7 Steps to Creating Your Own Writing Retreat


While discussing my upcoming writing conferences with one of my critique groups, a friend mentioned how she would use the winnings of a recent contest she’d entered to attend a writer’s retreat. I’d love to do something like that. Imagine my surprise when I saw the latest issue of Writer’s Digest address that very topic in its “Inkwell” section. While attending a retreat is not currently in this school teacher/writer’s budget, I can use the steps listed in the WD article to create my own retreat.

1. Set Specific Goals: I would love to be able to write more than a scene in a day. I’m spent when I finally get that scene out, and I use the distractions at home as a transition to decompress. But instead of returning to the work, I get caught up with life. A retreat would allow me to set a specific goal, such as writing three scenes in a given time frame, and actually achieve it without excuses.

2. Choose the Location Carefully: I could check into a hotel ($$$) outside of the city, But then I remembered two of the best features of Gary, Indiana: the beaches of Lake Michigan and the dunes. In case you’re not familiar with the area, the city sits at the northern tip of the great lake. We have streets that dead-end into sand, then water. Since it’s too cold and too soon for the beaches to be in use (and not having to pay to get in), I could spend an entire Saturday there without every seeing a soul.

3. Sketch Out a Schedule: If I decide to retreat at the beach, I’d only be looking at a small block of time on Saturday and Sunday. A good eight hours is possible. The WD article gives a suggestion of a daily schedule. I’d start with 30 minutes of listening to music that fits my story or characters and jot down any ideas or emotions associated with the music. Then I’d spend 90 minutes writing (or trying to write if my muse cooperates). Then I’d break to read for 30 minutes. Walking the beach and among the dunes for 30 minutes should reignite the muse. Another 90 minutes of writing. Eat. Repeat the reading and walking steps, then write for the last 90 minutes.

4. Make it a Reading Retreat, Too: I loved WD’s reasoning behind adding this to a retreat schedule. Already touched on above, but I’d restrict myself to no electronic reading. Facebook posts, blogs and tweets don’t count.

5. Be Healthful: I’d only be eating once on this shortened schedule. But why not use this opportunity to load up on healthy stuff like fruits and vegetables? It’ll be more like a lunch, so this should be easier to do.

6. Leave Your Other Work at Home: This should also be easy to do. There’s no Wi-Fi at the beach (that I know of), and I wouldn’t bring a bunch of IEPs to work on either, only to see the pages take off in the wind and end up in the lake.

7. Reflect on Your Routine: Since the school year isn’t over yet, I’d only be able to try this on the weekend. After one day, I’ll know if this can turn into a monthly thing, or start saving up for one of those retreats in Mexico or the Caribbean.

See the May/June 2015 issue of Writer’s Digest for the complete article.

What suggestions might you have for a worthwhile self-retreat?


About Michelle McGill-Vargas

Michelle hails from Gary, Indiana where she enjoys writing historical fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. Her writings have appeared in "Lutheran Witness", "Splickety Magazine", "The Copperfield Review", and "Typehouse Literary Magazine." She served as vice-president of the Indiana Writers' Consortium. Until the day her historical fiction manuscripts get published, she pays the bills as a special education administrator with a background in deaf education. In October 2018, she will be a contributor to Concordia Publishing House's quarterly devotional series "Portals of Prayer." Visit her blog at www.michellemcgillvargas.wordpress.com
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6 Responses to 7 Steps to Creating Your Own Writing Retreat

  1. Rhonda Renise says:

    Thank you for this. Now I have a link to all your other works. Good job Suite!

  2. I like your ideas but worry about the beach being too cold. Is there a picnic table or whatever that would be comfortable to write on? When I need quiet time, I go to a coffee shop or bookstore (Barnes and Noble) coffee shop and try to grab one of the tables off in a corner. I buy hot tea now and then throughout the day and avoid the demons Facebook and twitter. Getting out of the house sometimes really clears the mind.

  3. Great ideas in this post, Michelle! I think I could make this work somewhere on our property, even if I don’t yet have a little writing cabin. 🙂 I really like the way you suggest scheduling the time between reading and writing.

  4. Mari says:

    I was thinking of trying to do this with 3 or 4 writers, perhaps renting a cabin at one of the state parks and doing 2 days. We’d have to be able to be on our own schedules and have separate rooms, but I think some of those cabins are pretty large.

  5. Pingback: Suicide Squirrels and the Writing Retreat | Michelle McGill-Vargas

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