My writing pal and I, for different reasons, both decided to skip writers’ conferences this year. Instead, we planned a writers’ retreat. Totally renewed and with a fair amount of output under my belt, I can now tell you what made it a success:
- A suite (one bedroom plus living room and full kitchen) in a resort far enough away from home that it really feels like getting away. My friend and I chose Tigh-Na-Mara in Parksville, a vacation-oriented town a couple of hours up the island from Victoria.
- A general plan. Ours was to work in the morning, play in the afternoon, do things like critiquing and goal setting in the evening. That it didn’t work out that way is irrelevant. It’s a place to start.
- Food. My friend brought breakfast, I brought lunch, we both brought whatever else we wanted (sourdough bread and dips, Oh Henry Bites, Moscato), or needed (coffee for me, tea for her). We could have lived for a week or more, without leaving our suite, on the quantity of food in our kitchen.
- Enough time to make it all worthwhile. We had four days, Saturday through Tuesday. We left Victoria sufficiently early that we’d checked into our suite by noon. After stowing the food, we had all afternoon to discuss craft, set goals, and work in our cozy living room (complete with thermostat-controlled fireplace).
- A spa appointment. So help me, we ended up spending five and a half hours on Sunday at the spa. Limp from our one-hour massages, we went to their treetop restaurant for ‘endless tapas’. A new plate of food was placed in front of us every few minutes. We gorged (plus wine) for two hours. And we still had their large salt-water grotto pool to play in. The pool’s warmth left us feeling even limper than before. By the time we staggered back to our suite, neither of us had energy or focus to do anything but flop, chat, read, knit. Supper that night consisted of cheese, potato chips (purely for medicinal purposes, of course, renewing our salt balance), and the aforementioned Oh Henry Bites.
- Less than perfect weather. Other than that dissipated afternoon at the spa, we didn’t actually do any of the recreational things we’d semi-planned. We did manage to buy lottery tickets and go to a quilting supplies shop (with a side trip to Starbucks – for the mental renewal, of course).
- Dedication. We worked. We outlined, wrote, and edited. Our suite would be alternately quiet, then full of chatter as we took a break, fixed a snack, and/or discussed something in our writing worlds. Given the drizzly weather, we worked for hours, morning and afternoon, and accomplished a lot.
- Food. Did I mention food? Do I need to elaborate? Enjoy the food! You can lose the new pounds some other time.
Would I recommend a writers’ retreat? Absolutely. You get away from the usual pattern, fix a goal and go for it, with lots of conversation, support, and good times.
Now, with improved focus, I’m ready for the final push to get the first three books in the Calter Creek series released. So close, maybe another two or three weeks …