For anyone who has ever wanted to write a book, I think the number one excuse typically boils down to ‘I don’t have time to write’.
To be fair, this is not really an excuse because life is already jam-packed with so many things to do. So it can feel like you just don’t have the time to write.
But if you continue to think ‘I don’t have the time to write, then you will never have the time to write.
The ancestor of every action is a thought.
Therefore, you need to change your thoughts around the mindset of ‘ I don’t have the time to write’ to ‘I do have the time to write’. When you change your mindset, your actions will also change.
Thinking I didn’t have the time to write was the biggest hurdle I faced when wanting to write my book. I thought the only way I could finally write a book is if I took a year off from work so that I could sit in a little cottage, un-disturbed and write for hours on end.
But it doesn’t always work like this.
We have lots of commitments and typically need to fit in our writing around life, other people and events.
But what you can do is carve out specific time just for your writing.
This is what happens on a writing retreat. You essentially escape from your normal life for a few hours or days and focus on the writing. No chores, no kids, nor commitments. Just you and the words.
In order to change your life, you need to change the thoughts you have about your life. This is not wishful thinking, but having thoughts that are action focused.
There are many writing retreats available that you can go on and I had thought about going to one of them. But the ones I was looking at where far to travel to and expensive. So I thought, why not I create a writing retreat of my own at home?
You can apply this to any activity you want to indulge in such as painting, drawing. Whatever your passion is, you can create a little retreat around it, whether it be 1 day or 3 days.
Why do people go on writing retreats?
It’s because they know it is space in their calendar that will be solely dedicated to the activity of writing, and this is how we make or create the time to write.
This is how I eventually understood that I didn’t need to live in a cottage by the sea for a year to write. All I needed to do was create writing retreats in my day. These consisted of setting aside 30 mins a day, every day where I sat and wrote. This was my protected time. Time away from distractions to just write.
Why writing retreats work:
- Dedicated time specially set aside to write
- No distractions available to take your attention away from writing
- Freedom from obligations and chores from work / family
- A good working environment
- An expectation that you will do nothing but write, work on your book idea, dedicate x amount of hours per day to write etc.
- Having a plan you know what you want to achieve in this retreat/ time period. This doesn’t need to be set in stone but you have a clear idea of what it is you want to do and achieve.
A retreat therefore is basically time and space you dedicate for a particular activity. A retreat, especially when you are away from your normal environment, allows you to have space to write both mentally as well as physically.
Often its easy to think you can dedicate an entire Saturday to just sit and write but its hard to do when you have family around you and errands and chores to complete.
A retreat allows you to carve out some special time away from your real life.
The word itself means to take a step back (from the chaos of the everyday).
If you want to take your writing seriously then you must carve out time and space from the everyday life.
Treat this space as sacred. Devote yourself to the writing wholeheartedly for that set period of time. Distractions can be saved for the everyday life you lead.
A retreat allows you to clear everything away for a while and allows you to write, both mentally and physically.
So if you are thinking of planning a little retreat of your own, here are some tips to get you stated:
- How do you like to work? In bed? At a desk?
- Do you need to be around other people with noise/music? Or do you prefer to work on your own in silence?
- Where do you want to work? At home? In a coffee shop? Library? A new place every time?
- How long do you want to write for? A few hours or a weekend?
- Do you want the support of other writers or prefer to be alone?
When planning out your own retreat, decide what you want your retreat to look like. Will it be spending the entire afternoon at your favourite local coffee shop, or spend a day at your friend’s house writing together in the garden? Or perhaps you may rent a hotel room for a few days by the sea?
Once you have decided your setting, you need to prepare for it as you would be you if were going to a hosted retreat:
- Clear your calendar and set the time/ date
- Make sure you have informed your family / friends to not to disturb you for that particular time period
- Prepare your food and snacks in advance, as well as pens and notebooks
- If you are working with friends, set clear rules such as quiet time when you write, and break times when you can take a stretch and have a chat
- This retreat is only for writing, so come prepared with research or just keep a note of what needs to be followed up
- Switch off wifi / internet whilst you are writing. We are trying to eliminate as many distractions as possible
- Have some writing prompts or inspiration with you in case you need it. I store all my ideas in Evernote and scroll through them if I need some inspiration
- Plan your time/ day. Will you spend 2 hours writing and 1 hour reading? List out the key goals you want to achieve and try to do just one per day. Perhaps on a 3 day retreat, you can have the below plan:
- Day 1- Outline book idea
- Day 2- Outline 3 main characters
- Day 3- Write the first chapter
- Understand the only rule of the retreat: You have only 2 choices when you enter your retreat; to write and not to write. If you choose to not write, you cannot do anything else. So you may as well just write!
- No other chores or distractions or internet are allowed once you are on the retreat.
Remember this is your mini-retreat so do what works for you. Perhaps if you are short on funds, then do a half day retreat in your local park. Grab a coffee, sit in the sun and write in your notebook
Perhaps you feel you need to go to a new place. Then go to the next town to a coffee shop you have never been to before and sit and write for a few hours.
Try out your local library or a new library you have not been to before.
The possibilities are endless. You may need to experiment to find what works for you and that is OK. Remember, the key is to create dedicated time and space for your writing.
I personally like to write at home, on my desk, alone. I write in silence, have a large bottle of water by my side and open the windows wide to let in fresh air and hear the birds. This is what works for me.
I’ve tried so hard to write in coffee shops but there is too much noise and distraction. So I read in coffee shops instead and keep the writing for when am at home.
Have you been to a writing retreat? Or do you practise your own mini-retreat? I would love to hear your stories in the comments below!