Camy here, feeling the crunch of the economy just like all of you. But sometimes, you need something to jumpstart your creativity or to kick you out of a writing block.
Writing retreats are wonderful things, because they can do many different things:
--Help to immerse you in that creative right brain mode so you can get “in the zone”
--Give you that kick in the pants you need to plow through a writing block or a difficult patch of writing
--Eliminate distractions that might be keeping you from writing effectively or efficiently
--Help you to focus and pay attention to details
But let’s face it, writing retreats are expensive.
Fear not! Camy the Cheapskate is here to give you some ideas for how you can make your own mini writing retreat for very little moolah.
Writing retreats don’t have to be for days at a time
A good writing retreat can be for only a few hours. That time of undistracted writing can be just what you need to Go Forth And Write when you get back to the “real world.”
If you can swing a day or two, that’s great. But if you can only swing a few hours, then try for that instead.
Most writers have to think about their families first before planning any type of time away to write.
If your husband can’t take care of your kids while you’re gone, consider cheap alternatives:
--Trading babysitting time with a friend
--Hiring a high school student
--Grandparents/aunties/cousins/siblings who can take care of your kids for you for a few hours or maybe even a few days. Don’t discount out of state family, because your writing retreat can be anywhere.
You can also consider forking over the money for daycare if you make the rest of your retreat inexpensive. It might be a viable option for you if you don’t have any others.
Husband/Wifecare: This is more tricky, but you know your spouse’s needs and can plan ahead to meet them while you’re gone.
For example, if they can’t cook, then make and freeze a few meals. If they can’t pick up the kids from daycare, arrange with a friend or relative to pick the kids up for only a day or so. If they can’t drive, arrange for transportation from a friend or make them take the bus.
Once you’ve taken care of the fam, you can go somewhere for a few hours or a few days and just concentrate on your writing without stressing about what’s going on at home.
Location, location, location
ANYWHERE can be a good writing retreat, as long as it meets your writing needs—usually just a plug for your computer, or not even that if you use an Alphasmart.
Ideally, we’d all love to hole ourselves up in a nice cabin in the woods with no distractions, no cars, nothing but the sweet sound of nature and our fingers clicking the keyboard.
But that isn’t always a viable option. So be creative:
--hotel rooms (you can sometimes find a cheap rate at a nearby hotel—just far enough away that the kids can’t walk in the door but not too far)
--a room in a neighbor’s/friend’s/relative’s house (be careful that the host knows you don’t want to be disturbed)
--a room at your workplace, if you can arrange things with your boss and if you know no one will disturb you
--a café or restaurant
Also, think outside the box—would it cost more for you to rent a hotel room or to drive or fly a short distance away to an understanding friend’s home, where you can write in a spare bedroom for free? Would it be cost effective to drive to a family member’s home (even if it’s in a different state) to drop off the kids, then go to a library or café (or a hotel room or a friend’s house) to write?
Try to eliminate Internet and cell phone usage
I know this sounds hard, but a writing retreat is for you to WRITE. And it’s too easy for people to call or email or IM and say, “I know you’re writing, but…”
They especially do this when they know you’re not far away. In fact, the likelihood of you being disturbed decreases with your distance from your family while you’re writing.
So if you’re going to be away for a few days, arrange with family to have your phone on for a certain period of time each day so they can call if they need something, but otherwise, the phone and your Internet connection is going to be OFF.
If you’re only on a retreat for a few hours, the family can WAIT or LEAVE A MESSAGE. Or if it’s a real emergency, someone can drive to come get you.
Even if you don’t eat while writing, if you’re going to be away during any mealtimes, you need to figure out how to eat inexpensively and also conveniently, because you don’t want to have to stop to go to McDonald’s when you’re right in the middle of a great scene.
Plan ahead—make sandwiches and stock up on snacks. Buy or fill water bottles, make sure you have all your meds, and arm yourself for several hours of blissful writing time.
Also, if you need music or aromatherapy or whatever, pack those things as well.
It’s worth it
This might seem like a lot of work just for uninterrupted writing time, but you’d be amazed at how productive you can be. More importantly, you’ll be amazed to realize how much you’re normally distracted when you write at home.
You obviously can’t have a mini writing retreat every week, but once every few months might be worth it to keep your sanity and your writing productivity.
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveaways!