I started my journey as a writer while I was still in college, and since then it has always, in one form or another, been a part of my identity – and my income. So after settling down on the Oregon Coast and starting a family, I was not prepared for writing to suddenly be replaced with toddler shenanigans, household chores, and a part-time marketing job.
But since my family’s income still relies on freelancing, I decided to get in the regular habit of taking myself on a mini writer’s retreat. In just a day or two I can complete several months’ worth of work.
So if you write for a living or just for fun, follow these steps for a successful writers’ retreat of your own.
First, put your penny pincher self behind you and remember that the amount of writing you will complete is well worth the cost of a hotel room. If you’re like me, just getting away where there aren’t any dishes to wash or laundry to fold is enough to help you focus. Even when I can’t fit in a full-day retreat I still try and spend half a day in a nearby coffee shop to write. It might seem frivolous to pay for a babysitter just to sit and sip a latte, but because I know I can get several weeks of work done in those few hours it pans out financially.
The key here is to keep it simple. Hotels and lodges these days come fully-loaded with WiFi, Cable and HBO, swimming pools and a variety of other luxuries that, when you’re trying to write, are just distractions. When I’m retreating, I like to keep it simple and keep the distractions to a minimum. However, I also want a space that is clean, cozy and a little funky. A few of my favorite retreat spots are Netarts Surfs Inn, Sheltered Nook in Bay City, and Sunset Surf in Manzanita. (Sunset Surf is a great option if you want to partake in a Manzanita Writers Series event; they’re a local group that hosts well-known author readings and writer workshops.) So whether it’s a gorgeous coastal sunset over the ocean, the novelty of a tiny cabin, or just hip, modern décor inside a beach cottage, these are all great choices that offer comfortable living quarters at an even more comfortable price.
While summers on the Tillamook Coast are ravishing, there is a lot to be said for a writer’s retreat in the off-season. For one, hotels are cheaper and easier to come by. And while you might be giving up sunshine and tank tops, there is a lot of inspiration to be found in other seasons. Fall sunsets over the ocean happen to be my favorite, and coastal storms where the wind and rain beat at your window always make me want to curl up in a cozy sweater with a cup of tea and read – or write – a book. In the end, the lack of sunny weather might be just what you need to buckle down and write.
Are you going to write an entire novel in 48 hours? Probably not. Are you going to bust out two months of blog posts and create an editorial calendar for the rest of the year? Yeah, maybe you will. If you set goals for what you want to accomplish, you can check them off as you go. I prefer to actually handwrite a “to-do” list because I find great enjoyment in crossing things off. If I need to write six weeks of Facebook posts or five pages of content for a new website, then I know what to work towards.
Goals are also a great way to set your breaks. When you accomplish one thing, take a walk. When you accomplish five things, have a glass of wine. If I can bust out three amazing blog posts then I will go buy a Chai tea and not think about writing for at least 45 minutes. I will remember to enjoy every sip and pat myself on the back for how amazing I am.
If you’re a mom then you know how amazing a night – by yourself – in a hotel sounds. Just the thought of sleeping in with no one trying to steal my pillow or pulling on my hair first thing in the morning has me all giddy inside. But I have to remind myself this isn’t a vacation. This retreat means I get to enjoy more time at home with my family and be present for all of life’s little moments instead of dwelling on the amount of writing I have to do.
So, set your alarm and wake up early – maybe earlier than normal (I know, that sounds crazy if you have young kids, but imagine being up before the sun and getting to drink your morning coffee while it’s still hot for a change.) I also recommend exercising first thing in the morning. Getting your heart rate up and your blood flowing has been proven to help creativity flow.
It’s important that you not spend the entire time writing. I plan for breaks the same way I set goals, but I always make sure my breaks are intentional. Whether its dinner by myself at the Schooner Restaurant in Netarts, or a leisurely walk at Kilchis Point Reserve, I never leave without my notebook to write down anything that inspires me. At first I used to think that writing down every phrase, blog title, potential interview or descriptive sentence that floated my way was a waste of time. But when I am back home and trying to write in the chaos that is my life, my observation journal is the thing that saves me. A simple key word or memory can be all the inspiration I need to get the ball rolling when the retreat is long over.
Sayde Moser-Walker is a (mostly) stay-at-home mom with a freelance writing business that she operates from her house during naptimes and late at night when everyone else is asleep. She has lived on the Tillamook Coast for the last four years with her husband, toddler, and dog, Bruno.