A Writer’s Retreat

books-shelves-architecture-wood-442420.jpegSomewhere in this world is a perfect study. Rich mahogany bookshelves stretch from wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, replete with a little rolling ladder to reach tomes on the uppermost shelves. An enormous window looks out onto a slightly overcast and rainy day, which we all know fosters the feeling of needing to read and write. An oversized chair upholstered in a chocolate-y brown velvet invites a reader to curl up in it, to enjoy the massive fireplace that’s roaring, taking the chill out of the rainy day. The piece-de-resistance of this study is the massive desk that is in the center of the room, its surface large enough to stretch out and take a nap on. The surface is devoid of anything, save maybe a cup of InkJoy and Frixion pens in every possible color. If you’re envisioning a combination of the mansion in Clue and the Gryffindor common room in Harry Potter, you’re in my head. Let’s face it, this is exactly where I picture JK Rowling sitting down to write another world in which she can send me.

I don’t have that study. Send me pictures if you do.

I must admit that there is part of me that thinks if only I had that kind of environment in which to write, surely the words would flow like honey. However, for most of us, our reality of where we write may be nothing more than where we get an opportunity to write.

I typically write at home, but I long to have a local writers’ group. Alas, country life has its cons, and this is one of them. I long to go to workshops and retreats, which are inevitably in “the” city of some sort (for me that would be Chicago–2-3 hours away, depending upon where you’re heading). I, like Chaucer’s tale-tellers, long to go on a pilgrimage, except my pilgrimage would be to the Story Studio in Chicago for write-ins, where the entire vibe is centered around writing and writers and stories and absolutely nothing else.

So, on those days when I start feeling like I haven’t had a good, solid chunk of writing time and I just need one, I plan my own writing retreat. Yes, I’m flying solo, but providing myself dedicated time and space to do nothing but writing has a way of reviving my spirit and my zest for the current WIP. The characters come back to life as I reconnect to the story–a win-win for everyone (except whoever may be the next fictional murder victim).

How do you plan a writing retreat for one? There are a few options, but first, determine your circumstance:

  1. ALL OTHER COHABITANTS HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING–also known as “what every parent dreams of.” In this option, your partner/spouse and all children have vacated the premises and left you alone. Be it for two hours or two days, allow that laundry to sit there, let those dishes stay in the sink. Give yourself that time–and permission–for just you and your creative side.  Set up a writing station–the couch, the dining table, the bed.  Be sure you have drinks and snacks of your choice on hand.

Recently, I felt a hankering to go to Panera, but it was C-O-L-D. My husband was gone all day working, so I had the house to myself. I may not have a big slab of mahogany, but I do have a farm table in my dining room with a beautiful view of the countryside. I lit a few candles, sliced myself a piece of banana nut bread, made some Earl Grey (I had to at least simulate Panera), and settled in to write. It was the most productive I’d been in days, and I’d like to think that the change of scenery of a different room did that for me.

2. YOU CAN LEAVE THE BUILDING.  Escape! It’s underrated, really.  Panera and our local library are two of my favorite places to write because I can avoid seeing what needs to be done at home. Explore your town or city. Is there a nice quiet nook in the public library?  Are you a Starbucks fiend? Bonus in some places: free wi-fi.

3. YOU CAN LEAVE THE BUILDING FOR A GLORIOUS WEEKEND.  Ah, this is my dream. Financially, it’s not always feasible, but thanks to Groupon and a great downtown-hotel deal, I’m planning a Chicago-escape weekend for myself. A change of pace, a new vista–both of these can help shake up the writer inside of you. Bonus: Take a train if you can. Great for people-watching, a train provides not only character-fodder and often free wi-fi, but also uninterrupted writing time.

Need some more inspiration for where to write? Check out Kristin Pope’s 22 Places to Write blog post on The Write Life for plenty more.

Writers, what are some of your favorite places to write? Share with us–we are all looking for ideas!

Readers, I’ve rambled on about the best places to write, but writers and readers are often one in the same. What are your favorite places to read?

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