I Went on a Writing Retreat!

I’m back, energized and inspired, from my writing retreat last week. It was a wonderful four days—shorter than I had planned, but it was still a great experience!

I did morning pages for the first time in years (and I’ve kept doing them—some days—since I came home.)

I wrote blog posts—for the first time in the history of my life coaching blog, I have blog posts ready to post weeks in advance of when they will be published.  I have always wanted to be that organized person who posts way in advance and, at least for a little while, I am!

I wrote about my main character in my novel. I’m not sure how much of what I’ve written will be part of the novel itself, but it’s all back-story that I needed to explore. It was really fun to dive into this work and to get to know my protagonist.

I wrote a couple of drafts of a new short story that I hope to eventually submit for publication and sent that off to my critique group for their input.

I created coaching worksheets and planned and outlined my next few life coaching talks. Thinking about my presentations so far in advance allowed me to do see where I need to do more research and how I can incorporate more interactive tools into the presentation (always more fun!)

I relaxed—a lot. I went swimming in the lap pool and I snow-shoed in the frigid mountain air. I sat around the dinner table with my companions and had conversations that felt honest, true, and important.

I was surprised by how many ideas I got for my writing while I was swimming and snow-shoeing. Away from the to-do lists of my daily life, story ideas and blog post ideas kept popping into my head. I plan to try to recreate that opportunity for creativity by consciously clearing my mind before I head out for a run, a walk, or a swim.

By the end of my time away, I realized that the writing retreat was a wonderful gift and I saw that I could still get my writing done once I was home. Most of the writing I did while I was away happened in short bursts. There was only one afternoon where I wrote for 4 hours straight—the rest of the time, I wrote for an hour or two, went and did something else, came back to that piece or moved on to another piece. While I’m not going to have a lot of four-hour blocks of time to write in my near future, I will definitely have 1-2 hours a couple times a week!

Spending this time away concentrating on my writing gives me a feeling that I have a jump on my writing goals for 2014. I’m excited for what the rest of the year will bring.

How can you create a writing retreat for yourself—even if it’s just for a few hours?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, mother, life coach, and family physician. I can no longer believe the myth “I need more time to write” because I just had four full days and I still jumped from one thing to another, something I do all the time in my normal, daily life. That’s good news!

31 thoughts on “I Went on a Writing Retreat!

    • Hi winterbayne,
      Thanks for your comment–I love that every day you don’t go to “work” is a writing retreat for you!

      Happy writing!


    • Hi heavenhappens,
      Thanks for your comments! I’m thrilled I got to go and I’m happy to be back! I have so much more material to work with than before I went!


    • Hi mandyevebarnett,
      I looked forward to my retreat for months, too! The anticipation is half the fun.
      Enjoy your retreat–I hope it’s everything you’re dreaming it will be!


    • Hey Maria,
      Don’t expect too much of yourself! I really went on this retreat giving myself permission to do whatever I felt like doing. I’ve had the experience of being so wiped out that I did nothing for the first few days of a writing retreat. Thankfully that didn’t happen this time, but I was prepared for it because I knew if I beat myself up for not getting enough done, I’d get even less done!

      Ask yourself positive questions and give yourself credit for anything you accomplish–from cleaning out a closet to sitting at your desk for 15 minutes. If you have compassion for yourself, you will get more done.

      Good luck!!


  1. As much as I would love to go somewhere with a swimming pool (or, preferably, the ocean), I actually got a miniature writing retreat in the oddest place yesterday…my first day back substituting after a few years away.
    This was also the first day my 17 month old and I have ever been separated for more than a couple of hours and I got a blog post written, several blog ideas jotted down, and a few suggestions that inspired me from third graders (when they weren’t trying to jump through the ceiling…)

    Congratulations on such a great sounding retreat! I will do my best not to be so jealous in the future.

    • Hey estyree,
      How wonderful that you got some writing time when you were at work. That’s such a bonus! And congratulations for getting through your first day being separated from your baby–that couldn’t have been easy!

      And sometimes jealousy can be motivating–it’s only when you think you can’t have the same thing (experience, etc) that jealousy can be paralyzing.

      Best wishes!


  2. This sounds like such a wonderful idea! I would love to have a little hideaway made especially for focusing on relaxing and writing. Good luck with all of your writing projects! Also, if you feel the need to have some company on your next retreat…is there a place to sign up? 😛

    • Hi gabriellewesker89,
      One of my dreams is to create a writing retreat for other writers. I’ve done it a number of times in the past, but always at my home or another person’s home. I’m thinking now of a place like the one I was at last week, only I’d love it to also have spa-type amenities, because that kind of relaxation I think is really good for the muse. That’s my dream anyway. In the meantime, I may do another one-day retreat at my local library. I did that a couple of years ago and it went well (no spa, though!)

      Any interest in either of those scenarios?

      Thanks for your comments!


    • Hi Silent,
      Thanks for the compliments–you’re making me blush!

      I’m not currently seeing patients, not since I had my son, but I’m still keeping up my credentials. In the meantime, I’m raising my son and working as a life coach and trying to become a published author. I’m enjoying it all so much! I’m very lucky to get to spend my time as I do, although I do miss seeing patients.

      I think envy is a sign that something needs to change. In what small way could you change your life to get more of what you see in mine?

      Best wishes and happy writing!


    • Hey Carlene,
      I went to a place called Pollard Brook, in Lincoln, NH. It’s very close to Loon Mountain. Here’s the link to it: http://innseason.com/isr/RD_R_Pollard.aspx. We had a 2-bedroom condo, there was a fireplace in the living room, and a great view of the mountains. We lost power for 7 hours one day, but we stayed warm because of the fireplace. There was a full kitchen, and a lap pool on the lower level–plus an outdoor hot tub that also overlooked the mountains. It was pretty perfect!

      I like being that person who posts in advance, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to sustain it!

      Happy writing!


  3. Thanks so much for the new perspective on getting a “writing refreshing.” As a mom, home educator, online educator, sheep farmer, part-time church secretary, etc… I often feel frustrated with myself that I “don’t have time to write” the way I would like to. I guess I need to just settle in and really cherish the 30 min to an hour that my girls and I set aside for “writing time” and gain my own refreshing from that. Thanks!

    • Hi Thrasher.eduhelp,
      I really dispelled that myth of needing long blocks of time to write. Even when I had the whole day, I wrote in 1-2 hour chunks (mostly). The one day I tried to stay at my computer for hours I really struggled–I’m not used to sitting down for that long at one time. I was much happier when I wrote for a while, went for a walk, wrote more, made lunch, wrote more, etc. So now I can do that at home, only less “chunks” of writing time each day. One would be great!

      I’m so glad you are able to see a different perspective on your writing time!


  4. I love this post! I used to do 2-5 days writing retreats on a yearly basis, but that hasn’t happened in several years. However, I have found a way to do mini-retreats. Pack up some writing materials and a few “intentions” and head to a local coffee shop. Sometimes, it’s only a couple of hours, but it renews me. I get a few things done, organize my thoughts for my time back at home, and gain a much needed sense of accomplishment.

    • Hi Deborah,
      Thanks for your comments! I agree, a few hours at a coffee shop can be a great mini-retreat! I haven’t done that in a long time, I’ll have to plan another one soon.

      There’s supposed to be a new cafe opening near me soon and I can’t wait to check it out!

      Happy writing!


  5. Diane,
    This sounds like it was so wonderful. It makes me happy to know that you had such a great experience. Yay! 🙂

    • Hi topa,
      Thank you! I had a much longer list of tasks to accomplish, but I’m very happy with the writing I got done!


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