I’ve been craving a quiet time alone to write, even though I’m home by myself most days. So, to better achieve the creative environment I crave, I have been dedicated to making my own urban writer’s retreat. It’s been way easier than I thought it would be.
For the record, I’m not great at focusing. There was probably something I should’ve been diagnosed with back in the day, but I was born in the 1980s, and as long as you were quiet and got your homework done, all the adults in your life kind of just ignored your existence.
So, here I am, pushing 40 and trying to figure out how to get work done without hating myself and leaning into the panic energy that procrastination can provide.
Plus, at the end of the day, I’m not always great at focusing when I go on a writing retreat. Sure, I love getting away, and I love going to quiet places where I can go on nature walks or just be by myself. But it definitely takes me a good day and a half to decompress before a writing retreat becomes productive for me.
So, without that kind of time and wiggle room in the schedule, or that cash in the budget, it was time for me to create my own urban writer’s retreat. But I also knew I needed to define what a writing retreat was to me.
The Writer’s Retreat
So, to me, an online writing retreat isn’t a retreat. It’s a punishment. I don’t do well with external accountability and I absolutely hate having to check in with other people. I hate feeling glued to my computer, and even though I generally write with a laptop, there’s something about the online writing retreat schedule that makes me very angry that I own a laptop in the first place.
Call me crazy, but I just want to write. And in a retreat setting, I want to get away from Zoom or social media. So the online writing retreat is a no go for me.
I think free writing retreats are generally the way to go. Sure, I’d love to do one of Alexandra Franzen’s Hawaiian writing retreats one day, but that’s super expensive, and I know that it wouldn’t be as productive for me as just staying at home. If you’re similarly into no-cost options, you can check out this post on how to create a free writing retreat.
I guess it would be great to win a writing retreat, and have all the expenses and planning taken care of. But also, that’s probably never going to happen.
And while I still love the afternoon writing retreat idea, sometimes you need more than just an afternoon.
For me, the best scenario is using the time I have during the day to write. It’s not glorious. I don’t get away. But also, I don’t have to pay for a room somewhere, nor do I have to figure out food for the duration of the retreat. And I get to sleep in my own bed, which is always the best.
I took that information, and have slowly created my own little urban writer’s retreat.
Okay. Maybe it’s not super urban. I live in the suburbs near a lake and some walking trails and like 4,789 elementary schools.
But you get the idea.
Create Your Own Urban Writer’s Retreat
Creating your own urban writer’s retreat is easier than you think. Here are the non-negotiable items on my writing retreat creation to do list.
001: Clear your head.
The great thing about writing retreats is you get away. Your mind is clear. You don’t have that pile of mail sitting on the table. There aren’t dishes in the sink begging to be done. And you don’t have anyone else to talk with.
So, if you can’t get away, you have to make these conditions for yourself.
I start my day with a walk and a weight lifting workout. Yes, I do these under normal circumstances. But they also serve to clear my mind before I sit down at my desk. And when I’m done with those things, I take a shower, grab some coffee, and sit down to work.
Sometimes, I may add some time to relax before work if my schedule allows it. I may read a book or journal for a while, or even just lay down and chill.
Whatever works for you to clear your head is fair game.
002: Disconnect as much as you can.
I like being out in the woods with no cell service. It’s the closest I’ll get to the freedom of not having a cell phone.
My days can get full of social media and text messages if I’m not careful. So I have to actively make sure I’m not spending my writing time checking those things, or letting those things take away the head clearing I worked hard to achieve.
As an iPhone user, I’ve been using the various focus settings on my phone to better disconnect. I put my phone on work mode, and no one can reach me. I have no notifications that pop up. It’s great.
And, when I really need it, I use the SelfControl App. It blocks whatever websites you tell it to block, and you can set it to run as long as you’d like.
It’s perfect for me when I want to get work done.
003: Set up your workspace for it.
On startup, my computer opens SelfControl and Microsoft Word. That gets me ready for the day of work ahead.
And I like to take some time to clear my space the day before. I take all the dirty tea and coffee mugs to the kitchen and gather up all the paper scraps that have accumulated. I get my headphones ready to go for the following day.
Then, if I need it, I’ll also set out any of the notes and outline documents I need to hit the ground running.
004: Keep the elements of the retreat you like.
For me, the good part of the retreat is the break from the normal schedule. It shakes up the day and makes it easier for me to focus on something that I don’t normally get to spend a ton of time on.
I also like the clearheadedness I feel and I love to disconnect as much as possible.
But you know what I don’t like? Any of those retreats that are for groups. I also don’t like online retreats, as I’ve mentioned before. So I keep those elements out of my retreats as much as possible.
And while my retreat tends to be limited to the amount of time I have for it, I can still get a lot done if I lean into the things I like.
005: Make space for relaxation.
One of my favorite things about going on a writing retreat is sleeping in and napping when I feel like it.
I know that’s not technically writing related, but it feels really good to do it. And, since the retreat is all about writing, there’s more space in the day for a nap as a break.
Depending on where I’m taking a retreat, I may also take some time to go on a walk. And, weather permitting, I make space for that too in my urban writer’s retreat.
How Do You Create Your Own Writer’s Retreat?
Have you ever created your own writer’s retreat? What’s your favorite kind of retreat? Do you also nap in the middle of your retreat work days?