The Great Staycation Writing Retreat

by guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels

I do my best writing when I’m alone in hotels. In other words, when I am free from the needs, interests, and schedules of other creatures (husband, dog), am taken care of by room service and maid service, and can’t figure out the Wi-Fi password. When I can get into the groove and stay there, I am capable of writing insane quantities in a short period of time.

But it’s expensive, that. So when my husband went out of town on business for a week, I took the opportunity to recreate those productivity-inducing conditions at home, on the cheap. Here’s what I did:

• I lied and told everyone I was going on a writing retreat. I put an away message on my email. I canceled all my plans. I scheduled Tweets and Facebook status updates. I just neglected to mention that the retreat was taking place at home. With my schedule clear, and my time freed from the obligation of responding and connecting to other people, I had hours and hours of quality time with the muse. I knew it was a success when my mom called to ask, “Where are you?”

• I unplugged the Internet. Literally unplugged the modem, which requires moving the couch to access. So when I was stuck during the story and thought, “I should investigate the sweaters at J.Crew just in case any need to belong with me.” I was forced to ask myself, “Is this worth getting up, walking across the room, moving the couch, plugging in the modem, waiting for it to start working, connecting, etc?” All day long, the answer was no.

• I straightened up and stocked up. I could have ordered takeout for every meal, but I wanted to be healthy and frugal, so I cooked large batches of food like chili and pasta that meant minimal time cooking—just minutes spent microwaving. Likewise, I cleared my desk and any clutter around the house to lessen the temptation to “just straighten up for a minute.”

• I refused to get annoyed when it wasn’t perfect. For example, I still checked my email and even responded—but it was on my terms. There were one or two things that I wasn’t able to reschedule, which meant I still had to watch the clock some afternoons instead of becoming totally immersed in the story. My apartment wasn’t pristinely clean as though maid service had just come through. I still had to walk the dog three times a day.

All these things helped me get my butt in the chair, and more importantly, keep it there. I was more focused on my work for longer periods of time. After three and a half days, I was starting to go a bit crazy, but I had written a complete first draft of my new novella. It was totally worth it for the rare and elusive feeling of being caught up with work.

 

Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own. Her latest book is Seducing Mr. KnightlyLearn more at mayarodale.com

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6 Responses to The Great Staycation Writing Retreat

  1. Dana B November 30, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    You go, Maya. I totally need/want a day like this.

  2. nan November 30, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    When I was a creativity coach for writers, I told clients to devote just one hour a day to writing with no distractions – no phone, no email (there was no Facebook or Twitter back then), no cleaning, no errands. If writing can get your undivided attention for one hour, copious amounts can get done.

    But, like you did, I locked myself in a friend’s summer camp one weekend to get some work done. I even covered the clock so I would have no reference to the outside world. Distractions are the devil.

  3. maya rodale November 30, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Nan, I’m taking your advice and setting aside an hour with NO DISTRACTIONS. And then scheduling breaks in between. I will get these books done! :)

  4. nan November 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Maya, let me know how it goes! :)

  5. Helen Haile December 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Seems as if you should send Sir away more often:-)

  6. Amelia March 1, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    I am currently procrastinating on writing, hence this comment. But this is inspiring!

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