Many of my private coaching clients are making plans to log in some extra writing hours before the holidays. Are you? Here are some ideas to help you discern whether a writing retreat or writing intensive is the best option for you.
Janet's Writing Retreat
Janet packs her bags for a much-awaited weekend on the Northern California coast. She's rented a condo on the ocean, and is looking forward to hearing the ocean waves, spending two days alone and savoring the opportunity to let her thoughts meander across the page like the morning fog. Janet's goal is to rest her body, nurture her creativity and invite the Muse.
During her retreat, she takes long walks, reads good literature and pampers herself guiltlessly. As she drives herself home on Sunday night, Janet feels strong and centered. She feels rested and creatively energized. Best of all, her notebook and laptop brim with free-writes, poem starts and a few new ideas for her next short story and essay.
She smiles as she turns into her driveway: Janet's writing retreat was a success!
A successful writing retreat...
Supports open-ended creative exploration.
A writing retreat is process-oriented. No schedules, no productivity expectations offer flexibility to take creative risks, follow your whims and try new literary experiments.
Prioritizes mind/body R&R.
Writing retreats help you court the Muse by helping you reconnect with your intuition, rest your body and nurture your senses and spirit.
Often supports creative inspiration with a gorgeous view, remote location or soulful landscape.
Environment matters! Writers often retreat in beautiful natural settings to encourage a cross-pollination between environment and creativity.
Is inner-directed and (often) solitary.
Even in a group retreat, you have the opportunity to spend significant time alone and let your wishes, desires, intuition and curiosities be your creative guide.
A writing retreat is perfect for you if:
- you've just wrapped up a book or other big project and you want to cleanse or rejuvenate your creative palette before you take on a new project
- you need a rich cache of new creative material to mine and transform into literature throughout the next 6-12 months
- you need a break from your "real life" and need to get away
- you want to reconnect with your inner rhythm and creative pulse and energy
Lisa's Writing Intensive
Lisa can't wait to immerse herself in the novel, and she has plans to up her word count…significantly. Lisa still plans to attend her son's ballgame on Sunday, but the family's agreed to "let mom write" for the weekend and everyone's planned accordingly.
On Saturday morning, Lisa begins to write. Because she's mapped her work sessions out ahead of time, she knows when she'll write, how long she'll write and exactly what she wants to focus on during each work session. She leaves a little room in her schedule for "moodling," but this weekend Lisa's aim isn't creative exploration--it's relaxed and focused productivity. Lisa closes the door to her study and she writes and writes and writes. Although she works hard, she takes regular breaks and she calls her accountability buddy for regular check-ins.
On Sunday night, Lisa smiles as watches her printer churn out the last of her many newly drafted pages. She calls her partner one last time, and together they celebrate: Lisa's writing intensive was a success!
A writing intensive…
Is pre-planned and structured.
A writing intensive is productivity-oriented. Time and goals are mapped out in advance, supporting you to simply show up, sit down and write.
Balances modest periods of intense focus with guilt-free periods of rest and relaxation.
A successful writing intensive incorporates principles of relaxed productivity, and doesn't require you to overly tax your mind, body or spirit.
Elbows out time and space to write within the context of ordinary, everyday life.
Writing intensives help you significantly advance your writing project without leaving your family, packing your bags or linking your writing successes to outside circumstance.
Is goal-directed and often supported by an accountability group or partner.
An intensive is structured to keep you writing "on purpose," and provides you with encouraging support or community to help you stay on track.
A writing intensive is perfect for you if:
- you're midway through a book proposal, novel or other big writing project and you just need a stretch of time to sit down, focus and write
- you've been craving periods of uninterrupted writing time but you haven't been able to create it on your own
- you want to focus on a specific career-building task like sending out queries or polishing and submitting your literary work and you haven't been able to find time to do so during the week
- you write better when you are accountable to someone other than yourself
Which Option's Best for You?
So there you have it: writing retreats vs. writing intensives. As you can see, it's not that one option is inherently better than the other. Selecting your best writing structure just depends on your creative goals right now.
Are you considering a writing retreat or intensive before the new year? Which option will you choose? Leave your comments below.