Five Ways to Make Your Writing Retreat Successful

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By Kass Fogle

Many of us have at least one conference budgeted per year and though we may have attended some virtually, many of us missed the opportunity to get away and stretch our creative muscles. Even without the confines of quarantine, I enjoy at least one solo retreat and share five ways I prepare for success:

Pack Your Office

I gather all my pencil pouches and trapper keepers and binders and put them all in a suitcase dedicated just to them. All the highlighters, lowlighters, paperclips, scissors, pens, extra pens, and extra, extra pens just in case, along with page tabs and post it notes of every size and color, including and especially the poster-sized post-its, come along with me.

Don’t forget to grab your online documents too. I can’t stress enough, that to save precious retreat time, put all links, reference materials, blogs, podcast episodes, articles, email newsletters and other anecdotes that will propel your writing in one document. I like to use a Trello list for this (See tools & resources)

Get Your Favorite Tools & Resources Together

Before I leave for the retreat, I make sure I have a fresh Trello Board ready to take all my information. If you aren’t using an online project management tool, now is the time to start. (To read more about Trello features, see my last ACFW blog on my favorite tools)

Of course, as an author and business owner, I have mission, vision, and values statements, so I’m always putting them front of mind. I review what my strategic objectives are and how I’m growing as an author and business owner. I’m capturing metrics and review KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) of that growth so I can make decisions on adjustments and improvements. (I can help you with that!)

Do Your Exercises – Your Hand Exercises, That Is

Here are some favorites:

Thumbs Up – Place your forearm on the table, thumb pointing up, keeping pinky to table. Curl fingers in, leaving your thumb pointed up, hold for three seconds and release. Repeat ten times. This moved stuff around in my pinky wrist I didn’t know was out of place.

The Circle – Very simple – make an” O” circle with your thumb and fingers, then release and extend your fingers wide. Be thoughtful about the lengthening and coming together of your fingers – don’t carelessly open and close your hand. Pay special attention to your thumb during this exercise.

Finger Curls – extend your hand and bend your fingers one at a time.  Bend first at the middle knuckle, then bend at the larger knuckle. You’re welcome.

Rest – This is the havasana of finger exercises. Rest your forearms flat on the table in front of you and rest your palms on the table. Rest your hands there for three to five minutes.

Shoulders – Lift your shoulders to your ears and hold for a five count, then release slowly. Roll them back then forwards. Repeat three to five times.

Writing Prompts

I once remember having all the right tools, snacks, and gear I needed for the perfect writing retreat, but once I get set up in my little cabin in the woods, I sat down to type and…NOTHING. It was a struggle all weekend to come up with even the dullest prose. Like many of you, money and time are not commodities I can waste. Try these writing prompts if you ever feel stuck in your writing:

  • Lay down so you can see the underside of your kitchen table or desk. Pretend you just found a secret compartment. What is inside if your character is: 1) A child 2) someone who’s fallen and can’t get up 3) A Criminal 4) A kidnapped princess from another world who just woke up looking at the underside of the table/desk.
  • Using only the items in the broom closet or under the kitchen sink, save the world from an invasion of your choice in a thousand words or less.
  • Get your left and right brain working together. Put these words in a sequence that makes sense to you…it only has to matter to you, then write a paragraph, a page, or more, imagining the most ridiculous things that could happen within the sequence you choose.
    • Paperclips
    • Candle
    • Rake
    • Pizza Box
    • Phone Charger
    • Tennis Ball
    • Cotton Swabs
    • Car Battery
    • Wrench

To hone your skills in writing titles: rewrite these popular titles: Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Steel Magnolias, It’s a Wonderful Life, Field of Dreams, Goonies, The Sandlot or a favorite move of yours.

To hone your skills on writing Outlines, outline the above titles.

To hone your synopsis writing skills, write a synopsis on the above titles.

Consider Your Music and Background Noise

I write at the local coffee shop because the aromas and coffee are to die for. It also keeps me from distractions in my home. While scintillating, I also find it necessary to invoke the sounds of a bonfire to dull the roar of breakfast and lunchtime chatter.  Wind, a stream, Yanni, wales, bonfire, fan – whether you utilize YouTube or find a white noise app like Windy where you can adjust your sounds of nature to suit you or White Noise Lite where you can choose from over 30 noises like beach waves, city streets, hair dryer, or Tibetan Singing Bowl, you can find the back ground noise you need to help you feel not so isolated.

That’s it! I hope this triggered some good thoughts about how you can plan your next (or first) solo writing retreat!

Plan Your First Solo Writing Retreat @kassfogle #ACFWBlogs @writetips #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Kass Fogle is the CEO of Vim & Vigor Business Operations Consulting and podcast host of The One Burning Question Microcast (coming soon).  As a consultant she helps small business build strategic plans that help increase revenue and reduce stress. She also provides consultation in project management and human resources, along with keynote speaking on a variety of business and leadership topics. Kass is also an award-winning author and blogger at The Introverted Believer. Visit Kass on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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