Why Writing Retreats Are Necessary for Me

Why Writing Retreats Are Necessary for Me
September 14, 2018 Maggie Lynch
In Writing Journey

Oregon Writer's Colony house with rainbow. View from West side.Preparing for a Writing Retreat

For those who have been following me for a while, you know I take fairly regular writing retreats. I shoot for one per quarter, but the last couple of years it’s ended up to be two or three a year depending on all that is happening and how my budget is looking.

They are almost always at the same place, a log cabin home built by Henry Steiner, a self-taught and a well-known log cabin builder in the Pacific Northwest. He also built many log cabin homes on Mt. Hood. This smaller cabin was built in Rockaway Beach, Oregon and is owned by founders of the Oregon Writers Colony. They make it available to OWC members for an extremely reasonable price. I have written five books in this cabin over the years, and bless the OWC every time I go there.

The way I prepare, outside of packing everything I need, is to know what project I’m working on. I go with the entire purpose of getting as many words done on drafting a work-in-progress. I shoot for 25,000 words for the five days I’m there. I don’t always make that, but I come close most of the time. I tend to use retreats to start books or to finish books. The middles come at home, as does any editing, finalizing, publishing.

Why does it work for me?

First, it provides a place where my only job is to write. Because I am 90 minutes away from my home, I can’t do laundry or dishes or run to buy groceries or go to a variety of appointments. That is pretty freeing right there. The main drag of town is about 8 blocks away with a small grocery store, a bakery, a small police station, four or five restaurants and a few shops with artisan products. Again, enough to get what you need but not so much you want to spend the day shopping.

rockaway beach at the beginning of sunset, grass and rocks in foreground with mostly empty beach in backgroundSecond, I love the beach and the sound of waves. The ocean is approximately 150 yards from the back door. When I need to look up from the computer screen, I look to the ocean and I am calmed. If I want to be energized, I go for a walk on the beach and listen to the waves. I watch the birds and take moments to notice small and large things—driftwood, shells, giant boulders off the coast, and the occasional other walker. It’s not a busy beach or a popular one by Oregon coast standards.

Third, the house comes with rules. 1) No talking unless all parties agree. This means I can go an entire day with other writers sharing the house and we never speak. That may sound strange, but it takes a lot of social pressure away. It is also a reminder why we are there…to write. 2) Everyone brings their own food, their own bedding or sleeping bag, and their own writing equipment. That means I’m not responsible for anyone but myself. That is freeing too. 3) At the end of the rental, everyone helps clean for the next people.

The house is set up with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. If you sign up to go by yourself during what is called “writer’s week” you know there will be no more than 3 other people at the house. You also have the option of renting the entire house yourself for other writers. This is what I do most of the time.

The Importance of Support With Other Writing Friends

Walking at Rockaway Beach with Jessa Slade, early spring

I have writer friends that I know and trust. People who I know will stick to the rules, but also have things to share when we do agree to talk. When I go with friends (two to three other writers) we have the same no-talking rule. However, individuals do announce when they are fixing a meal in case others want to join. We limit the conversation time (usually no more than an hour) and stick to writing-related topics. For those who want to share personal stories they do it on walks on the beach or somewhere outside the house.

Writing can be a lonely profession if you don’t find other writers who understand this and know how hard the work is. It is easy to get lost in the work, and to get lost in the business side without anyone to help brainstorm or to provide feedback to you about norms and outliers. I certainly feel blessed to have some writer friends who have been a part of my own journey for more than a decade.

My retreat is Sept 16-21. So, I appreciate your good thoughts for the writing and I hope for good weather at least a couple days of the week I’m there. Though I will walk on the beach in a rain drizzle, I won’t do it during a big storm or where I know I’ll come back completely soaked.

Of course, I’ll come back with pictures to share. I always do. Then go back to my regular life where I write part of the day and do everything else the rest of the day. And I count the days until my next retreat.

What do you do to change your surroundings and get creative things done? Do you have a support network to keep you going?


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