Pleasure Project DIY

A Guide to the DIY Writing Retreat

April 20, 2016
DIY Writing Retreat Writers How to write

Want to write a book? A short story? Maybe you’ve got a dissertation your struggling to finish or perhaps an article, a pitch, a project of some sort you need to get stuck into, but you just have too many distractions? Well I’ve got just the thing…

Earlier this year I looked into going on a Writing Retreat to help get the ball rolling, or should I say pages turning, with my book. I find it so hard to write in my day-to-day life; I’m currently freelancing full time in a busy office and I also run this blog which is my second full time job (and it involves more than just writing a post and clicking publish – as I’m sure you all know). And don’t get me started on the weekends, it feels like 2016 has been one the busiest years ever – this coming weekend will be my first weekend in seven weeks (seven bloody weeks!!) that I’m not at a birthday, a family thing, a bridesmaid fitting, or travelling somewhere.

I know it sounds like I’m carrying around a big bag full of excuses, but for me to be able to write freely and get loads down on paper, I need peace and quiet, I need clean space, but most importantly I need A LOT of time. I am not a quick writer, not when it comes to fiction. I can blog anywhere, but if I’m creating a story then I can’t settle down to write if I know my time is limited.

I envy those people who can bash out 1000 words whilst sat waiting for the bus. I can’t do that, I have to get in the zone and then once I’m there I don’t want to leave. I know, I know, everyone says “but if you were really that passionate about writing you’d find the time” or “real writers can write ANYWHERE” well not me, maybe I’m not a real writer, but all I know is that to get stuck into a story I need quiet space and zero distractions, something I don’t have a lot of in my current routine.

writer writing tea coffee

I found a company called Urbanwritersretreat who offer retreats without all the workshops and mentoring, instead they just sort you out with a private room in a peaceful house in Devon, and there you can write to your heart’s content. It sounded Perfect! But when I came to book the retreat and I saw the price, my heart sank. I just couldn’t justify paying £300 for a three night stay in a room (not when the return flights to Marrakech I’d been eyeing up where only £150!) To be fair it does include food, but at £100 a night PLUS my travel down to Devon, I knew it was far too much money to spend on what would essentially be me sat in a room writing.

But surely I could DIY it? Surely I just needed to find somewhere quiet to escape to, set myself some rules and get on with it?

And so that I did. And it worked a treat. Here is how to DIY your very own cheap as chips Writers Retreat…

writing coffee

Escape to a quiet location
I advise escaping the city life if you can. Know anyone that lives out in the sticks? Or perhaps you could visit your parents’ house or grandparents if they live somewhere quiet? I headed to North Wales to my Parents caravan for two nights completely on my own. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, and it’s free, I just needed to pay for my travel which was £50. If you can’t find anywhere to escape to, I suggest setting aside a weekend or a few days to head to the library to write. It may not be as glam as retreating to the country or the seaside, but at least you know it will be quiet there (and it’s free). Or if you live in London there are multiple locations for people to go and work in peace, like the Southbank Centre, I’ve worked there previously and it has a lovely relaxing atmosphere, during the day at least. Or try the citizenM lobby, it offers free workspace.
Either way, you need to leave your bedroom, desk, office, or wherever it is you usually work, and get a change of scenery.

Stock up on Supplies
Make sure you have everything you need before you begin your retreat. If you’re in a library or somehwere like the Southbank centre make sure you have cash to pop to the café, or take a flask and a packed lunch. If your out in the country or in a cabin, a caravan or even at a friends place, make sure you’ve stocked up on all the supplies you will need. You don’t want to go to make a cuppa only to realise you’ve ran out of tea bags, milk or biscuits (surely every writers essentials?) I spent about £20 on meals, milk, tea, coffee and snacks before settling into the caravan to spend two days writing.

Don’t take anything that will distract you
You might want to take your favorite magazine, or a DVD for the evenings, maybe your Gameboy, or perhaps – NO! Unless you have amazing self-control (which I do not) then don’t take anything that will distract you during the time you have set aside to write.

Tell People what you are doing
Maybe let your friends and family know what you are doing so they know not to disturb you. The last thing you want just as you’re at the climax of Chapter seven is your Grandma calling for a chat.

Switch off social media
When you’re writing make sure you turn everything off. I switch my phone to aeroplane so that no one could contact me; no calls, no texts, no notifications, nada. It was just me and Microsoft Word.

…in fact don’t even connect to the Wifi
Always a hard one for me, but whether you’re in a library or holed up in a hotel room, don’t ask for the wifi password, this will lessen your chances of logging online to check emails, facebook, Insta and all that.

Set Targets before you start making other plans
If your heading off to the countryside or a to a holiday home, you might be tempted to go for a long walk or try out that quaint pub on the corner. That’s great, but don’t make any concrete plans. You’re not there to have a holiday, you are there to write. Of course you can have a pint or two and of course you can head out on a scenic walk, but maybe set a word target for the day and only go when you have hit your target. Use these things you want to do as a reward for your writing and hard work.

Get comfortable
Some people, like Liz Gilbert, love to dress up when writing. Not always, but she has admitted that sometimes putting on some nice makeup and a pretty outfit helps her feel ready to kick some storybook ass and gets the creative ideas flowing. I prefer to get in my PJ’s and go make-up free. But do whatever works for you, as long as you are comfortable.

Have fun!
Don’t stress why you are there or worry too much about not getting much done, let’s try and leave the stress back at home shall we? I actually began to get stressed about stressing! Just get settled in, make a cuppa, and then let the words and ideas flow out of you.

I would LOVE to go on a proper writing retreat, writing all day with a scenic view whilst having food brought to me – perfect! BUT, we shouldn’t have to pay to write or be creative. We don’t need. The above tips really worked for me and I’m planning to do another writing retreat very soon.

What do you think? Do you have any tips to add? Have you ever been on a Writing Retreat? Was it worth it? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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