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Invest in Yourself: Writing Retreats

A lot of writing retreats sponsored by nonprofits, well-known authors, and other organizations can be very competitive with a college-level application process with three references, two personal statements, resumes, and, of course, the application fee that could be $10 and up.

If you win a spot in a writing retreat program, then you have to cough up money for airfare, lodging, or food, or all combined, if you didn’t win the scholarship, too.

So why not create your own retreat? On your own time? And write and edit your story to later query literary agents for free.

Retreats can help you dedicate yourself entirely to your creative work with getting away from all the other distractions at home. Comment if you’re thinking about doing your own writing retreat or have already done it and your experience.

Set aside $50-$500

You don’t want to spend a lot of money because you may want to save that for an island getaway or your bills. But you can keep the trip at a low cost through vacation rental apps such as Airbnb. Staying close to home via an inexpensive, quaint rental may do the trick to spark your writing plan. A peaceful place within a short driving distance from your home will cut down on transportation costs.

Go somewhere familiar

I decided to create my own writing retreat in Twentynine Palms, California outside Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert area. I had already visited Joshua Tree National Park and the other local delights twice within the last two years, so I didn’t have a desire to explore the area because it was familiar.

So then I had more time to visit time-restrictive spots like the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum and the Oasis of Mara. Both places I spent an hour each on a Saturday and Sunday because they’re popular tourist spots that are small enough to enjoy in a short amount of time. The rest of those two days were dedicated to writing and story planning at my Airbnb.

Manage writing time

Now, you made the reservation, gassed the car or bought the train ticket. You’re on your way. Ideally, you have a weekend. Two days, maybe three. Again, writing for an entire day may be difficult, unless you’re doing different exercises to stay fresh and focused.

If your eyes begin to glaze over the laptop screen or the writing pad, then move around and brainstorm ideas aloud. Here are some ways to unblock writer’s block:

  • Write outside of your rental, which will hopefully have a spot where you can work comfortably in nature under a tree and among plants and flowers
  • Venture out in the community with buying any necessities like a forgotten tube of toothpaste from a store. Seeing how the community you’re in operates may drum up some ideas for your own settings and characters
  • Use a timer to stay on track with your writing and planning, so you can keep on target, e.g. spending two straight hours writing then maybe one hour shopping and visiting those time-restrictive spots

I wanted to do a writing retreat for a long time, but as an aspiring writer I kept receiving information to apply for this retreat or that retreat. But the costs added up unless I also received a scholarship. The application process needed recommendation letters, which was a turn-off because I had to do that for college and grad school and those were heavier endeavors. Then the days chosen for a particular retreat wouldn’t work with my day job schedule or the number of days wouldn’t fit into my vacation request. Or if I applied, I would be rejected because there was only room for a select few.

A weekend writing retreat worked for me, and maybe creating your own retreats will work on your time and dime.

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