Friday, June 07, 2013

Create Your Own Stay-at-Home Writing Retreat

If you’ve ever been away from home at a writing retreat, you know how rich and valuable those special days can be in helping push your work forward in a vibrant way. At writing retreats such as the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, I was able to write in one day as much as I would in seven if at home under my usual schedule of a day job, commuting, evening family duties and just living my life. Writing retreats, as well, are enriching experiences by just being in another location, surrounded by different cultural and natural resources for you to experience when you aren’t writing.

Staycation vacations are becoming more popular today as gas prices rise, time away from work harder to pin down and the cost of one-the-road food and lodging pricier. Why not instead create a stay-at-home writing retreat in a similar fashion to a staycation. Writer Beth Barany, author of The Writer’s Adventure Guide: 12 Stages to Writing Your Book, brought up these stay-at-home writing retreats in a recent article.

Stay-at-home writing retreats don’t have to be the week-long to month-long endeavors of away-retreats. Each can be comprised of just a couple of vacation days, a long weekend or even one day a week if that’s feasible with your schedule. If you have children, make it a day when they’ll be at school, in daycare or with grandma. Barany makes progress on whatever novel she’s currently writing by going on such localized writing retreats every Friday and Saturday. She works in three, one-hour writing stints over the course of each day. And instead of doing all her writing at home, she often café hops through her neighborhood, writing for an hour, then changing locations. She may go to another café, or perhaps the local library or diner.

Barany’s readers offered some great ideas of their own on other neighborhood locales conducive to writing, such as a patio with a bubbling fountain, a bookstore or an art gallery where you can sit down, even parking your car where you can get an ocean or lakeview, or at least within earshot of surf tickling shore. One reader said she was just getting ready to take a six-hour train ride (her half-day home?) – which she said “sounds like a retreat of sorts to me!” Another suggested preparing a special home-cooked meal at the end of a retreat day, complete with a celebratory glass of wine.

As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy taking hiking, walking or yoga breaks in between writing stints when I’m away on retreats. These same jaunts or stretch times can take place right out your own front door, as well. I also like taking breathers from my writing sessions with mandala breaks. Anyone can create a mandala. You don’t have to be an artist. Find a nearby table where you can spread out your materials. Draw a circle on a piece of paper using a compass, grab a small set of colored pencils, mark the center of the piece with a bold dot, and work up a colorful world of meditative wonder within your circular border. You can create a small, simple mandala in a half-hour – refreshing your mind by using another part of it that’s devoted to visuals and hand-and-eye connections – before you move back to your laptop or notepad for more writing.

Evenings during your stay-at-home retreats are great times to turn off the TV, close down your computer and get some enjoyable reading done – books of poems you’ve meant to read, how-to books on writing, a bestseller to get lost in. Before I hit the hay on retreat, I like to take a gander through a telescope or binoculars at the moon or planets that may be visible on a clear night, sit by a fire, or loll in a music-enhanced bathtub soak I usually don’t take time for. Retreats, whether at home or away, are times to not only nurture your writing, but also nurture yourself.


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