Jun 27, 2014

The Writers' Retreat: a Valued Tool

by Marsha Ward

I am a firm proponent of getting away from home to write. It doesn't matter how that is structured. The benefit of getting away from the regular writing venue, whether that is your bed, your couch, or your own home office, is that you're mixing it up by being in a new spot, and your brain somehow responds with ideas galore.

I'll talk about non-organized retreats a bit later. But first, I want to put in a good word for ANWA's retreats.

I've attended all but three of the ANWA Writers' Retreats that have been held in the southwest since 1997. The first time, I was going on a huge road trip with my family; the second time, I had unexpected surgery and was recovering; and the third time, I was obliged to be elsewhere to participate on a panel. However, I am attending this year's ANWA Southwest Region Retreat on the day this is posted. I expect that I am having a productive day, cranking out lots of words to wrap up my novel, Gone for a Soldier.

At the last ANWA retreat I attended, in 2012, I was able to make a lot of progress on Spinster's Folly, which was published later that year.
Yes, that's me huddling in a corner, working on Spinster's Folly.
I jealously guard my writing time at retreats, because I want to crank out the most words per hour that I can. Revise? No, that's for later, in most cases. "Write" is the watch word.

At a writers' retreat, usually the planners allow you lots of time for free writing, that is, writing on your work-in-progress, crafting something brand new, or writing a poem about the setting around you. You choose how you spend that time. You may also congregate with other writers who are willing to talk. Alternately, short classes may be planned for your edification.

What if you can't afford to attend an organized writers' retreat? What if there's nothing available at the time you need to get away?

Well, nothing is written down that says the only way you can have a retreat is to attend a big event. Do your own!

A couple of years ago, several friends of mine rented a cabin and had their own two-day retreat. Another friend traveled to a small, quiet town in a rural area, rented a room in a small motel, and spent the week writing. I know of many writers who just go to a bookstore or quiet cafe, plug in their laptops, and write for several hours, with friends, or alone.

Anywhere there's a table and an electrical outlet (unless you have good battery life) can work as a retreat. You don't really need company; it may be too much of a distraction, in fact. Try to choose a venue without music (restaurants), because that can be annoying. One of my favorite write-away-from-home spots is the local library. I can hide away in a corner and write for as long as they remain open.

Wherever you choose as your writing retreat, be sure you take plenty of water; food, if you're staying longer than four or five hours; and music, if that fits your writing style.

Now, retreat and write!


  1. You have no idea how badly I wanted to be there this year! I'm looking forward to reading Gone For a Soldier. You've given me something think about though...Once school starts...and the reunions and wedding are over...I think I'll try taking a day for a personal writing retreat. Maybe that will get me back on track. hugs~

    1. Kari, I'm thinking I should do personal retreats, too. It's not like I don't have peace and quiet here, but sometimes a change in venue is good for a jump-start, if that is what is needed, or intensive work away from the telephone.

  2. I still wish you guys would plan a southeast retreat lol

    1. Terri, the ANWA Board of Directors doesn't plan the regional retreats. Get in touch with your regional director and offer to help her plan a retreat. It's her job to come up with events for your region. She could pick the brains of the other regional directors, I'm sure.


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