Earlier today, I read an article from The Writer about creating DIY writing retreats, whether at a friend’s house or at a home rented in Mexico. The author has many interesting ideas and makes many good points. The two most important she discuss, in my opinion, are the need for no distractions and the need to set your own definition of “productive”. However, most of the ideas in the article involve either you going away or the other people in your house going away. What if we simply can’t do that?
I’ve discussed finding the best place to write multiple times on this blog. Somehow, I can’t ever find the right place. I can’t afford to leave and, unlike the author of the aforementioned article, no one I know plans to leave town for too long anytime soon. Even if they were, at best I’d only be down the street from the chaos. I can’t send everyone else away, either; they have their own responsibilities to take care of here and they can’t walk away for more than a day or two without a lot of advanced planning. I get some writing done in those short bursts of freedom, but lately it hasn’t been enough.
I know a lot of writers have this issue. We have family, social obligations, work (we have to pay the bills somehow), pets, chores, the list goes on. I can hear the objections to this belly-aching already: if you’re a real writer, if writing is so important to you, you’ll make some sacrifices and find a way to fit it in.
I’m sorry but I need money, so I can’t pay to leave and I can’t close down shop (figuratively) for more than a week or two. It also doesn’t help that not everyone gets the hint to shut up when I say I’m working.
Well then, what’s the plan? How can we create DIY writing retreats when we can’t go away or send others away?
Desperate times call for desperate measures; it’s time for plan “barricade myself in my room (or spare room)”. It’s a bit obvious but often the obvious answer is the right one.
Locking yourself in a room within the house with your browser closed and phone turned off allows you to exist in a sort of vacuum almost free of all distractions. Of course, if you live in an area like mine, there’s still plenty of noises that you’ll have to block out. That’s where you’ll have to get creative. Play music you can write to, invest in noise-cancelling headphones, buy a cheap pair of disposable earplugs, whatever it takes. My personal favorite is playing a string of TV shows or movies I’ve watched a thousand times before; I can block that out a lot better than crowing roosters and people talking outside my door.
The fun part comes in personalizing your DIY writing retreats. Hang up posters and artwork you find inspiring; line bookshelves with your favorite books and works by writers you admire; a whiteboard, cork board, or sticky notes to jot ideas down; if you have a mini-fridge taking up space in the garage or storage, you could really make it a retreat. A mini-fridge stocked with essentials, a makeshift mailbox constructed from a cereal box slapped on the outside of the door, and a bed, cot, or sleeping bag and you’ll only need to leave for the bathroom.
Whether it’s for a few hours after work or a couple weeks, you can make your own retreat without anyone leaving the house. You just have to get creative and assertive. Insist that no one bother you, that someone else walk the dog and do the dishes. After all, people can’t tease you for being a writer who doesn’t write if they complain about what needs to be done in order for you to write.
What are your thoughts on writing retreats? Have any ideas for DIY writing retreats you’d like to share? Drop a line the comments below and help other writers find ways to solitude.