Hosting Your Own Private Writing Retreat

This Saturday I’ll be meeting with a small group of writers to retreat from our normal lives and our normal writing practices to write in a different way. Here are some thoughts on how and why to take a little time to retreat from your regular (writing) life.

My Top Three Reasons for Going on a Writing Retreat:

  1. To re-engage with my creativity.
  2. To connect with my inner voice.
  3. To play.

The Three Essential Ingredients to a Writer’s Retreat (in my opinion):

  1. Make the time. Schedule your writing retreat on your calendar, in code if you have to. (If someone sees “Root Canal,” they probably won’t ask you to reschedule!)
  2. Set your intention. Create the expectation within your body, mind, and spirit that you are about to take an important action on your own behalf.
  3. Go to a place where you won’t be interrupted with the mundane tasks of daily life. Stay home if everyone else is out (and you can ignore the laundry), but go out if everyone else is home. A coffee shop is a great place to retreat, as long as you aren’t close enough to others that their words are distracting. Sometimes it’s great to overhear other people’s dialogue; sometimes it can drown out your own voice.

Writing Warm Up:

My favorite way to “warm up” to writing is to do timed flow writing. Here’s how:

  1. Get out a journal or open up a document on your computer (I prefer a journal for this kind of writing.)
  2. Put the date at the top of the page.
  3. Set a timer for 5 minutes and close your eyes as you press “Start,” or just check your watch for the time and close your eyes.
  4. Take a deep breath and open your eyes. Whatever object your eyes fall on, use that as the beginning of your entry.
  5. Start writing and don’t stop until the timer goes off or you see that the time has advanced 5 minutes on your watch. Don’t edit or correct spelling, just keep the pen moving. If you don’t know what to write, write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until another thought comes to you.
  6. Once you’ve stopped writing, put a topic note next to the date at the top of the entry, as this will help you find the entry again if you want to use something from it.
  7. Repeat steps 1-6, perhaps increasing the time to 10 or 15 minutes.


Before you return to your normal daily life, take a few moments to write down what you feel you gained from spending some time in retreat with your writing. Plan to reward yourself in some small way for honoring your writing self. A couple of my favorite rewards are a hot bath or a latte, but you will know whatโ€™s the best reward for you.

So, whenโ€™s your next writing retreat?

I have a couple of spots still open for my One-Day Writing Retreat this Saturday, September 20, 2014, at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, NH. Please click here for more information and to register. I’d love to see you there!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, life coach, physician, mother, and stepmother. I’m getting my writing done little by little, with the occasional hours long stretch–it’s working for me, although I’m really looking forward to my writing retreat this Saturday because, while I’m hosting, I also get to do some writing. It’s a win-win! You can find my blog at


23 thoughts on “Hosting Your Own Private Writing Retreat

      • Exactly! Plan for early November or mid February. Heck plan a spring one. Getting the place, date, and interest is how you get the commitment. Another idea I gave is to plan a train writing retreat. Take a train trip for a week or long weekend and write write write. At dinner everyone brings something to read out loud.

    • Hi Dee,
      I wish you could join us, too! Until such time as you can, why not try out some of the suggestions in the post and do a writing retreat yourself, or maybe with a writing buddy? I think it could even work if you did it virtually, via email or on a conference call. There are so many possibilities!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


      • Hi Diane,

        I am following the Blogging 101 series and trying to keep up with the requirements.

        I like the idea of holding something like this with friends but I think I am the only one at the moment has time to be doing things I really like doing — which is work from home without a boss ๐Ÿ™‚

        Thank you for the suggestions though, I will try to continue following you and learn as much as I can virtually. Hope too that you can critique some of my essays when you can.

        Have a nice day!


    • Hey cecilia,
      What could be better than a day focused on writing–with a bunch of writers? Nothing, if you ask me. If you’ve been thinking of retreats, perhaps it’s time to plan one of your own!

      Happy writing!


      • I know, I should and thank you.. the thing with me is that i am a bit of a Loner, so I live my retreat alone out here on the farm all day.. funny really.. but it would be So Good to have some feed back, you know what I mean, instant like that. hmm.. c

    • Hi Kendall,
      Yes, it’s the repetition that really allows you to mine the gold that is there, in your mind. The more I do this kind of flow writing, the more readily the ideas come.

      Happy writing!


    • Hi malleestanley,
      I agree! But sometimes I’m just too distracted by all that I could be doing (laundry, getting ahead on supper, even sorting Lego pieces) and I have to go out to get anything done. Other times I can laser focus on my work and stay in my office and ignore whatever else is going on. So I give myself the option–when I drop my son off at school, I bring my laptop and journal with me, but sometimes I go right back home.

      Happy writing (wherever you do it!)


  1. I pseudo planned a Women Wine Write Retreat but it never materialized into an actual time and place. My husband thought it not fair that I automatically excluded men and non-writers from the event, so I will expand it to all sexes and artists. Thank you for the reminder to plan a winter log cabin retreat.

    • Hi laurabecknielsen,
      Thanks for sharing your plans for a retreat. I once had a book club that included everyone, even people who hadn’t read the book. It was really fun and we had some great discussions about books.

      I’ve actually had the agenda written out since January for my retreat that’s happening this Saturday. I had a webpage for it but no date. I finally set a date this summer when I realized it wasn’t going to happen unless I actually chose a date!

      The winter log cabin retreat sounds like a great idea!

      Happy writing!


  2. This sounds wonderful! I love a Writing Retreat but have had to make do with stolen hours lately. I am looking forward to the time when my writing buddies are also retired so they have more time! You gave me some good ideas for the next time I host a Writing Retreat.

    • Hi diwanderer,
      I’m usually in the same position as you–stolen hours (or minutes, even) but I find the flow writing to be very helpful in those situations, too. I hope your next writing retreat goes well!


    • Hey julie,
      I wish you could join us, too! The last time I hosted a retreat, I used the community room at my local library (no charge unless I charged people, which I didn’t) and asked people to bring bag lunches. It was free and it brought a group of writers together, and it was really fun! Maybe you could do something like that?

      Good luck with your retreat plans!


  3. I’ve been meaning to do some type of writing class or retreat for a while now. This post really inspired me, now I have to find a place that will be worth the trip – relaxing and inspiring at the same time for me to tap into my creativity and develop my writer’s voice. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. This school holidays (I live in Australia), I have requested a day and a night to myself for this very purpose. A writing and yoga retreat at my house. I can’t wait!

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