Summer 2022

The perks of writing retreats for big writing projects

20 June 2022

A few months ago I was contacted and invited to write an “Element,” something longer than a typical article but not quite book-length, something around 20-30,000 words. I said “yes sure” and invited my husband to join me in writing something about our ASL curriculum, ASL at Home. So, we worked everything out with the editors and set the due-date for this as September 1st. But it would be impossible to start working on this during the academic semester, so we planned to wait until summer to begin. This made me anxious about the due-date. I wondered how we’d finish in time.

Thinking back, I haven’t had a writing project of this magnitude since my dissertation. So, thinking back on my dissertation days, I recalled that what really allowed me to finish was taking writing retreats. We typically didn’t leave town. We’d go to the writing center on campus and get together in groups of dissertating graduate students. Sometimes we’d discuss our work, kind of workshop portions of our dissertations, maybe brainstorm a bit, but most of the time, this was an accountability thing. We went and we wrote. Maybe all morning, maybe all day.

Thinking about that, I wondered if my husband and I should do the same. Could we go to a hotel somewhere and just focus on our writing and get a good jump-start on this project?

We worked it all out; we sent the pups to their favorite trainer and we left the kitties with mounds of food and plenty of fresh water and escaped to a nearby town. The hotel room was a nice suite with a separate bedroom and living room. It was nice to keep those spaces separate. The living room was spacious with a nice desk, and we brought another desk with sit or stand options. It was very conducive to writing! My husband printed various inspirational quotes which we pinned up in the living room to help maintain our motivation.

At the start of our retreat, we had an outline – what we’d sent to the editors and publisher to propose this project – of roughly 450 words. By the end of the retreat, we had over 10,000 words, which is halfway to our goal!

My point in this blog is not that you have to get a hotel room to work on big writing projects, but do take advantage of the writing retreat spirit. It could mean meeting a friend at a coffee shop, mostly to write, but if you get stuck, potentially to talk things out and get back to it. The point is to dedicate time and create accountability to finish your project. I hope this helps you as much as it helped me!