How to Get A Single Bit of Work Done in My Noisy House (otherwise known as 'How to Plan a Creative Retreat')
Ok! Here's a little riddle for you...how do you get work done when you're with your children 24 hours a day and you have to have at least one freaking minute of silence to concentrate? Do you...
Did you guess the last one? It was TOTALLY the last one! Give yourself a big round of applause if you didn't opt to lock the kids out of the house!
You guys...I just got back from an AMAZING weekend!!!! Before you think it was the 'fun' type of amazing, well, think again. There was no wine. No girls weekend. No massage or pampering weekend. It was a barely a shower weekend.
Instead, it was a totally nerdy type of amazing weekend. I. GOT. SO. MUCH. DONE.
Head cleared. Work organized. Plans put into place. Holy moly, it was so great that I wish I could do it every few months. I may even MAKE myself do it every few months, though I doubt I'll get as lucky as I did this time. Because this time, one of my loveliest, dearest friends treated me to a stay at a hotel. WHAT?! I've been counting my lucky stars all week and still can't get over it!
Even if you don't have a fairy-godmother type friend gifting you a room, I highly recommend a writing retreat (or art retreat, or creativity retreat, or whatever kind of work you're wanting to do retreat) to anyone who's feeling the overwhelm at home and needs a simple change of space to recharge and recommit to the project at hand. Just go somewhere—and before my friend donated this room, I was fully planning to park my camper down the street and just go there, so really, I mean anywhere—and work.
With that said, here are my tips on how to make the most of your very own retreat...
1. It doesn't hurt to have a view.
I got some great information about planning a retreat from Sarah Von Bargen and Hannah Braime, but somewhere along the way I also heard to go someplace great, but not too great. If the idea is to stay by yourself in a hotel room—and work on the weekend—then it's best not to get too distracted by all the fun you could be having.
I thought I might be challenged in this regard. My hotel was literally on the beach in Ocean City, NJ, and it is usually quite tempting to go out and just take in the boardwalk. The BONUS for my particular stay was the kind of crappy weather! Not many people were braving the wind and rain, and so the hotel wasn't just my secluded writing space, but also, a cozy little corner in the middle of a storm. Win/win.
2. A plan is crucial.
I had a general plan in mind before I set out, but once I got to the hotel on Friday night, I took some time to write out a list (cause there's nothing like checking things off!). This helped keep me grounded when I was overworked and bleary eyed, or after a break!
*What could have gone better: Ideally, I would have had the plan in place before getting to the hotel, thus maximizing my time. But in this case, it did help me make the transition from home to work.
3. Snacks are just as crucial.
I LOVE food. So much so that I actually researched 'good foods to bring on a writing retreat' like a dope, hoping that some other food-loving writer had made a whole Pinterest page dedicated to perfect retreat snackst! (no such luck!) It may sound crazy, but the fact is that I was planning to lock myself up for two days and didn't want to have to go out to eat every time I got into a groove. So it was snacks galore! The above is just a photo of the 'dried' goods but I also had avocados, apples, oranges, prosciutto, carrots, hummus and TONS of coffee. My room had a refrigerator and a Keurig, so I was able to store everything without any problems. Other than Saturday night, when I got my dinner at one of my favorite places on the boardwalk, The Hula Grill, I ate in the room.
4: Bring something that isn't work.
I don't know about you guys, but my attention span isn't quite what it used to be. I knew that as much as I wanted to just pound away at work, in reality, I would burn out if I didn't take mini breaks. And while admittedly, most of my breaks revolved around food, I did bring some options...stamps, gel pens, mini canvases, journals, colored pencils, coloring books, sneakers and even a yoga mat, which I did, to my complete surprise, actually use for about 15 minutes.
5. Inspiration is always handy.
I'm a little sappy, but I'm mostly inspired by my family, so I packed pictures like I was moving away forever. So dorky, I know. I actually contemplated taping them all up on a mirror like Rocky did when he went to Russia to fight Ivan Draco in Rocky IV, but I figured that was a lot of tape for a weekend, so everything just kind of lay scattered on the dresser. Either way, it did the trick!
So what would I do differently?
Overall, I'm pretty happy about the way things went. It was a great opportunity and I'm so grateful, not just to my friend who got me the room but also to my husband and kids, who were willing to go wife/mom free for the weekend! The very few things I would do differently are:
But that's really it! It was a great weekend and with so much productivity (not to mention a totally refreshed mood when I returned on Sunday), I'm sure my family won't mind sending me off again in a few more months. Right?!? Right!
Danielle Davies (@daniellendavies) is the creator of the internet sensation, My Life with Bradley Cooper, as well as a writer and artist living in New Jersey. Read more...
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