Writing Wednesday: Seven Tips To Creating A DIY Writer’s Retreat

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I thought if I was going to be serious about getting some writing done, I’d take some time off work and give myself the space of a week to actually sit down and do nothing but write.

At first, I thought of booking myself into a writer’s retreat somewhere, such as at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre which is such a great resource for writers in Perth. But I realised that I could just as easily create a writer’s space for  myself at home and save the cost of the money, and I’d probably be more comfortable at home too where I’d have everything I need. The only thing I was worried about was that I’d end up getting distracted and doing other things and end up not writing anymore. So I thought I’d write down some goals I’d stick to while I kept to this at-home writer’s retreat and ended up coming up with my top seven tips to creating a DIY Writer’s Retreat.

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1) Be Disciplined.

If I was really going to take time off work and write, that’s exactly what I should be doing. Writing. It was so tempting to take a little time out doing other thing like reading, watching a movie, working on my blog, running errands, catching up with friends or even house cleaning. But I know myself and I knew if I took time out to do one of those things, the hours would just start rolling by and I’d end up hardly doing any writing. So I allowed myself only one night out (we caught up with some friends at the Garden for pizza and drinks on Monday night) and had to then say no to a Quiz Night on Tuesday.

2) But Take Breaks.

I’ve tried to work according to the Pomodoro Technique, which is a time management method where you focus on your work and nothing but your work for a certain interval of time (generally 25 minutes), then take a quick five-minute break where you can do whatever you want, then go back and work for 25 minutes followed by another five-minute break and so on. Like I said above, it takes me a little while to get into writing, then once I can get into it, I can go for quite a bit so I’m pushing to work for an hour to an hour and a half at a time, and if I’m still deeply immersed in my work, I’ll just keep going until I feel the need for a break. Then I take a break of anywhere between half an hour to an hour, depending on how long I’ve been working before where I can do something like read a book, make myself some lunch, maybe take some photos for my bog, flip through other blogs and sites on the Internet or go outside for a walk or something.

3) Have a routine.

I try not to create a strict routine that I have to stick to rigidly. But I plan my days so I’d wake up around eight in the morning, do a workout or run, have a shower, allocate myself an hour or so to my blog, then start in on writing for the rest of the day. At least, I have a clear idea of what I want to do and it helps me to get up early and make sure I get the most of my day. I’m quite a night owl though and sometimes do some of my best writing late at night so I promised myself if the muse hits, I’d let myself keep writing into the late hours and sleep in a little the next morning.

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4) Set goals.

At the moment, I’m in drafting, editing process so I’m just going through what I wrote and rewriting where it’s needed (and it’s needed a lot!). I don’t really have a set goal of how many pages I want to get through each day, just a general vague idea of ‘as much as possible.’ So at the moment I’m making it 10 pages. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but the amount shrinks and expands each day, depending on how much I have to rewrite. If I can make it much, much more than that, all the better. I’m really hoping to finish rewriting the first draft by the end of this week, but it’s not looking likely. But I do know I am getting a lot more work done than usual so I’m happy with that.

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5) Prepare.

If you plan to do a DIY writer’s retreat, plan beforehand! Ensure that you’ve cleaned the house and done all your grocery shopping so you wouldn’t have to run out to get something or other. Ensure you have everything on hand that you need – that your laptop is fully charged, that you have a neat, pretty writer’s space (I placed some flowers in mine!) and clear your schedule of all appointments. I haven’t told many people I was taking this week off and that’s because I didn’t want anyone calling in for a chat or trying to tempt me away with a coffee. I know my weaknesses!

6) Unplug.

Yes, unplug! Put your phone away and if you have to, unplug your wireless. I didn’t do that – but I made sure that the only Internet pages I have open are pages I might use like a grammar page or a Thesaurus and one or two blank pages for Googling anything I need for my writing. But other than that, I’m not allowed to go off on any tangents or check my e-mail or Facebook or read other blogs – that’s all reserved for break time! On the whole, I’ve been doing pretty well with this. But if I find myself straying, then it’s off with the wireless for the rest of the week!

7) Enjoy it.

Enjoy it. You’ve deliberately given yourself some very precious, lovely time to spend doing the thing you love most – writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a week or just a weekend, make the most of it and enjoy yourself – let your creativity run free and immerse yourself in your craft. You deserve it!

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