We can’t go to the writing retreat… so the writing retreat is coming to us.
I’ve seen people posting “Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined for the plague!”, as though we should all be able to sit down and pour out a masterpiece in the next few weeks while in Coronavirus lockdown. And, well, hopefully some people will.
But even if you don’t have kids at home or extra caring responsibilities (and if you do, I salute you), this whole situation is scary, worrying, and draining. Maybe you have more time to write and it’s bliss, but even then, you’re probably spending a lot more time and emotional energy on things like keeping up with the news and in touch with people.
And different people will respond in different ways. Some will find it hard to even think about writing, while for others it will save their sanity and give them focus. Whether you’re wondering where your mojo went or skipping round the garden because you finally have time to write, you could probably do with a little structure and mental space.
Enter online retreats stage right, dressed in writing sweats, eating a biscuit and limbering up. I’ve been running these since the start of April, and we’ve settled into a routine:
Mondays 10am – 12 noon (mini retreat)
Monday 1pm – 3 pm (mini retreat)
Saturday 2nd May 10 am – 4 pm (full day)
These are all UK times, BST, but if you’re elsewhere in the world and joining in with us won’t work, just follow the timetable in your own time.
Retreats are held in this Facebook group, and are open to anyone who wants headspace to work.
It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not, if you’re writing a novel, an academic paper, a diary entry, a blog post, a poem, or if you have no clue. Everyone is welcome.
Online retreats will be free for at least the time that we’re in lockdown, because I know that a lot of us are facing financial uncertainty, and that it’s harder than ever to put time aside and get the mental space to write.
However, a few people have asked if they can donate as they’re finding the structure and space the retreats provide so helpful. Thanks guys, you’re wonderful and it’s much appreciated! I’ve set PayPal donate and Ko-Fi buttons below for anyone who would like to support the work that goes into it:
Sorry, I know Facebook isn’t ideal for everyone, but I normally run them in a private forum and it’s going to be WAY more hassle for everyone to join that. Let’s just take the path of least resistance for now, eh?
Here’s how it works:
- Retreats are open to ANY writer (fiction/nonfiction, new/experienced). You don’t have to have attended a retreat before. Everyone and anyone who wants a little creative calm and mental space to work and/or be creative is welcome.
- Turn up here at 10am. Look for the welcome video, and there will be a goal-setting sheet and a quick goal-setting session in that video. Post your goal for the day beneath it.
- There will be further check-ins and videos throughout the day (see timetable below): post your progress on these for accountability, or just use the start and end posts. Up to you.
- On a different timezone? No worries! Just follow the suggested timetable in your own time.
- Can’t spare a whole day? Not a problem. Start with the first video, say how many sessions you’re doing, and just reply to your own goals post when you finish.
10:00 – log in. Set and post your overall and AM goals under the intro video.
10:15 – Session 1. Go go go!
11:30 – 15 minute break. Share your progress and have a cup of tea?
11:45 – Session 2. Back to work...
12:45 – 1 hour lunch break. Post your progress and afternoon goals.
1:45 – Session 3. Deep breath, and back into it.
2:45 – 15 minute break for snacks and check-in.
3:00 – Session 4. The final push!
4:00 – Wrap up and final progress reports.
Your online retreat survival guide:
- Set goals. I’ll post a worksheet in the group, and we’ll set time aside in the introduction video to fill this in.
- Get co-operation from your family and space to focus. Can they agree to leave you alone for even just an hour? Put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, lock it, put in your headphones, turn your phone off.
- Prepare any research/documents/etc you need in advance, OR just assign your first session to gathering and reading over/getting back into your work if you’ve been out of it a while. This is all still writing work, and it counts.
- Set a timer for breaks. Make sure you take them – get outside if you can.
- Can you leave your phone in a different room? It’s one less distraction.
- If you’re really struggling to focus, consider downloading an app like Freedom beforehand so you can’t get distracted by the internet.
Finally, this is a No Shame, No Guilt zone. Yes, we’re posting targets and progress, but only for accountability. We’re in difficult circumstances, so have some compassion and don’t expect yourself to carry on as normal. If you’re struggling to focus, here are some suggestions:
- Reduce your expectations. Is a whole day too much? Aim to do just one session instead.
- Start by journalling for 10 minutes, or by reading over your work to help your brain switch focus.
- Do the breathing/exercises in the intro video to help clear your mind.
- Aim for progress, not perfection. One tiny step, regularly taken, is all you need.
- Stand up and stretch.
- Ask yourself what you’d rather do instead. Are you trying to do the wrong thing for your current needs?
- Have you been outside today?
- If you’re going to want to write regularly over the coming weeks, consider supporting yourself by also taking something like yoga or meditation that will help you switch your brain off and fret less.
At the end of this weekend’s retreats I’ll ask for suggestions for times you might like other writing sessions, and as these will be the first FB retreats for tweaks to make them run more smoothly. Things will develop from there, as my fried brain starts to adapt.
See you in there!