How to Make the Most of a Writing Retreat (DIY or online)

Whether you’re heading out to a retreat or staying at home, writing alone or with others, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up to make the most of it. I thought I’d offer a simple list of things to consider that came from conversations with other writers and my own experiences. Brainstorming together. Playing with ideas. Hopefully there’s something here that helps.

  • Set your space to inspire you. Think about what sparks creativity for you? Music. Ambient noise. Lighting. Views. Snacks! Art supplies. Photos. Alone or with others.
  • Know your own writing routines that work. Are you most playful and free in the mornings? Better at editing and revising later in the day? Short spurts or slow and steady long distance writing?
  • Play with different types of creativity if you get stuck somehow. Switch it up for a bit. Change the music. Dance. Sketch. Paint. Take photos. Pick flowers. Or just smell them. Cook.
  • Digital detox. Set automatic responses for your emails and phone. Turn off notifications. Put your phone on airplane mode.
  • Set boundaries with friends and family. Clearly state times when you’re focused on the writing and when you’re open to chatting or eating together.
  • Have a specific project in mind when you start the retreat. Rather than flounder around and so beating yourself up, come in with an idea, an outline of how you want to spend your time. Be flexible but a beginning point tends to help.
  • FOOD! Prepare by either having food you can eat and write, those snacks you love, or fill the fridge with foods you like to cook, or have a list of places to call for take out. Nurture your belly.
  • DRINK! Yes, same thing. Prepare and stock up. Tea, coffee, seltzers, etc on hand.
  • Physical movement. Make time to stretch and walk and move away from the computer or notebooks. Turn up the music and dance like no one’s watching you on Zoom.
  • When away from the desk. take your project with you in your head, keep the characters alive as you give your eyes a break. Take a notebook with you, jot down ideas.
  • Set (flexible) goals, for the day or the week. And celebrate reaching them.


Most importantly, remember this is for you. It’s your time to be creative. Enjoy yourself.

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