Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Writing Retreats: The Benefits, and How You Can Plan One Without Going Broke


Friends, today we have an awesome guest post by a super nice dude, Dean K. Miller. He's here to chat about writing retreats. But first, there are a couple of things I wanted to mention:

  1. Big congratulations to all of you brave folks who conquered the A-Z Challenge. *applauds loudly*
  2. In case you missed it, be sure to check out my guest post over at Janice Hardy's blog, Fiction University. I tackled the subject Are print books necessary in the digital age?

Now, Dean Miller shares with us why writing retreats are priceless, and how we too can plan one without draining the bank. Take it away, Dean!

Writers on Retreat
No, we aren’t circling the wagons or high-tailing it back to the fort for safety. With the world of publishing opening up like the Red Sea, writers are coming out in droves. And a vast majority is producing some high quality work.
But where do we find the time to hammer out novel after novel? I mean, really, with a day job, family, fly fishing, kids in school . . . the list and its demand on our time is nearly endless. 
One way to squirrel away precious writing time is to take a writing retreat. Yes, we all dream of countless hours of uninterrupted writing, prepared meals, and nature’s harmonious sounds in the background while we tap away on our keyboards, producing chapter after chapter of splendorous verbiage.
I already hear you lamenting (in your loudest, four-year-old, whiny voice.) “But that costs a lot of money.”
Yes, it certainly can. But it can be worth it. For my first retreat I paid $345.00, which included a single room, two four-hour days of fly fishing and nearly three days of uninterrupted writing (except to eat and refill my wine glass.) I skipped the movie night and at the end of the weekend I had added over 15,000 words to my novel.
However, my first writing sabbatical took place on a trip to Houston, TX with my daughter for a swim meet. We had budgeted for this and I took along my laptop. In between swim sessions I wrote for several hours. To learn more about this journey, visit Leanne Dyck’s great blog on August 15th.
But there are other options, many less expensive and even a few for free. Here are a few creative ways to find yourself with hours of quality writing time.
  • Amtrak’s Train Writing Residencies: Amtrak is offering 24 writing residencies free of charge. They are accepting submissions and are awarding free travel on one of their 15 long distance trains. Each recipient will receive roundtrip travel in a sleeper car, complete with desk, bed, electric plug ins and a window for inspiration. (I’ve already applied!)  Learn more here.
  • PLAYA: Located in the Lake County, this southern Oregon Outback nonprofit organization supports innovative thinking through work in the arts, literature, natural sciences and other fields of creative inquiry. Organized in 2009, they began their Free Residency program in May 2011. (Info via Playa Website)
  • Another great resource is author C. Hope Clark’s newsletter, Funds for WritersThere is a free edition (limited listings) or the full newsletter for $15.00 annually. It lists job markets, agents, writing competitions, and fellowships/retreats/grants and residencies, many of which are free of charge. Some offer stipends as well and several are open to emerging writers. You don’t have to be a published all-star to apply or get selected.
Okay, so you can’t leave town for an extended period of time. Do you have any friends, or friend of friends who own a cabin or condo nearby? Would they let you stay overnight for little or no cost? Or you can grab your best writing buddy, travel to a nearby locale and split the cost of a motel room. Scout out great locations, do some writing and add some critique time as well.
How about that nice two-person tent in the basement that’s never been out of the box? Find a park or campground, pitch that baby up for a night and find inspiration in the stars at night.

And if you can’t even get away for one night, find a few hours in a park, along a river, near a lake or in the middle of a farmer's field. Be creative, be bold and honor your inner writer. With a little research and some innovative planning, who knows where you’ll find your next best piece of writing.
Dean, thanks so much for this great information! I've never taken an official writing retreat, but I live in the boonies and create my own writing oasis from time to time.
Friends, have you gone on a writing retreat? Was it helpful? Does the cost of writing retreats keep you from taking the plunge? If so, what's your opinion of Dean's low cost solutions? Please share!
Dean is giving away one signed copy of his book, And Then I Smiled: Reflections on a Life Not Yet Complete. No hoops to jump through! All commenters will be added to the drawing, which ends May 5th.
Dean is a freelance writer and member of Northern Colorado Writers. His work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenthood, TROUT magazine, Torrid Literature Journal and other literary magazines. His essays won three separate contests at www.midlifecollage.com.
For 26 years, Miller has kept the skies safe as an air traffic controller for the FAA and received the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) Northwest Mountain Region 2010 Archie League Safety Award. In his spare time, he enjoys fly fishing and he is an avid supporter and volunteer for the veteran’s support group Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. He lives in Colorado with his wife, Laura, and their two dogs, Bear and Snickers.

35 comments:

  1. I really like the amtrack idea. I'm going to apply for it though I doubt I'll be able to use it even if I get accepted. 1) day job 2) child care. But I'm going to try anyhow.

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    1. Beth: Give it a shot! One never knows how the sequence of life turns out. If I don't win, I'll set up an electric train in the living room and pretend! Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I've never gotten to go on a writing retreat(tho I did go to a writing conference earlier this month and slipped in some writing there). I like the idea of splitting a hotel w/a writing friend, that'd be low cost and you could have time writing battles. Maybe while eating lots of chocolate..? ;)

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    1. Leandra: Awesome you got to a writing conference. I went to my second one in March and even was on a panel discussion! Shared writing energy (even in pairs) is always a great motivator, especially if the winner gets first pick of the chocolate!

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  4. Dean, thanks so much for the great post! You've offered some great ideas.

    Beth, I know what you mean about those pesky details. Some friends of mine are meeting in June but I'm not sure if I can join them. Kids need their mom around, ya know?

    Leandra, writing conferences--even quickie day conferences--are a great way to pump up writers with inspiration. Glad you got to go to one!

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    1. Don't forget the Stay-at-Home Retreat. Send the family packing and write in solitude … with all the comforts of, ahem, home.

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    2. Torchy: most definitely a possiblity...as long as those comforts don't get in the way!

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    3. Torchy, YES! When my boys are on a Boy Scout trip, or my hubby is at work, I get lots of work done. Great point.

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  5. I think the stay-at-home retreat is the only kind I can do for a while, but I really look forward to the day!

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    1. Elizabeth: That can be a great option, if you can remove enough distractions and make the time "writing time." That's the hardest part, but it can be done!

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    2. I'm with you on stay-at-home retreats. I actually think I get more done that way!

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  6. I know Dean!
    A free writing retreat on a train? That would be fun. I'd do that.

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    1. Alex: I would, too. The clickety-clack of the wheels and rails would set a great rhythm to write with.

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    2. Alex, I have such a short attention span! I think I'd stare out the window at the passing landscape the entire time without getting one word on the page. But that would be amazing inspiration.

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  7. These sound great but not sure I could get away being a single mom, but I do occasionally go to a relative's house for holidays and while everyone's asleep, get up and go out on the porch in the country, way back from the road. I find a lot of inspiration there. Unfortunately, that house burnt down and their new one is way too small for visitors so I'm going to have to come up with a new plan.

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    1. Greetings Traci. Sometimes we have to get creative and for single parents, that can be even more difficult. Keep your eyes open for an hour or two and don't forget to treat yourself once in a while, if you can! Good luck.

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    2. Oh, geez, I'm sorry their house burnt down. That's terrible...for them and you :(

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  8. Thank you for this helpful article, Dean. And thank you for the shout out.

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    1. Hi Leanne. Thanks for stopping by! Can't wait to show up on your blog this summer!

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    2. Leanne! Thanks so much for stopping by. I stopped by your blog the other day but didn't leave a comment. Bad me!

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  9. Thank you! I am kind of dying here right now, as there is a three day writers' retreat in the town next door to me in June...at a whopping cost of 2K. It breaks my heart to be so close but so very far from the opportunity. Now I know there are many other options to explore.

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    1. Liza: Heck for 2K they ought to write the book for you! Ouch. It can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. Fingers crossed you find one that fits your style and budget.

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    2. Holy heck, 2k? Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that 2k is worth it. You could always devote more writing time on your own during that retreat, and be proud that it didn't cost you anything!

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  11. I find retreats wonderful refueling opportunities. I've used my timeshare for a writing retreat. You can cook your own meals and sneak out for a dip in the pool.

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  12. Leslie: A wise choice and something I've thought of doing myself. We seem to have an extra few days floating around on our timeshare calendar. A local writer here in Northern CO has a cabin up in the foothills with lakes. I know a few people have used that, too.

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  13. Miss being able to attend retreats, spiritual, creative or otherwise. And for me, good news, the number of eBooks being purchased is dropping.

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    1. Carole: I think the "retreats" can find you, if you let them. We don't always have to "go somewhere."

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  14. I definitely need some me time, hope I can find a retreat somewhere near me!

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    1. Honor your writing and yourself and be open. The time will be there for you!

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  15. I have no problem "retreating"
    ... it's finding my way back that is the issue! ;)

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    1. Where you go, there you are! Why come back?

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  16. I used to plan my own retreats and occasionally splurge for an organized one, but I haven't in a few years... think I need to try it again! This made me hunger for a retreat again.

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    1. Margo: Good for you! Plan and go for it!

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