for my forthcoming novel
- Wrote a couple of blog posts and some tweets
- Finished the script for a musical
- Had some fun days in nature and in town
It was an experiment, as always. I learned that a writing retreat can be as short or long as you like and can manage. A writing retreat is really just at heart a self-discipline, an intention. A promise you make to yourself to do something deeply pleasing and also productive. I’ve found there are three important elements: time, place, and strategy.
A holiday — any three-day weekend has the golden potential of being a writing retreat time. For a novelist, who must keep writing fiction over an extended period of years, any weekend can become a DIY writer’s retreat. But a holiday weekend has a special glow. A delicious sense of timelessness. The prospect of losing track of TIME gets my creative juices going.
Since it’s a StayWriCation — home-based writer’s retreat — for me the place is imaginary. This is my favorite writer’s retreat place, beside a beautiful ocean. Of course this is Monet’s ocean in Normandy, and I like to think of myself as painted by Monet into it, the woman with the red umbrella standing there. In literal reality, my place is usually a couch in the living room, with an occasional foray to my deck or a coffeehouse with my laptop. PLACE for me is mostly in the landscape of my work in progress.
Deciding on goals is key to a successful StayWriCation — even if you don’t achieve them! I find it key to my every day, planning what I want to accomplish, and then being flexible about what comes. Interruptions happen, new directions, ideas, wishes. If you’re too rigid, inspiration dries up, and if too scattered, nothing happens. So STRATEGIC PLANNING WITH FLEXIBILITY is my best gambit. I think of Bernini’s sculpture of David, aiming at the giant. You can hit the target of a big goal in a compressed amount of time with strategy and a good aim.
More articles on Do-It-Yourself Writing Retreats:
Cynthia Morris’ tips on creating your own retreat
One thing I like in this one is rcruiting allies. When I did my recent DIY retreat, I enlisted the support of writer friends, and the cheering section was like NaNoWriMo, very motivating.
I’m calling mine a StayWriCation, because I plan to host my solitary writer’s retreat here in the most comfortable, lovely place I can work — home. Many writers escape to rural retreats where they often share solitude (how is this possible?) with other writers in an unplugged, calm setting, in order to make progress on whatever they’re starting or working on. I can’t afford travel, hate planes and airports, miss my dog when I leave home, and insist on the comforts of a speedy Internet while writing. Writing retreats are not really designed for me.
So one year, I crafted my own StayWriCation. It was in November, and I had to finish final editing of a childhood memoir, so as to send out queries and snag an agent. I was determined to have pure, unadulterated, daily writing time — and what better place to have it than my sun-filled, high-ceilinged living room, with a wall of glass, a deck nestled under trees, with the roses I grow to water while thinking through plot points, hummingbirds whizzing over my head?
I developed a daily rhythm, working from 7 am until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and then taking myself out for fun, going places I normally don’t go. I treated my home, the San Francisco Bay Area, as if I were a tourist, wanting to see exciting things.
It worked like a dream. Novel writing is long and requires great concentration. For those without young children at home, I recommend trying a home-based, Do-It-Yourself Writer’s Retreat whenever you need to make a big push: first draft, first edits, approving publisher’s edits, etc. I don’t sit at a writing desk, but roam around the house and neighborhood using portable devices. My muse seems to enjoy a good walk or a lng shower. I’ve learned to memorize long chunks of writing until I can get to a computer.
You’ll have to warn your spouse that you’re Not Available during certain hours, but presumably if you’re a novelist, he knows the “I’m Writing” look — the vacant stare, lack of response to questions, mumbling to yourself. Mine says he can never tell if I’m talking to someone or dictating onto my phone. So he doesn’t like to interrupt me — great!
For ideas and inspiration, here are some articles on how-to DIY your writing retreat. Every one of them mentions having a writing goal, to which I say YES!!
Writer Laura Munson defines her own personal Walden
But don’t be limited. Dream your own perfect in-place writing retreat. Maybe it’s in a local cafe, a library, or like one of my friends, a hotel room so close to her home she can walk to it.
Happy writing! What’s your current writing goal? Write me if you like.