I’m going on a writer’s retreat this weekend. Note that “writer” is singular because I’ll be the only writer on the retreat. We have a little house in the woods up north, and I’ve never been up there alone, but this weekend I’m going for four whole days to do nothing but write (and maybe sit in the hot tub now and then. Tough life, I know.) I’m taking all prepared foods and a lot of caffeinated tea and Diet Coke. I don’t normally drink caffeine, but I want to get a lot of work done. Like ten hours a day. Because I have SO little time to write here in the Bay Area. My life has become totally consumed by kid activities. This past month alone: Hoes Down Harvest festival, three birthday parties, Goblin Jamboree, pumpkin patch trip, one trip to the San Francisco Zoo, two trips to Fairyland, two trips to the Bay Area Discovery Museum, and countless hours spent with an Exacto knife and a roll of duct tape making a Thomas the Train costume for my son. I stayed up until 2 a.m. three nights in a row to get it down for the Goblin Jamboree and then it rained so he had to wear his fireman costume instead. He loved being a fireman and I thought, “Why the hell didn’t I just let him be a fireman to begin with? I paid $7 for that costume!” I’ve obviously gotten a little caught up in mommy life and need to get away.
Speaking of writing retreats, it has been my belief these past four years that it’s much more important to schedule writing into your life every week, if not every day, rather than rely on a writing residency or retreat to get your project done. I believe that residencies and retreats put too much pressure on you to get it all done within that week or month and that they don’t encourage you to form good daily writing habits. In fact, I’ve let my writing go these past two weeks partially because I knew I was going on this retreat. So now I’m going to feel this huge pressure to GET THE BOOK DONE in just four days, which isn’t very realistic, and I’m going to be really stressed out and down on myself if that doesn’t happen.
On the flip side, I have one friend who goes away for a month each year to a cabin without Internet and she writes an entire draft of her book there every summer. So some people are really good at working like that, like they’re cramming for an exam. As an Internet addict and someone who will sorely miss my husband and kids for those four days I’m going to sequester myself in the woods, I’m not so sure I’ll be as effective. It will be an interesting experiment, though, and I’m sure I’ll get SOME writing done, which is a lot more than I’m getting done right now.
What about you? Are you a daily/weekly writer or a cram-it-all-into-one-week/month writing residency writer? Have you been to a writing retreat or residency (even self-imposed ones)? What advice do you have for a first-timer?