The Enlightenment of Escape – Part 2

(c) 2014, Antionette Assaf

(c) 2014, Antoinette Assaf

It’s back to reality for me as I had spent the previous 5 days at the When Words Count retreat for writers in Rochester, Vermont.  If you remember back in April 2014 I wrote a post about my first stay.  This most recent trip, though shorter, was some of the most prolific days of my life.  In three days, I managed to write almost 40,000 words of a rough draft for my first novel.  There is magic in those mountains.  Productivity just breathes life in you the moment your foot touches the land

To prepare for my very first retreat experience, I researched several different writing retreats across the world.  I wanted a place that was built for writers and revolved around the craft.  The reason I selected When Words Count in Vermont is because you get 3 full meals each day and there is a hash session every night with writing coaches.  I hate cooking and love talking about writing, so this place is perfect for me.  I don’t want to segregate against other retreats out there since I haven’t yet had a personal experience at other locations.   However, the reviews of most retreats pretty much say the same thing:   Creative juices flow within the walls.

So seriously, why are you still sitting there reading this?  Go find yourself a retreat!

But before you go, here are some things to consider:

1.  Pick a place that will suit your needs.  There are a variety of writing retreats out there. Some are communal and others you are completely on your own.  Do your research before you book a stay.  If you are wanting 100% alone time, make sure the retreat offers that exclusivity.  If you want your alone time, but would like interaction with others during meals, find a retreat that is more communal.  Don’t be afraid to contact the retreat host to ask if their location suits your needs.  Retreat hosts want you to be productive.  If they know that their retreat will not meet your productivity needs, they should let you know.

2.  Know that there is a huge difference between Writing Workshops and Writing Retreats.  Writing Workshops are 100% communal and will require part (or most) of your day to be spent in some kind of class or presentation.  Little time is usually left to focus on your writing.  Writing Retreats offer 100% focus on your writing, despite if the retreat is communal or solitary.   If you want to be completely dedicated to your work, then go to a writing retreat.  If you are looking to take a class and have time to do a little writing, then a writing workshop is for you.

3.  If you go communal, mingle!  You are at a writers retreat – meet other writers.  Connect with those that adore the same craft as you.  On this past retreat, I connected with an amazing woman who has such a beautiful soul.  She brought a lot of inspiration to the series I am working on.  My plan for the series feels a little more grounded with her suggestions and thoughts.  Allow yourself to connect to others.  Many of you reading this are introverted (as am I), but if we stay in our shells we miss out on so much.  We cannot do this craft alone.  Make writer friends!!

4. Make time.  Even if it is just for a day or two – escape!  I have read several articles say, for some writers, just changing their environment makes them more productive.  So a new room, new desk, new house could really get that word pot bubbling… but go on a retreat, it is much cheaper than buying a new house.

5. Take breaks, seriously – it is ok.  Your cranium needs to refuel.  While on the retreat, you are banging away at the keys and your grey matter is getting sleepy.  Stop, walk away from the keyboard, and don’t feel guilty about it.  Allow yourself to recharge.   Take a walk, take a nap, take a swim, just take a break from writing, but make sure you get back to your writing when you are done.

6. Try to go at least once or twice a year.  You need to be good to yourself and your writing.  Do your best to get away to a writing retreat at least once or twice a year.

7. Take a friend.  If you want to have a familiar face with you, bring along another writer.  Just set a criteria like, “there is no talking until 8 pm at night.”

Keep in mind, that when looking for a retreat, it does not have to be an established location that is a “writing retreat”.  You can select places off of AirBnB or any other short term leased housing.  You can chose a place where you dreamed of escaping to, finding a little apartment or cabin for a temporary respite from the anti-writing time suck of life.  Just remember… you are there to write, not sightsee (well, maybe a little sightseeing – you need inspiration after all).

Write in front of a picturesque view of the Vermont country side. (c) 2014, Antoinette Assaf

Write in front of a picturesque scape of the Vermont country side. (c) 2014, Antoinette Assaf


Have you ever been to a writers retreat?  If so, where did you go and how was your experience?

The Enlightenment of Escape

Full post published at Amanda Headlee: It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn

(c) 2014, Amanda Headlee

(c) 2014, Amanda Headlee

Last week, I had the pleasure of escaping reality and hiding away at the When Words Count Retreat in Rochester, Vermont.  For an entire week I stopped answering emails, texts, and phone calls. I minimized my social media interactions and focused wholly on my novel.  You know, the one that I have been struggling to kick off for about a year now.

What I love about When Words Count was that from the moment I stepped inside the door, the spirit of famous authors surrounded me.  Various pictures of authors and book covers decorate the retreat’s walls and enhance the old farmhouse charm.  It is a bibliophile’s (and writer’s) heaven.  Each room within the retreat is themed after an American author.  I had the pleasure of staying in the Flannery O’Connor room, where each night I fell asleep under a gorgeous portrait of one of the most prolific short story author that has ever existed.  Before the sweet embrace of REM overtook my slumber, I said a short sweet prayer to Ms. O’Connor to influence my dreams and guide my writing hand.

Read the rest of this story here.

The Drudgery of Outlining

Full post published at Amanda Headlee: It is Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Outlining.  It was the one thing that always annoyed me about writing.  I absolutely hated it.  I remember the long ago days when I was studying to be a Marine Biologist, each every research paper that I wrote had to have scientific outline.  Each outline followed the same mundane rules of proper format, proper heading, and et cetera.  In the classes where the professor never checked the outline before the paper was handed in, the outline would be written after my research paper was complete so as to use the final paper as the defining guide.  For the classes where the outline was mandatory to hand before the paper was due, I would find myself in a place of pure and utter hell where I would languish long nights away with my head in my hands sobbing about how to structure some asinine outline.

Outlines annoyed me.  I found them tedious and mundane.  As a professional in Quality Assurance and Regulatory Control, you would think I would revel in the worlds of organized outlines… but you are dead wrong.

I found them completely pointless and detractors from the completion of the finished product.  I never saw the benefit of them.  So when I turned to creative writing, I nixed them.  Outlining was one and only “brainstorming” tool that I never utilized with short story writing.  I brainstormed by drawing diagrams, write down a couple notes, and then start banging at the keys, allowing the story just to flow on the paper.

The days of outlining were dead, and since graduating college I never wrote another one…  until last night.

Read the rest of this story here