Recently Deb talked about creating your own writing residency. *Sigh* a whole WEEK devoted to writing. Oh I get all a twitapated just thinking about it, but for now, with two active kids and a husband with an insane travel schedule, a week away devoted solely to my writing is just not feasible. For now, I squeeze my writing getaways in where I can.
Last spring, I attended the New England Romance Writer’s Conference and stayed an extra night to write. It was lovely. Last month, the only week my husband was home, I traveled to Detroit for work. I extended the trip by a day and a half and devoted that time to writing. I’m thrilled to say I added more than 8,000 words to my work in progress. There were a couple of key factors that make these little writing retreats work for me.
Location, location, location!
Both of these retreats took place in hotels that cater to business travelers. One was located in a business park, and most recently, I stayed at the Detroit airport. There was no beautiful scenery to draw me away, no tourist attractions that I “really shouldn’t miss.” Basically, I had permission to just hang out in my room guilt-free.
The other side of the location coin, is picking a place that isn’t so isolated that you go stir crazy. Yes, I need to focus on my writing, but the four walls of a hotel room can start to close in after too much time and crush your creativity. The conference hotel was in an office park but it was near a mall so there were a number of dining options (and a Starbucks) within walking distance. Detroit has a public transportation system that runs to and from the airport. With a few quick swipes, I was able to find a bus route that stopped at a nearby mall. Even better? I found a an location of a restaurant chain (Olga’s Kitchen) that I hadn’t eaten at since I was in high school. Triple play? There was a Target across from the mall that sold beer and wine this allowed me to stock up on motivation and rewards (I’ll explain that later).
For both of my getaways, I set goals that weren’t cakewalks, but weren’t so ridiculous I’d be stressed out or ignore them completely. Last spring, I was plotting, This time, I was just flat out writing. I set my goal at 5,000 words on the day that I was supposed to have the full day to write (again more on that in a minute) and 3,000 for the half day. I ended up writing until I was halfway through my flight home, BUT, I made my goal with a little padding.
Expect the unexpected (and roll with it)
I was supposed to have all day Friday and half the day Saturday just to write, heh, yeah, best laid plans and all that. I ended up having to attend to a few work details on Friday morning, so I didn’t start writing in earnest until after lunch. Saturday I also ended up working on tasks that needed to be completed on site. Since that’s why I was there in the first place, I couldn’t exactly say no. However, this is where creating goals that were a bit of a reach but not overwhelming worked well.
As Deb mentioned in her post, plan a head and clear your desk before you leave, so when you come back you aren’t playing catch up.
I didn’t do as good a job at this as I could have. It would have been better if I could have cleared my inbox(es) before I left, but that just didn’t happen. Instead, I finished my original onsite commitments a little early, so I took the time to wipe out my emails before I sat down to write. When I did finally sit down to write, it was with a clear conscience.
I *could* conceivably have stayed until Sunday, but I knew that would throw off my weekly routine of meal planning and grocery shopping. So, coming home later Saturday afternoon made more sense for me.
Motivate and reward yourself
Plan a head and build in times to reward yourself for your efforts. Since I got such a late start on Friday, I set a goal of 2,000 words before I left for my dinner adventure. That way when I stopped, I felt like I’d achieved something.
While I was out, I stopped at Mrs. Fields Cookies and bought 5,000 word reward. When I was at Target I bought a bottle of wine as a little motivation (plus it was cheaper than going to the hotel bar).
All in all I was pleased by the outcome of my mini writer’s retreat and I can’t wait to do it again.
How do you fit in focused writing time?
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She has been a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.