DIY Writer’s Retreat Debriefing

Reina & Kathryn

Reina & Kathryn

“That Perfect tranquility of life,

which is nowhere to be found but in retreat,

a faithful friend and a good library.”

 ~~Aprha Behn

 

I have now been home for two weeks from my DIY Writer’s Retreat, and as this is the eve of NaNoWriMo, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what I set out to accomplish, what I actually completed, what I learned, and how I want to approach this next challenge. I set out my goals (in writing otherwise it’s just a dream) in an earlier blog post, and I am pleased that I was successful. 

  • Daily word count on weekdays will be not less than 2,500 new words. Week one I wrote 11,389 words. Week two I wrote 3,626 words. Overall I’m calling this 60% success.
  • Revise my short story and get it to my editor… Done!
  • Start outlining/brainstorming my next novel. Sean and Staci’s story, as I have been referring to it, now has a number of characters, scenes, and potential working titles. The elevator pitch is still in progress…Done!
  • Re-establish basic healthy habits. I ate healthy, exercised moderately (brushing and currying horses is a serious upper-body workout, I am happy to report!), and slept–although the sleep wasn’t necessarily consistent.  Lying awake at night listening to the lovely sounds of the wind and wildlife some nights, and silently cursing the migraines that wouldn’t let me sleep other nights, it occurred to me that I might just be asking more than I can realistically achieve in the sleep department. Due to the chronic nature of my neurological disorder, some days I sleep twelve hours, some I am lucky to sleep at all. It honestly doesn’t appear to be within my power to go to bed at 11 p.m. and get up at 7 a.m. every day. My body just doesn’t work that way. So, I have revised this goal to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and rest as my body dictates. I am pleased to report that I did lose another pound while on vacation… Done!
  • Read a book a week. I read a number of chapters of four different books, but didn’t actually complete any. I’m OK with this. Seriously, I can read at home. While on retreat I wanted to enjoy what I didn’t have at home.
  • Spend time doing things that make me happy. ACCOMPLISHED!! I had an excellent time with my friends, made new friends, watched the stars and birds, enjoyed the scenery, and spent even more time with my friend. I was very happy.

So, what did I learn during those two weeks away from my regularly scheduled life?

  • I get a lot more done when I don’t have the responsibilities of wife, mother, and household manager. Besides the gift of her time and use of her B&B, my friend gave me the luxury of not having to plan or prepare meals, jump when kids called, or schedule anyone or anything. Those are not bad parts of my life, but I don’t think I ever fully realized how time consuming and distracting those jobs are.
  • I need to spend more time doing things that make me happy. In my daily life, I only seem to take time for myself when I’m sick or when everyone else is busy. Just a half hour walk, or lying out under the stars, or playing fetch with the dog because I wanted to made a huge improvement in my attitude and stress level. There is absolutely no reason why I can’t do this daily at home.
  • I am much more visual than I realized. 
    My retreat work space...

    My retreat work space…

    I had an entire wall to create a storyboard for my novel, and it was so helpful to be able to see it all in one glance and to move things around to evaluate the possibilities. I have been outlining on a computer screen or scratch paper for over twenty-five years, and never considered this option. Upon returning home, I have already put a bulletin board up next to my desk where I can pin up my ideas and there is plenty of wall space to post notes.
  • Inspiration and the muses do show up when I start working. I knew I had a limited amount of time away from home, and I wanted to make the most of it. So I wrote whether I felt like it or not. Guess what? The more often I returned to my work, the faster the muses joined me. All these years I have been waiting for inspiration to hit before turning on my computer. No more of that nonsense!
  • A lot of people are interested and invested in my success. Yes I knew I was loved and encouraged by my family and friends, but I was surprised how many casual acquaintances and complete strangers were intrigued by my experiment and wanted to know more. The past few blog posts have received more views than any others I have previously written.
  • Writing longhand frees up my creativity and stifles my inner critic. I have been typing on computers for so many years, and my writing voice was trained to be professional and professorial–almost to a fault in the world of fiction. I was genuinely surprised at how easily the words flowed from the tip of my pen. It was nice to be able to sit on a blanket in the middle of a pasture, writing while watching the sunset, and not worrying about how much battery remained.
  • NaNoWriMo is definitely do-able. I did hit my daily writing goal a number of days, and the days I didn’t I was either too sick or had better things to do. Seriously, when the choice is between sitting inside by yourself on a lovely fall afternoon writing or riding horses with your best friend who lives 800 miles away–would you honestly choose to write?

So, knowing what I now know, what am I going to do during the month of November to meet the challenge of writing 50,000 words towards my novel?

  • Set up my “Creative Corner” where I can leave my work in progress and all my visual cues.
  • Take my Novel binder and a pen, and work outside or in other spaces if I need to escape the distractions of home.
  • Commit to sitting down to write regardless of whether or not I feel like it.
  • Plan to write a minimum of four hours each day (Except Sundays, my wedding anniversary on Nov 11, and Thanksgiving), although it can be in thirty-minute bursts if necessary.
  • Get up and out at least thirty-minutes each day to take a walk, play with the dog, and enjoy nature.
  • Post my goals for my friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers to encourage and hold me accountable. I will have a current word count ticker either to the right or the bottom, depending on how you view this blog.
  • Continue eating healthy, losing weight (I’m down almost 70 pounds since I started my weight-loss journey), and resting/sleeping as my body requires.
We're never too old to share secrets, stories, or silliness with a friend.

Remember:  We’re never too grown-up to share secrets, stories, or silliness with a friend.

 

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