At home writing retreats: what I learned

Nicole Walsh Author
3 min readJan 1, 2023

Originally published on my website, 31 Dec 2021

Graced with a quiet house and an extraordinarily tight budget, I plan to welcome in 2022 with a five-day writing retreat — budget style!

I enjoyed a few four-day “at home” writing retreats (ie diving deep into anti-social, unwashed hermit-hood wrapped in my comfy introvert blankie) in the past year and a half, but 2022 will begin with my first five day writing retreat.

Whether you can escape your everyday world for a single day “writing retreat” or a five-day retreat, here are some tips and tricks I that work for me:

  1. Communicate with folk what you are doing, and the ground rules (whatever feels right to you). Vanishing off the face of the earth for a period of time can alarm people :-)
  2. Spend special time with special people before you lock your doors, so no-one feels overly miffed
  3. Clean the house: freshen up the space and the energy so it begins on the right note
  4. Shop in advance! If you were going away to that cabin in the woods to write, you would stock up on essentials and munchies, right? Don’t give yourself an excuse to break early because you ran out of dunny paper
  5. Plan some yummies and munchies! You want to be able to reward yourself, and to space the rewards out so they are not all inhaled day one.
  6. Start the day with exercise. This clears my head more than several cups of coffee. It also takes the edge off how inactive I will be, squinting at a screen for hours a day.
  7. Have a routine. Whatever works for you. When I worked from home in my 9 to 5 job, this included having a shower, getting dressed, putting make-up on and prepping my lunches, same as I would if I was going into the office. This eased me into the “work” headspace. What routine gets you into a productive creative headspace?
  8. Work the “day” that works best for you. You the boss, after all! Does your brain work better in the morning? The afternoon? Night? How should you structure your day to be your most productive? For me this is two four hour shifts — one early morning, the second from lunch across the afternoon. I like a big gap in the middle for a nap and some downtime. This retreat is not about chasing my muse down a rabbithole, feverishly hammering out words. I have set ambitious but not particularly fun goals. I need to bring and maintain my best.
  9. Eat — whether you are hungry or not. I bring a packed lunch to my 9 to 5 job (hungry people do not make good choices!). In the same way I have food planned and prepped for my writing days. Missing a meal de-rails me. I end up with an attack of the ‘meh’s, flopping on the couch ordering uber-eats and watching TV.
  10. Plan some downtime. This retreat is not intended as a sprint — for me it is a marathon. I plan to work an 8–9 hour day for 5 days straight, with breaks in between to rest my mind. I brought a magazine I enjoy and will space the articles out. I also have some interesting (but not super immersive) shows prepped to watch.
  11. Mix it up — I exercise, garden and play with my pond between writing shifts. Staring at a screen or books for five days won’t bring out the best in me. I plan to squint at the sky and poke a leaf or two.
  12. Learn to say no… My life is filled with beautiful people, but I can go five days without seeing them. If I went to that cabin in the woods I wouldn’t be available for a coffee or a shopping mission. I plan to remain on social media and my phone because I know I can limit this (I do for my 9 to 5, after all).
  13. Set goals — know what you plan to achieve. I set a very ambitious list of goals. Some are easy. Some are ponderous. Some are light and fun, some will be a hard, determined slog. I mixed these up so they flow well, sit at the right times of day, shake up the ebb and flow of my energy and have a realistic amount of time set aside to complete them.

Has anyone else tried a creative retreat?

Has anyone ever gone away to a cabin in the woods, or a house on a beach?

Do solo retreats work best for you, or does a group one amp up your productivity?

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Nicole Walsh Author
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Nicole writes short and novel length speculative fiction. She writes a weekly blog at: https://nicolewalshauthor.com/ or www.facebook.com/nicolewalshauthor