Last week we looked at the benefits of taking yourself away to somewhere far-flung and isolated where you have nothing to do but write. But some of these places can be expensive and often you can’t just pick up and leave home for a week! So what do you do? My answer is simple – create your own retreat at home.
The first thing to do is decide when you are going to have your retreat. This bit is very important because it must be a week when you have no dentist appointments, parents’ evenings or spouses/partners away on business. This period of time – however long it may be – is for writing and writing only. Get the dates in your diary and the diaries of all your family and friends. Make sure they know when you will be off-limits and be strict about it.
It also gives you time for the other key part of retreating (if that’s the word) – planning ahead. There are four factors that I believe will allow you to make the most out of your time:
1. Space – I believe having a dedicated space to work in, with a good desk/table, a comfortable chair and possibly access to tea and coffee-making facilities are vital to helping you focus. It doesn’t have to be a specific room, but it needs to be a quiet corner (wherever that may be – living room, kitchen, spare bedroom) where you can be alone and not be disturbed. Your friends and family must understand that while you are in this space you are ‘on retreat’ and cannot be interrupted. So send the kids to their grandparents, or set up a few play dates and see what you can achieve.
2. Time – at Retreats for You (see last week’s post), Deborah does everything for you, and I mean everything including tidying your room while you eat breakfast. But what do you do if you don’t have a partner or housemate to take over your duties while you’re ‘away’? Preparation is the key here. Spend a few days before your retreat getting the house shipshape so nothing can distract you, whether it’s cleaning the bathroom, hovering or tackling that giant pile of ironing. Also, make sure you have plenty of food in the house so you don’t need to make an energy- and time-sapping trip to the supermarket midweek.
3. Food – this is also very important because without the right fuel you won’t be able to write well. Keep the food simple at lunchtime, a sandwich or some soup will do and save the complicated recipes – and a glass of wine, naturally – for post-6pm when you’re relaxing and celebrating your day’s word count. Make the food healthy and nourishing and it will fuel your writing all day.
4. Treats – writing for prolonged periods is hard work and you deserve a treat for getting your bum on the seat and tackling your daily targets. Keep a supply of baked goods – homemade if you can manage it – within easy reach so you can reward yourself when you have a tea break. But don’t go overboard – you want to increase your word count, not your waistline!
The important thing about retreating is not to be too regimented. Make sure you decide what writing you’re going to focus on before you start but remember, this week is for you to use however you like. It is meant to be fun so make time for reading and relaxing and make sure you get some gentle exercise – whatever keeps you from feeling like you’ve been imprisoned for a week.
Before you start, make sure you have enough paper and pens or a fully charged laptop to see you through the week. But keep the Internet turned off during working hours because you don’t want to waste all your time checking social networking – it’ll still be there when you come back.
Is there anything else you’d want in your home retreat? Have you tried something like this before? How did it turn out? Do my top tips help you?