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How I write, Part 2: Getting Away

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Everyone loves to get away, and it’s something writers dream of. But like I wrote in DIY Writing Retreat, you don’t need a bunch of money or time to get away. “Getting away” just means changing your scenery, and there are ways to do that every day, if you want to.

Here are some reasons I need to get away:

  • I have to write a brand-new pitch letter and I really don’t want to.
  • I have to revise something, and I really, really don’t want to.
  • I want to research something.
  • I want to get some new ideas—I’m feeling bored with what I’m working on, and it needs some facts/background/new ideas to make it more interesting.
  • I can’t make myself write anymore, but I want to get something
  • I haven’t left my house in a few days and I’m starting to feel like a hermit.Getting Away - Alicia de los Reyes

And here are some ways I get away:

When I don’t want to do something, I go somewhere totally new and random. My personal favorite is a library in a different town. Thanks to the Rollinsford Library, I revised my thesis. In a new town, there’s very little chance you’ll run into anyone you know, so you don’t have to explain yourself or worry about distraction. It’s fun to be in a new place, and a library doesn’t require you to interact with anyone. You can put on your headphones, open up your laptop, and be “that” guy/gal.

Going somewhere different somehow makes it clear that this task is a departure and not what I have to do every single day for the rest of my life. When I’m done, I can go home. So that means that I will, at some point, be done.

When I need to research something, I try to go to an actual physical place related to what I’m doing. Maybe that’s a library (I’m lucky to be able to go to the gorgeous downtown Seattle library, which has almost every book anyone could ever want). Maybe it’s a setting related to a story I’m writing: a dock, a baseball field. Maybe it’s a place where people who I’m writing about hang out, and I try to interview them (for me, that’s usually a church).

The Internet is vast, but people are deep. They will give you much more information than you can get from the most well-researched article; they can point you to other people, give you the real story, make you consider your story from a viewpoint you hadn’t thought of. Getting out and talking to people is scary, but people love talking about their experiences. So don’t be a hermit. Sometimes I give myself a reward for being brave and asking a stranger questions (a latte with a crazy amount of sugar in it).

When I want to get new ideas, or I’m just feeling kind of bored with whatever I’m working on, I go to a museum or a new place. I go with Andrew on a day trip to a new town and we explore all the local stuff there is to see there: cafes, shops, local history museums. Travel, even to someplace an hour away, wakes up my brain and makes me feel like the world is a big, interesting place. Because it is.

When I can’t make myself write anymore but I really want to feel like I finished something, I go to a coffee shop, even just for 45 minutes, and bang out a draft of something. I either set myself a bite-size task (“just write one blog post”) or I free write for a while. Sometimes I get ideas, sometimes not, but it’s all practice. Not every day is going to be a stellar writing experience.


I have the luxury of having mornings and early afternoons to myself, the trade-off of working in the evenings. If you work a regular job, you might try going somewhere new after work: a new bar or coffee shop where you can sit and write for a bit before you go home, or the library in a different town. If you have kids or home duties, try thinking of it as taking a class or joining a book group, and trade your buddy for another free night. If that’s not possible, you might try joining a writing group; then, at least occasionally, you can host it at your house. It’s not a new setting, per se, but it will shake up how you think of your house (I certainly like my living room a lot more when it’s clean and filled with snacks and friends).

If you tend to be a homebody, I can’t recommend a writing group enough. Even if everyone else in the group is a terrible writer who gives awful feedback, you will have talked to other people about being a writer. You will have said “I usually write X.” A writing group affirms that you’re a writer, which is always a good feeling. I’ve rarely left a writing group feeling anything but inspired and happy about writing. Contrast that with how I feel after trying to make myself revise something alone in my house…

Getting away can be tricky, but it’s worth it.

If you’d like some more motivation and ways to get away for a retreat, check out DIY Writing Retreat. It includes a schedule for what to do every hour of a day- or weekend-long getaway, and even includes a shopping list and recipes, so you can focus on just writing. I’m also creating an e-course based on this retreat that includes worksheets and email-lessons tohelp you actually take a retreat. If you’re interested in test-driving it, you can sign up here.



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