What a DIY Writing Retreat Reminded Me About Writing

DIY retreat.png

By Alissa Johnson

Last week, my writing partner and I did something luxurious: we set aside a whole day for writing. We planned a month in advance to safeguard the time and picked the same date so we could keep each other accountable.

As the day approached, I was torn: work on my novel (I'd like to finish a draft in a year) or spend time on new ideas percolating since a late summer vacation. I've also been thinking about a book on writing. 

I didn't think I could do it all. I've seen what happens when writers expect too much from a single day. Under pressure, it's easy to get overwhelmed and write very little.

Finally, sensing that I needed a break from my novel, I gave myself permission to just explore. To write whatever I felt like writing. Even though my gut told me it was the right decision, I felt disappointed because I would ultimately "accomplish" less at the end of the day.

The night before my DIY retreat, I slept badly—three to four hours—and woke exhausted. I ratcheted my expectations down even further. Writing at all would be a victory. 

I spent the first part of the morning freewriting about different ideas, some new, some related to my novel, some random and appearing on the spot. Ten minutes each, no real purpose other than to contemplate the ideas in my mind.

Then I read a section of The Right to Write by Julia Cameron and followed a prompt, allowing myself a full 45 minutes on something that didn't relate to my "real" writing.

And then? I liked that prompt so much I thought I'd try it from the point of view of a character in my novel. That led into a new scene, which I wrote out by hand in full. After a break for a walk, I came home and explored that book on writing. 

By giving myself the freedom to explore and keeping the pressure low, I did all the things I wanted to do.

I tested out new ideas, worked on a section of my novel, and thought about what a book on writing could look like. I felt energized and excited despite my lack of sleep.

The same thing happened for my writing partner, reminding both of us that giving yourself space, the freedom to explore, and keeping expectations in check yields better results. 

It was such a great reminder that I wanted to share it with you. Consider your own writing life. Could you benefit from setting aside a full day or half a day for writing?

P.S. Wish writing could be easier? Learn how it can be with my FREE three-part series, Inside the Writer's Mind. You can learn how to end the struggle and work with yourself today.