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How to Have Your Own Low-Key Retreat

Buried in the Slushpile

Leaving supportive messages for each other.

Leaving supportive messages for each other.

I have just gotten back from a writing retreat. This was a very informal thing where a large group of writing-oriented friends rent a house in the middle of nowhere. We take turns making meals and we spend hours, hours just working in silence. It’s great. It’s one of the things I look forward to every six months. And I get so much done.

This kind of “get away from it all” is really key for everyone, especially creative types. So, here are the tips I’ve accumulated over the years from watching our retreat’s organizers:

  • Find someplace without internet
    We use a house in the middle of nowhere about 1 hour outside of Austin. Although the place has TVs with DVD players, they are strictly forbidden. There’s only about 3 of us who get cell service, so internet is out for most folks. (I’m one of the lucky ones, so I act as switchboard for calls, thus no one begrudges me my email time.) If you just want to have a writing weekend with a close friend, you could always get one room and not ever use the hotel wifi.
  • Use a Google Doc Spreadsheet to Decide Food and Cleaning Duties in Advance
    We take turns preparing the meals and then someone else cleans up. This way we know in advance who needs to bring what food, and there are no fights over clean-up. Also, everyone knows when she’s doing stuff, and this helps budget writing time.
  • Our inspirational activity -- reminding ourselves to succeed.

    Our inspirational activity — reminding ourselves to succeed.

    Have Plans for the Evening
    We try to do something inspirational every night. We also set one night aside to read from our work and get a little feedback.

  • Have fun.
    We have a great mix of people that all get along. It’s fun to gossip about the industry, discuss our various works in progress and generally re-inspire each other.

Today my email was filled with all of us lamenting that fact that we had to go back to our regular lives and lauding our accomplishments. (One woman wrote over 40k words the 3 days she was there. 40k! I find that a cross between very inspiring and very intimidating.)

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