Writing Retreats

Back in January (which, somehow, both feels like last week and about 6 months ago), the Scotsman went on a snowboarding excursion (I was originally going to go, and ended up not going, which worked out in my favor in more ways than one :), so while he was away I figured I’d be super productive AND have fun. I planned a mini-writing getaway to Cornwall.

Pendennis Point
Pendennis Point

I did a film degree at Falmouth University (when it was still University College Falmouth), and those 3+ years are legendary in my mind. Whenever I visit now, I’m infused with the same anything-can-happen mentality I had when I was at uni. Maybe because it was my third attempt at finishing a degree, maybe because it was my first year living in the UK, and most definitely because for the first time in my life, I worked my butt off and was genuinely HAPPY about it. Whatever the magical combination or alignment of planets, I feel like it still lingers when I visit. So for me, it’s the perfect writing retreat destination.

Gyllyngvase Beach
Gyllyngvase Beach

Ignoring the fact that I do NOT work in film, I don’t regret a day of that degree (okay… maybe ONE day, but that’s another story 😉 because I got to research things I love, learn about different cultures and perspectives and theories, and most importantly, surround myself in storytelling. (Not to mention the amazing people and memories).

I booked four nights in a hotel on the beach. On the 4.5-hour train ride down alone I wrote about 5k. Every sunrise I did a 4-mile run along the coast (which I do NOT do where we currently live because there’s nowhere remotely pretty nearby), and soaked in the pool and sauna in the evening, but during the day, I took my laptop on a writing tour of Penryn and Falmouth and wrote over 30k. In 4.5 days. And I didn’t go home and delete it all (MONSTER WIN!).

I realise not everyone can get away from home for 1 day, let alone 4.5 by the sea, but the change of scenery is what’s most important. I work in my home office most of the time, and somedays, even changing CHAIRS makes a noticeable difference.

It wasn’t even that I didn’t have distractions — there were loads. I still know people in Falmouth and met up with some of them. I wanted to go in all the shops and could’ve spent the day at Gylly Beach just staring at the horizon. Reflecting on why it worked, I’ve concluded that:

a) It wasn’t a place I’d never been, therefore there was no urge to go off adventuring and explore EVERYTHING. Yes, I could’ve just walked around for 5 days and been content, but if it had been somewhere new to me, I would’ve done that without hesitating.

b) …and at the same time, it holds a place in my heart, good memories, though I was mostly surrounded by strangers, so I was able to tuck into the corner of a cafe or restaurant I knew, but eavesdrop and even partake in conversation, and all the familiar sights mixed with the unfamiliar, and made it refreshing without being overwhelming.

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One afternoon, I sat in a Penryn cafe and listened to locals converse about everything under the sun and I LOVED it. They were so friendly and inquisitive and open, and while I didn’t get as much writing accomplished there when I had my headphones off, what I heard fed my head. Nothing of what they said or did ended up in my draft; it was simply being outside of my daily settings, and even outside of somewhere I can physically GET to on a daily basis.

Even if your writing retreat is just part of a day (and I realise, even one whole day, or one whole afternoon can be very pricey both time and money-wise), I highly recommend finding a way to make it work. The ideas flew out of me. It wasn’t about not being distracted; it was about having new distractions.

Over the past year, for awhile I was going to a coffee shop in a nearby town where we used to live, and writing there. It’s only a 20-minute drive yet it takes me out of my regularly scheduled program. I need to get back to that.

Have you gone on a writing retreat, big or small? What works for you? I’d love to hear about it. I need to stock up on some ideas for other ways to swing it 🙂

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19 thoughts on “Writing Retreats

  1. One day, when I can both afford it and assure my car will make it, I want to get to Maine for a long weekend and write at this beach my boyfriend and I stay at twice every summer. When we’re on vacation, I sit out on the hotel room deck (always facing the ocean!) and write for a good hour. It’s just relaxing! I’m so glad this retreat worked for you, and those are some amazing and beautiful photos! 🙂

    1. Ahh, Maine! That sounds amazing. A deck facing the ocean sounds *SUBLIME*. I aspire to trying that some day for sure!! (and it’s great that you guys manage to get there twice every summer… incredible!)

  2. I’m finally planning for my first writing retreat in about 2 years (or, it will have been 2 years by the time I actually GO on it). I go with my ‘ferret’ girls, most often, and we usually stay within a few hours of home – far enough away to be ‘gone’, but close enough where we could get back fairly quickly if needed. Last time we went, it was to Mena, Arkansas, and we forgot that since we were technically on top of a ‘mountain’ that we had to take the altitude change into consideration when cooking. That was interesting. I think it took us two days going “Why is is taking the water SO LONG to boil?” before we went “Duh!”

    This year, we’re looking at the Broken Bow, OK region. I don’t think any of us have done anything more than drive through that part of Oklahoma, so it’ll be fun! And just a tad bit closer to home than Mena.

    Sadly, the nearest coastline is about an 18 hour drive away, so I don’t think we’ll be going anytime soon.

  3. Hello, Cheyenne. I’m visiting from Janet Reid’s blog. Lovely photos. I SO want to visit Cornwall someday! I fell in love with it while watching Doc Martin.

    1. Hi Lilly! Thank you for stopping by! You’re ahead of me, I’ve been wanting to sit down and scope out fun blogs from Janet’s comments but have been traveling for Easter weekend (up in Scotland now 🙂 You’ll fall in love with Cornwall even more when you do visit…It’s an absolutely magical place that nestles inside you and doesn’t let go 🙂 I’ve sadly yet to see Doc Martin but I heard of it when I visited Port Isaac last summer! I can see why they’d choose that town for filming!

  4. Loved the pictures. I too would love to visit Cornwall one day. No writer retreats for me just yet. Visiting from JR’s blog!

    1. Thanks, Donna! Cornwall would love to have you 🙂 This is the first year I’ve had any time away specifically to write, and I’m not sure how often such a thing will occur but combining travel & writing seems pretty much like heaven to me 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

  5. Hi, Cheyenne – I’m dropping by from the QOTKU’s blog. The pics are gorgeous, and your writer’s retreat sounds like a dream. *sigh*

    1. Aw, thanks for stopping by, Celia! I definitely count my blessings living in a country with such gorgeous scenery. I have to remind myself of that when I’m moaning throughout the winter about the bleakness, the lack of Tim Horton’s and huge grocery stores, and missing the wide roads with shoulders where people drive on the *correct* side of the road 😉

  6. Hopping over from the Reef. Your retreat sounds like it was fruitful. I’d love to do a retreat. It’s true though changing from one chair to another or even sitting in a cafe is worthy.

    1. Seriously, the chair thing works. Or the view. I have an office in my house, but sometimes I curl up with the laptop or a notebook on the floor in the spare room just to get out of the space that’s supposed to be my “inspiring” space. Funny how that works! Thanks for stopping by, Angie 🙂

  7. Wow Cheyenne I have to figure out a way to do this. 30K in 4 days? That’s incredible. And it sounds like the whole thing absolutely revitalized you.

    I teach 7th graders all day and come home to my own rowdy kids at night. At this point I feel like if I don’t figure out a way to squeeze in a writing retreat into my life this year, my sequel will never get written.

    1. I think it’s because I amped myself up the week beforehand, knowing the trip was coming and I didn’t want it to just be fun and frolicking, but actually productive (as opposed to the last time I tried to do this…).

      And I also realise that if/when we have kids, this will ALL CHANGE. In ways I can’t even begin to imagine! Any chance your husband/family can spend time with the kids while you get a night away in a hotel, or even a full day away in a cafe in the next town over? I know it must be super hard 🙁 I don’t have a job out of the house, so I realise it makes it much easier for me. If there’s a will, there’s a way!

      1. Both my husband and my extended family are awesome that way Cheyenne, being willing to take the kids off my hands here and there so I can write. That’s actually how Chasing Echoes got written. Well that, and me doing mini writing binges wherever I could get privacy…the backyard, the bathroom floor, etc. =) Kids definitely add a monkey wrench to the whole writing thing, but you’re absolutely correct, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I secretly (but not so secretly) think that anyone who tries to use kids as an excuse to not write simply isn’t a writer.

        1. That’s fantastic, and yes, cramming in a mini-writing binge wherever it fits gets a surprising amount of work done when you add them up! And yes, given the amount of writers friends I have with kids who get the words down come hell or high water, it IS possible. (I’m going to have to remember that…)

          I think you’re all incredible and you’re definitely all on to something 😀

  8. Beautiful photos, Cheyenne. I don’t think I ever went to Cornwall when I was living in the UK, but my hometown of Hereford is near the Welsh border. There’s some stunningly gorgeous countryside around there one could take advantage of for a retreat.

    I don’t know how well I would do on a retreat, though. The change of scenery might be too distracting. It might be worth a try, though. You sell the idea very well. 🙂

    1. Hi Colin, thank you so much for stopping by and apologies for the late reply! Hereford, I’ve not been quite up near there, but been around Gloucester and up through the Wye Valley, which is gorgeous and so peaceful so it might be beautiful! I’ll have to come visit your blog to see where you’ve relocated to 🙂

      And yes, a writing retreat even for a day is a worthy investment in my book (haha, no cheesy pun intended, but that book DID gain 34k+ in my few days away 😉 Go for it!

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