Saturday, June 19, 2010

Writing Re-TREAT

Note: Click here to see this week's guest blogger, which was posted on Wednesday - An Interview with JULIE GARWOOD!

It is that time of year again when the Saskatchewan Romance Writers get together for their annual writing retreat (no, not at the location shown in the photo--wouldn't that be nice!). As a new member of SRW this is my first opportunity to attend. I have to tell you that I am both excited (Yay, uninterrupted writing time!) and nervous (What do you mean no interruptions—what will I use as an excuse!?!).

I am not sure what to expect; I've never attended anything like this before. It wasn’t until a week or two ago that I realized none of the discussions we had or information emails I received mentioned the cost of internet access. When I asked about it I found out that most rooms at the abbey don’t actually have internet.

NO INTERNET!! But…how will I research? And it has been so long since I looked a word up in an actual dictionary (vs. the online variety) I don’t have a clue what unpacked box to start looking in. I’m not sure I’ve ever owned a Thesaurus, but thinking about writing without one has set me in a panic. And how will I check my email? Monitor my blog posting? Message my friends? Skype my sister? Update my Facebook status? Surf YouTube?

Ok, so clearly I have some issues with concentration and I lack the ability to stay on track when I’m writing. Maybe I like to procrastinate (just a bit)—it is, after all, so much easier than writing. I’ll admit that I have used at least one of the above excuses to avoid my plotting problem instead of working through it. I’m guilty of reading someone else’s story because mine isn’t progressing the way I would like. A time or two (or is that all the time…) I’ve spent the afternoon searching for a job that will allow me more time to write since I never seem to get anywhere in the time I have (you can see the pattern here I’m sure).

I guess I should work on my discipline. I’ll have to research tips on that later…

Back to my original worry—how will I research my story if there is no internet at the abbey? Well, that’s the thing. It isn’t a research retreat, it’s a WRITING retreat. The whole point of being there is to be free of ALL distractions and to spend the time putting actual words down on paper (or on the screen). The research I need to do for the plot of the story has been completed. There are always other things to research, but at this point in my story I don’t have to worry about them. I just have to get the story out. Then I can polish it with those little details that make a story better. Right now is the time for writing and I’m so glad I’m going to the retreat to do it.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to go away, but it isn’t something everyone can do. You can still 'treat' yourself to some uninterupted writing time, whether it is a weekend, a day, or just a few hours on a Saturaday afternoon. Here are a few ideas to help you stick to the task at hand.

1. Pick a date ahead of time – if you don’t pick a date for your retreat, it likely isn’t going to happen.
2. Plan to be away - do everything you would do as if you were actually leaving town so you don’t have to struggle with the guilt of not completing regular chores like grocery shopping
3. Tell your family and friends – share your plans with them so they can stay out of the way or maybe even help keep you on track (if you are lucky, they might even cook for you!)
4. Disconnect from technology – unplug your DSL or shut off your wireless, don’t answer the phone, turn off the television
5. Set a writing goal – don’t forget to keep your goal SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound) so you can measure your success when the weekend is over
6. Celebrate your success – take time to pat yourself on the back for everything you’ve accomplished during your retreat

Good luck writing everyone!


Liz Flaherty said...

This is just an excellent idea, especially if you can manage to get the house to yourself for a weekend!

Good luck at your retreat, anyway. I'll bet it will be great.

Helena said...

Hi Anne!
(from your neighbour downstairs at the re-treat)

Love your post. I hope you come away feeling refreshed and pleased with what you have accomplished, in spite of the breaks for face-to-face chats, which incidentally are among the bonuses on a retreat of this nature. So nice to have other writers to talk with in a non-electronic setting.

Hope you agree this particular setting is very conducive to getting those words out of the head and onto the page or screen.

I also hope that writers who cannot get away for this type of retreat will take your suggestions to 'treat themselves to their own version.

Anne Germaine said...

Hi Liz! Hi Helena! Thanks for checking in on this beautiful Saturday.

I have to say I'm glad there is (limited) access to the internet. I guess I worried for nothing.

While I'm not making any progress on my novel, I am making good use of my time. Not only haven't I had time to write, I also haven't had time to be creative. No wonder the words are so hard to come up with.

Talking with my fellow writers yesterday made me realize this. It also made me realize that setting aside my novel goals to rejuvenate my creativity is a perfectly suitable goal for a writing retreat.

Good luck with your own retreat Liz.

Helena, I hope things are progressing down in your part of the building!

Janet said...

Still pouting about not being at the retreat this year. Hope you all are having a grand time - I know retreat was a yearly highlight of the SRW.

Thought I might get a retreat-at-home done this weekend (to be there in spirit if not in body), but it didn't work out. But self-imposed writing retreats can and do work. It's a matter of making time and committing to it :)

Great post, Anne :)

prashant said...

I know retreat was a yearly highlight of the SRW.
Banner Advertising Network India