Thursday, October 4, 2012

Getting Away From it All!

Maybe the biggest problem with writing is your life. Your real life. You’re trying your best to start a new project, work on revisions. Whatever your goal, there are a million other things pulling for your attention.

I’m not sure how it is in your house, but as I sit at my computer, I best not get up. Because if I do, I’ll see the mound of laundry that needs folded. I’ll realize the dishwasher isn’t yet unloaded. I need to pick the kids up from school in fifteen minutes, and I’m not going to be the mom who is always late.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve looked at all these real-world distractions and thought, “What I really need is a writing retreat.”

Great! This is the perfect start. But don’t let the idea pop into existence and fade away. If there don’t happen to be any other retreats scheduled that you’ve been invited to, a great option is to plan your own.

Seem a bit daunting? Well, don’t let it be! Here are a handful of tips to help turn what seems a huge task into a very manageable one!

1) Find a co-chair
Right, so being the one who gets the ball rolling doesn’t make you the king. Sure, you are the go-to person for the time being, but what happens when you aren’t available? Having a second go-to person will help you brainstorm ideas and make it completely more fun.

Two heads are better than one!
(They are also far more likely to get in trouble.)

2) Find a place
In your mind, come up with an initial list of people you’d like to invite. Don’t extend invitations yet, but having a tentative number will help you find a place for the retreat. There are lots of different factors to consider when looking for the right place, but beds and showers are at the top of my list. Other factors to consider are check-in time, check-out time, travel distance, cost, and what is furnished (things like towels, coffee, sheets, plates and silverware).

The more character, the better!

3) Invite people
It’s important to have a group that will get along well. I’m not saying everyone has to be BFF with everyone else, but the retreat will include tons of bonding time, and there is no place for divas or people holding grudges. You are here to be hugely productive while at the same time nurturing relationships that will last for years. When you invite people, it’s okay to have rules set in place. Since you or your co-chair will likely be putting out money up-front for a deposit, it’s okay to tell people they need to mail you a deposit to hold their spot. It’s also okay to make this deposit non-refundable after a certain date. Rules set out up-front will keep things professional and help preserve relationships.

4) Delegate
Once people have started accepting (and they will!), make a list of all the other things that need to be taken care of. Meal planning, daily schedules, and kitchen cleaning are all real things that need to be done. Don’t think you need to do all these yourself. Ask who might be interested in heading up the food effort. The scheduling. The cleaning. Let others own responsibility so everything doesn’t fall on you or your co-chair.

5) Be realistic
Once your retreat starts, you’ll find lots of great time for writing. But be realistic and remember that everyone on the retreat is there not only to write but to bond. Schedule in time for snacks and social breaks. Read-aloud time. Also, when afternoon sleepies hit, schedule in exercise time. Everyone will feel better and it’s a great way to refresh.

6) Extras count
In addition to being realistic, remember that it’s the special little things that make a difference. Sharing goals. Evening candlelight ceremonies. Encouraging others. Perhaps come up with a list of conversation starters, things you’d love to talk about with a group but never had the chance to. These small moments will be the things that everyone remembers for years.

Still seem daunting? I hope not! Organization makes everything better, and the more organized you are up front, the more smoothly everything will run thereafter.


P. J. Hoover is the author of the upcoming dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT (Tor Children's, Winter 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.


Jordan Dane said...

I love writing or plotting retreats. Finding a place with character, away from your home & preferably out of town, is really a great idea.

PJ Hoover said...

Love them, Jordan! It's great to have no responsibilities except the writing!