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How independent authors can make the most of a writing retreat

3 January 2017

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If you watched Love Actually over Christmas, you’ll have been reminded of Colin Firth’s hapless Jamie Bennett, an unlucky-in-love author who heads to a French cottage to banish thoughts of his cheating girlfriend by working on his latest novel.

Obviously, this being Hollywood, Bennett ends up falling in love with his housekeeper, despite the fact she accidentally destroys the first draft of his work by allowing it to float sickeningly into the lake that accompanies the property. That’s the beautiful lake that accompanies the drop dead gorgeous property, of course.

In real life, such picturesque retreats are reserved for only the most prolific of writers, and while we can’t guarantee you’ll find your forever partner if you choose to head off to a writing retreat of your own, we do have some tips to make the stay as productive as possible.

So, without further ado, here’s how to make the most of a writing retreat (if you’re lucky enough to have one!).

Do more than ‘just write’

Sure, you’re on a writing retreat (this ain’t a holiday!), but you’ve decided to spend a significant amount of time somewhere new and unfamiliar. Bearing in mind that unfamiliarity often breeds creativity, it pays to spend some time exploring the area and mixing pleasure with work.

Get out and take a look at your surroundings. Meet new people, eat in different restaurants and try out local attractions; it’ll help immeasurably with your writing.

Take the least amount of kit possible

You’re a writer, which means, thankfully, you don’t need to take much with you when you choose to work away from home.

To avoid drowning yourself in technology and tools, take the one thing you need to get words written. That may be a laptop, iPad or notebook and pen, but whatever it is, don’t allow it to be accompanied by anything else.

Travelling light will only heighten your ability to be inspired. Without the comforts of your home office, you’ll be forced to use every thought contained within your head and be led by the beauty (or otherwise) of your surroundings.

Roughly map out how you’ll spend your time

The worst thing you can do before a writing retreat is plan, minute-by-minute, what you’re going to do, but having a rough idea of the key things you want to achieve is valuable.

Before you head off, map out the stuff you want to do while away. A simple bullet point list is all you need, and it may look something like this:

  • Write for two hours in the early morning, a further two before lunch and two more during the afternoon
  • Take regular naps
  • Walk at least three miles every day
  • Check email once per day - no more
  • Call family and friends once every two or three days
  • Check out local attractions

Keep your list with you at all times and use it to remind yourself what you came to do if your mind begins to wander.

Final thoughts

There’s an awful lot more you can do to make your writing retreat a success, but the above tips will put you in the right mindset and help foster a productive break that should have you producing some of your best work.

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