Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Solitary Writer Retreat

For an all-consuming writing experience, I pack up and leave home.

Here’s the why of it for all those who have asked aloud and especially for those who wonder without asking.

Yes, I do have an office at home. No, I don’t have small children underfoot. My house is relatively quiet. My husband is (mostly) considerate of my writing space – both figuratively and literally. So why do I have to run away to accomplish great chunks of writing?

Stimulation. New sights and sounds awaken the senses and clear the cobwebs of my mind. Nature is never distracting. People on the other hand are a different story so I prefer a tranquil

No routine. This is the most important for me. By choice, I camp out in the room where I’ll be writing. Usually a large room with a view. Sleeping bag and pillow on the couch. Because I’ve eliminated the bedtime ritual, not to mention the bed, I usually nap anywhere from thirty minutes to never longer than five hours. Then I’m back at the computer. Rhythm and thought process intact.

No distractions. I’m not listening for the washer or dryer to quit, planning meals, running to the grocery store, unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming the dog hair off the furniture, or even watching my favourite evening TV programmes – especially those true crime shows.

No interruptions. I’m thinking of Sorry to bother you but… Or the dog whining to go out. The dog whining for a treat. The dog whining for her supper. Tiki, my kitty, passed away in April. Being without her after eighteen years is terrible but she was the biggest distraction. Hated to see my office door closed. She’d screech until I opened it and even when she was in the office, she insisted that the door be left open. She’d hop on and off my lap or my desk every few minutes. It’s easy to be sidetracked by a cuddle. See my post Cuddles, Coos, and Other Writerly Distractions.

No guilt. That’s a biggie. Turning down a friend’s lunch invitation, or chance to meet for coffee, or visit with relatives. Letting a phone call go to voicemail. It’s tough. I do feel guilty for begging off when I’m working an assignment but it’s screamingly frustrating working in fits and starts – at least for me. It’s a problem for all people who work from a home office. Especially writers. After all, many – too many – don’t consider it work. When I’m on a writing getaway, everyone respects my need for solitude.

My retreats are more than bouncing from the couch to the computer. I wander outside for fresh air, exercise at least an hour each day, drink plenty of water, and always eat at regular intervals – even with my irregular hours.

I pack healthy snacks and meals. Carrots and hummus, hard-boiled eggs, English muffins and cereal, yogurt and granola, pre-mixed green salads and prepared dinners. I spend little time in the kitchen and require only a microwave and a coffee-maker.

My focus is my writing project. The only conversations I have are with my characters. Nothing interrupts my thought process. It consumes me.

So far I’ve enjoyed two or three retreats courtesy of friends who live along the St. Clair River.
It’s amazing what I can achieve in the three or four days that I’m housesitting.

I return home feeling accomplished and refreshed. And energized. Yes, my energy level definitely increases with these mini getaways. It’s the excitement of the several thousand additional words to the manuscript and the exhilaration of creativity.

Love my retreats!


  1. Replies
    1. That's right Terry. Multi-tasking was my middle name at one time. I'm more easily distracted in my later years. ;)

  2. Replies
    1. Patricia, I thrive on change and new experiences. It's great to do this once in awhile. Total absorption! Works for me!