Imagine a weekend with just one item on your calendar. No chores. No travel. No distractions. Only writing. How much could you accomplish on your novel or short story collection?
During my DIY writer’s retreat in May 2018, I wrote 90 finalized pages of my work-in-progress. That weekend felt like I jumpstarted a tank. Once I got rolling, nothing could slow my momentum.
Some quick background about me: I am a prolific content writer and copywriter. Besides novels and short stories, I once wrote 3,861 articles in a year for clients. I’m no stranger to producing quality content quickly.
So when I blocked off an entire weekend to work on my WIP novel, I put my writing chops into overdrive. As a husband and father, my writer’s weekend could not have happened without a lot of love on the home front. With their support, I churned out page after page.
I started with a plan. I booked my tax-deductible stay at a Best Western from Thursday to Sunday. The hotel neighbored the Big River Management Area in West Greenwich, RI. That meant I could hike its beautiful forests during my breaks. The room included a microwave and mini-fridge, and the hotel offered free breakfast. Thursday I shopped for food and water, checked in at the hotel, and set myself up for Friday.
Before breakfast on Friday, I transformed the hotel room desk into my writer’s station. I plugged in my laptop, booted up my book in Word, and placed all handwritten notes within reach. I took a quick walk through the woods to oxygenate my brain before enjoying breakfast. I carried two extra cups of coffee back up to my room. And I jumped into my book’s fantasy world.
I wrote. I applied edits from an earlier draft, wrote new passages to develop my characters, and shifted and deleted entire passages to increase tension and better my book. I focused and worked through the morning with only a few quick breathers. At lunch, I left my room, went outside, and refreshed my mind with a hike. My eyes wandered among the tall trees as I kept to the footpath.
That afternoon and evening, I increased my pace. In all, I wrote for ten hours that day. After a shower, I sat down with a fiction book and drifted off to sleep.
Saturday I started my day the same. And after breakfast, I came back to my room with two cups of coffee for writing fuel. My morning writing session was furious, but my energy waned after lunch. I demanded a lot of myself. And I felt like I was falling short. I expected myself to get as much from my writing weekend as possible.
Instead of energizing me, my expectations only served to drain me. My demand for continued peak performance left me feeling like I had nothing left and was a no-good writer. I was burned out, and I knew it.
Thankfully, I gave my mind a rest from my story world. I hiked the trails of the Big River Management Area, going further than I had before. My mind wandered, jumping from thoughts about the trees and woodland sounds to my book and back again. Soon I realized I was alone in the woods in a place I had never been. But I was not wholly lost. I backtracked and found the main path to the Best Western. My diversion had given me the boost I needed to keep going.
When I got back to my writing desk, the afternoon was almost over. I had only a few more hours to work until I would call it a day. Before I went back to my marked-up manuscript, I took some deep breaths.
Sunday was checkout. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and brought my usual two cups back to the room. But this morning I would not drive myself so hard. I made a few edits and brainstormed the next chapter. Then I surveyed the work I had done. And I was stunned to see that I wrote more than 90 pages.
These days, writers are stuck on social media and email more often than they are on their manuscripts. Dedicated writing time feels rarer than diamonds. Because I carved out time for a DIY writing retreat, I made immense progress on my novel.
Three quick tips for your DIY writer’s retreat:
- Plan ahead. You don’t want to show up for your retreat without purpose. Set writing goals and get to work.
- Work in time blocks. Create mini-deadlines and schedule blocks of time to write. When you’re writing for an entire weekend, frequent breaks are your friend. Don’t get burned out like I did.
- Refresh your mind. Take breaks and get outside if you can. Give your mind time to recuperate.
Alexander Smith is the published author of fiction and poetry. He also writes the words on signs for thousands of a retail stores as well as daily content for popular websites. His creative work has been published in anthologies including “City & Sea,” “Missing Providence,” and the Creative Writing Outloud podcast. He lives with his family in Providence, RI. Enjoy what you see? Email CopywriterSmith@gmail.com to join his list and receive exclusive content.