Writing retreats can be a powerful tool when you’re struggling to make creative progress. What is it about going away? I’m going to put it down to creating space for deep work and recharge.
Last week I had the luxury of taking a four-day trip with my writing partner for the sole purpose of making progress on a project that has, up until now, felt frustratingly piecemeal. Both my writing partner and I were excited about this project but, it was very difficult to get more than a few hours at a time together to work on it. (It’s the kind of project that really called for hashing it out together, at least at the detailed outline stage.)
In a fit of frustration, we compared calendars and consulted our significant others to find a weekend that could work for a focused escape. At the time, it seemed very far away but soon the days passed and we found ourselves magically racing for the ferry. If I’m being honest, I was feeling a little guilty about the expense but all that was soon put to rest by the blazing pace of our progress once we settled in and got down to work.
I’m happy to report that during our self -designed retreat, we reached our target of a finished first draft! It was a huge success for us. Simplifying our “work” to one clear project with regular breaks for truly relaxing away from our regular duties proved powerful.
In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport writes, “When Carl Jung wanted to revolutionize psychiatry, he built a retreat in the woods. [It] became a place where he could maintain his ability to think deeply and then apply the skill to produce work of such stunning originality that it changed the world.” (P.18)
I highly recommend getting resourceful and creating a personal writing retreat. Most of us aren’t able to build a vacation house as Carl Jung did, but you might be able to splurge on a cabin rental or hotel room for a few days. Maybe someone you know with property in a restful setting will let you borrow their place.
Going away to write creates a sense of intention and focus. Putting money and time into your intention adds positive pressure. Having only one clear thing to make progress on keeps life simple. It’s an efficient use of energy and creativity. You can allow yourself to rest, sleep in, eat well, get some fresh air and exercise, and buckle down to work.