Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How to Plan a Personal Writing Retreat

Guest post by Tina Ann Forkner

I have been asked a few times about my writing process. The answer, if I really went into it, would have been very long, but honestly when I start a new novel, I have to bury myself in it. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s easier to get started if I can really be alone.

This is what I did for two days during what amounted to a mini writing retreat for myself while my husband worked during the day in St. Louis. I got away for dinner and time with my husband and other humans in the evening (So grateful for great company!), but during the day I buried myself in my own work. It paid off, at least in terms of creativity and word count. I’m so glad I just went for it and focused on writing.

How did I do it? If you want to do a personal writing retreat of your own, it’s easy. Here’s how:

  1. Try to get away if possible. Go stay with your sister, borrow someone’s loft, or reserve a hotel room. If you can’t, then find a space in your home, library, or other place where you can spend several hours alone.
  2. Make yourself unavailable. Let people close to you know you won’t be emailing or answering the phone. Decide whom you will communicate with during the hours you have set aside, if anyone. For me it was my daughter and my husband, and then only for short texts or calls.
  3. If you write on a laptop, disconnect it from the Internet. You don’t want to get distracted by checking Facebook!
  4. Preparation is important, so take along some journals, pens, a laptop or notebooks for actual writing, a book on the writing craft, a novel, and a devotional.
  5. It is important to prepare your mind. That’s what the novel and devotional are for. Start the day out by reading a little bit. Scribble thoughts in a journal if you like. Clear your mind of daily clutter. Be quiet.
  6. It’s important to consider the advice of others, hence the craft book. Read a chapter or section here and there whenever you need a break throughout the day. Underline your favorite quotes and/or write them down. (Breaks are important.)
  7. Nourishment is important. Start and end your day with a good meal, and drink more water than your morning coffee or wine at dinner. You want to feel treated and refreshed, but not sluggish for that long writing stint.
  8. Exercise and stretch. It’s a good idea to make a trip to the gym or take a walk outside during a break or after your writing day. Turning into a pretzel won’t help.
  9. Observe your Writing Rituals. It’s okay to go through all of your weird, oddball routines that help you write. I am not going to share all of mine, but every writer has them, or you will. They can involve coffee, prayer, chocolate, meditation, music, affirmations, and probably things you may not even notice. My kids say I talk to myself when I’m in my writing zone. I doubt it, but it’s what they say!
  10. Write. That’s right. Pretty straight forward. Write without stopping, without correcting, without censoring, without thinking. Don’t think about how and when this will be published or who will be reading it. Just write. Write, write, and write until you are empty. Then take a deep breath and be proud of yourself. Edit it all later. For today, close up shop and pat yourself on the back.

So that’s it! Easy, right? I would love to hear about any personal writing retreats you put together. What advice do you have for others?


Tina Ann Forkner writes women’s fiction and is the author of five novels including the award-winning Waking Up Joy, as well as Ruby Among Us. She is a mom/stepmom to three almost-grown children who all attend the University of Wyoming. When Tina isn’t writing or traveling with her husband, she is a substitute teacher in Cheyenne where she has lived for almost twenty years.

Find her online at www.tinaannforkner.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tinaannforknerauthor. Her Twitter handle is @tinaannforkner.