The Benefits of Going on a Writing Retreat
Writing and marriage are comparable and share many similarities. If you are a bona fide writer, you are married to your craft. As such, you know it takes dedication, heart, and sometimes, even your soul to make it work. However, unlike marriage, one cannot easily divorce themselves from the art. “Till death do you part” carries a lot more weight with respect to writing than it seemingly does with marriage. In the past and to this day, couples who found their marriage floundering often sought counseling from various resources: a pastor or priest, family, or a therapist. Marriage retreats are still are a go-to solution and offer support for couples to help them find their way back to each other. It’s no surprise then, that writing retreats have flourished among writers who find themselves seeking to rekindle the magic with their craft, and get on track again.
Is a writing retreat right for you?
Before packing up and heading out to find your muse in a soggy bog in the forest, or find inspiration in the strains of an accordion in a Parisian cafe, here are some of the benefits and considerations for attending a writing retreat.
A Writing Retreat Can Spark Your Creativity
As the adage goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” This may hold true for a relationship-committed couple, but not for an individual trying to get away from stale surroundings and ideas.
One of the many benefits of a writing retreat is a new set of eyes, gratis of new surroundings. If you hail from the northern climates, seeing the sun shine for more than a few hours a week could be just what the doctor ordered. Feeling the warmth of the sun against your skin could be the drug that your creative juices need to start flowing again. The colors of nature, the new lay of the land, or even the melodic songs of unfamiliar birds could all play their role to help rejuvenate your relationship with your skill.
In addition, a new audience who has no emotional bonds can help you to see what you’ve been missing, or perhaps giving too much of in your work. Depending on the timing and retreat, professional and well-established writers can offer craft counseling to help you have a healthier relationship with your art.
Location, Location, Location
Finding that healthier relationship can be a close as a few hours drive, to a halfway around the world journey. Upon doing some research, I found no less than three retreats located right in my city (one on an island 10 minutes away from the downtown core).
Writing retreats run the gamut of locations, from historical city dwellings to the islands in the Aegean Sea. And where better place to be inspired and renew one’s faith and love than in the French Alps, or cruising on the Caribbean Sea? From villas in Tuscany to the wide open plains of Wyoming, writing retreats all over the world have something for everyone. One is only limited by their preferences—and wallet.
Consider the Cost
On the subject of cost: money may not be able to buy love, but it can buy some lucky writers renewal, repair, and revitalization of their passion for writing.
The cost of a writing retreat is of course dictated by distance traveled and the services provided. Some retreats have all inclusive packages which include meals, workshops with noted authors, and accommodations. Depending upon the location, such retreats can cost up into the thousands of dollars, while others are more affordable.
A word to the wise: read the fine print as there are some retreats which are quite costly, and provide no services other than just being on the premises itself. Under the Volcano in Tepoztlán, Mexico, is one such retreat in which the price tag of close to $2000.00, does not include accommodations, nor the majority of meals.
Fortunately, there are retreats out there that offer scholarships for both beginning and seasoned writers, so do your research.
So, what services can one expect and what are the benefits of these retreats?
A Fresh Point of View:
A new space, (both literally and figuratively) can make the difference between a numbing apathy and an unbridled enthusiasm. As previously mentioned, a new environment can offer a fresh perspective on things. It can open our eyes to new views, and awaken our spirits with new sensations which hopefully we can convert into words. And just like counseling, a new environment can help us to see things we might have previously been blind to.
In-House Critics and Editors:
Other writers, including some well-established ones who understand the complex relationship between a writer and their craft, can offer a new set of eyes to unabashedly critique your work. After all, that’s another reason you’re there.
In addition, some retreats offer workshops with guest lecturers/authors, critique groups, and scheduled writing periods. At these retreats, there’s plenty of time and opportunity to work on a draft or start a new project.
Some retreats have activities outside the writing realm. One retreat even offers a “running” option in their retreat to accommodate “the other passion” in many writers’ lives. Runners/writers begin every day with a two-mile run, followed by a day of writing workshops and other activities.
Other retreats invite you to be inspired by the local culture, landscapes, and activities. Consider the Wide Open Writing Retreat in Tuscany. At this retreat, participants can expect mouthfuls of both word and delicious Italian foods, gentle morning yoga sessions and hikes through the sprawling Tuscan landscape. And of course, plenty of writing.
Finally, a writing retreat can serve as a renewal of vows. Hopefully, the revitalization that a new environment can offer, and the visions your peers and accomplished writers can bring, will inspire and reaffirm your commitment to your craft.
If the writing retreat was successful, you will be equipped with suggestions to keep you motivated, and solutions to help you overcome any future bumps in the road you and your craft may encounter. Any relationship takes work, commitment, and love. Thankfully, it’s not easy to separate a writer from their craft. But if such an unfortunate event should occur, at least there’s no alimony to be paid.