Notes on the writing retreat

Sometimes you need a change of scenery to get things done. I’ve long had a bit of a fantasy of taking a writing retreat (I think I put taking one on my official List of 100 Dreams). But I also know that you don’t actually need to take two weeks in Provence to finish the draft of a novel. I write for a living and novel revisions are a part of that like anything else. If you do plumbing for a living, you don’t need two weeks in Provence to plumb properly, as it were.

And so I’ve been doing a mini-retreat — going to a local library for a few hours every morning. I’ve enjoyed the rhythm of getting in my car to go somewhere (yes, a short commute is kind of exciting). I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the library patrons who are there every day. Why do they spend their mornings in the library? Who is that guy who comes in to read the paper every day? What about the almost oddly tall dude who walks back and forth between the stacks? Some of them could be novel characters in their own right.

But I don’t spend all my time observing my fellow library goers; I’m getting some heavy revisions done, too. I have my iPhone with me, but I haven’t logged on to the library Wi-Fi, and it’s kind of amazing what you can get done when you’re not trying to multi-task. Last night I did have a moment of panic about the number of other things I was ignoring in order to consciously devote large blocks of time to a large project. But this focused, deep work, is pretty rewarding, too.

The one problem? It’s 2-hour parking in the library lot, so I have to go out and move my car occasionally. But then again, I know breaks are important for productivity.

Have you ever carved out space to work on a big project? Or taken a writing retreat?


10 thoughts on “Notes on the writing retreat

  1. As a librarian I’m pleased to hear your using your local library for a retreat. And I’ve long said a great follow up show to “the Office” would be “the Library” we have several characters here at our local library. When I need to work on a big project, I try to set aside time daily just like you’re doing, although at best I can usually only get 2 hours of time – but like you said it’s amazing how productive you can be if you single task!

    1. @Alissa- I love the idea of “The Library” — though since everyone’s supposed to be quiet, I’m not sure how the dialogue should work…

      1. completely off-topic, but you could follow their lives before/after they come to the library—who are they & what drives them to the library? And in the library, there can be glances (a romance!), close-ups of books/computer screens they are reading.

  2. My 8yo and I visit the library on a weekly basis, which is one of the best parts of our time together. But I think we need to add morning visits now that summer is upon us. I can add to my word-count, and she can do her summer bridge workbook or read. This sounds quite lovely — I’ll broach the topic with her tonight and see if she’s up to starting this program tomorrow. Thanks for the fabulous suggestion! A retreat to our library — just what we need to get out of the sun! And then we can reward our efforts with a swim in the community pool. *LOVE IT*!!! 🙂

    1. @Andi-Roo – excellent. I always liked hanging out in the library as a kid. There are just so many books! It’s like being in a store, only you can take things home for free! I’m sure she’ll have a good time wandering around and you can get a little writing done.

  3. 11 years ago, my wife took a job that required her to work Saturdays at the Court in King of Prussia. I drove her there for each of her shifts, then hauled my laptop into the Borders and worked on what turned into my first book’s manuscript.

    Without that focus, I wouldn’t have completed a project that marked a huge shift in my career. (And I still have to haul off somewhere to get pages done in the early morning, before clients come calling.)

    1. @Joe – Brilliant! Yes, just going somewhere where you’re outside your normal zone can make concentration possible. I did two shifts at the library today, and was amazed how many edits I was able to crank through.

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