About a year ago, I had just graduated from my MFA program at UNH and Andrew and I were getting ready to move to Seattle. We had about three weeks from when our lease was up to when we had to move, so we packed up and stayed at his mom’s Jim’s house. Jim has a big farmhouse on a big field next to some woods. It’s idyllic: cool mornings and warm days, Jim’s delicious cooking, a big comfy bed upstairs, ten minutes to the beach.
I had a few options. I could lounge on the beach all day or apply to jobs in Seattle. Either would be equally defensible. I’d just earned a freaking degree, right? I deserved a break. Or we were moving to a new city after just enjoying three years as a full-time student–what the heck was I doing not applying to jobs?
I quickly discovered job-hunting was a fruitless and demoralizing venture from across the country (though I should have given up much sooner). As for lounging on the beach–as Andrew will tell you, I am not a full-day lounger. (On our vacation, we went to a lodge for one full day on this beautiful lake, and by 1 pm I was all “Where are we going next?”) I would spend about forty-five minutes soaking up the sunshine, enjoying the cool breeze, imagining a beach bungalow where Andrew and I could sit in hammocks all day long, and then I would start getting antsy. Should I be applying to jobs now? I probably should be applying to jobs right now.
So I chose Option 3: Writing Retreat.
I made a schedule for myself and gave myself permission to write whatever the heck I wanted. I scheduled in breaks and runs through the woods. I also scheduled in beach time.
IT WAS MAGICAL! Want to know what I wrote in those three weeks? The entire text of DIY Chick Lit! All of it! And it was the most fun I had writing since I let myself write an actual chick lit novel for fun while I was on vacation two years before. I enjoyed the beach. I didn’t agonize over what my workshop-mates would say about my writing style, which was chattier than anything I’d written before. I stressed slightly less about my lack of a job.
Of course, I was incredibly lucky to have family with a beautiful farmhouse and amazing cooking abilities. I was also lucky to have a break between school and work. But there are other ways to go on writing retreat, even if you have a job, no place to stay, and very little free time.
Want to know how? Great news! I wrote a guide to doing it on your own. You don’t need a fancy fellowship to get a lot of writing done. You don’t need to even think of yourself as a writer yet. You can just be curious about writing, with a secret desire to escape to a cabin in the woods filled with notebooks.
The guide will be up for sale on Amazon and here in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s a peek at the almost-done cover.
If you’d like to get an email when it hits the stands, you can sign up here.
Stay tuned for how a writing retreat is different from “making time to write”!