Becoming an author requires you to give up little things like privacy, security, and spare time. Deadlines tick by without mercy. Emails multiply like rabbits. You sacrifice a little more. Eventually, the idea of having any spare time seems foreign to you. If this sounds familiar, a break from routine is probably the last thing you want. But no one can run full throttle for days, weeks, months and even years on end without the insane pace taking a toll.
If you’ve ever struggled with a problem late into the night, only to discover a simple solution first thing the next morning, you already know that letting go is exactly what you need. You can’t give of yourself endlessly, and then wonder why your well of creativity runs dry.
If you’re beyond burn-out as a writer, something has to change.
In your manuscripts you concern yourself with pacing, rolling out the action in chunks that won’t overwhelm the reader. Applying the same principle to your writing career isn’t easy but can be done. If your peace of mind has vanished beneath an inbox loaded with stress, if you needed a vacation a year ago, if real life is always getting in the way of your art, here’s my suggestion:
Go on a writing retreat. You'll rediscover creativity, rejoice in being alive, and find your soul.A writing retreat can take the edge off a deadline, ease the stress of edits, provide perspective on a busy schedule or any hurts you’ve suffered. It can help you define goals, inspire you to think larger, and reconnect you with the joy of writing. With hours of uninterrupted time, you might be able to exceed your word count goals. One member of my writing retreat group wrote 24,000 words of her work-in-progress during one of our retreats. I once completed a round of edits for my one of my novels in a supportive environment. That’s priceless. A writing retreat in a location you intend to write about can also provide an invaluable boost to your research.
There are many retreat options to consider. You can apply for a residency or just rent a space somewhere. You can go alone, take a friend along, or organize a group of fellow writers to share costs.
Residency programs usually require an application and approval process and may or may not offer stipends or discounts. One of the best sites for researching residencies is Res Artis. Or you can do a simple Internet search for residencies at the location you plan to visit.
Retreating with a writing friend can be a great way to deepen a friendship while you both make progress on your writing at an affordable cost.
It’s not that difficult to find other writers willing to chip in for a retreat. Provided you find others who are compatible, retreating as part of a group alleviates potential loneliness but can also allow for privacy if you each have a separate work space. Benefits include the opportunity to “talk shop” and consult with other writers when you get stuck. If you plan a writing retreat with a group, you’ll want to hand-pick those you invite. It’s important that every writer you invite is as serious about working as you.
Nowadays, being a writer is an open invitation to stress. One of the greatest investments you can make in your writing career is to plan a writing retreat to provide yourself the chance for renewal. Even in the midst of a busy schedule, taking time to breathe isn’t optional.