Freedom to write

How do you plan to spend your time on retreat? Or rather, do you plan your retreat in advance, or just go with the flow? There are two schools of thought.

One says plan how you will spend your time in advance. Take a work in progress and plot how you intend to write, develop, revise or edit it during your time away. Have a daily target in mind. Know where you would like to be with it by the end of the retreat. If you enjoy the pressure of a deadline (self imposed or otherwise), and like to have a plan, this may work well for you.

The other school of thought says enter with an open mind. See where the days take you, what inspires you and arrests your interest as you settle into your surroundings. A day spent reading, going for walks, staring out of the window at the soft rain (well, it is November…), or curled up by the fire with your notebook, is as valid as a day of focused writing. When we go on retreat, we leave one world and find another.

I think there is a middle path. I remember going on retreat myself once, armed with laptop, draft manuscript and a reading list that filled the car boot (pre-Kindle days). I know that it seemed a good idea at the time, but as soon as I arrived and unpacked, I knew I wanted to write about something else. The result was 15,000 words of…something. Several years later it still sits on my laptop, unpolished and waiting to be continued, but it lives in my head too, quietly weaving its story in the background as I work on other things.

One day I will get back to it, like buried treasure. If I had stuck to my plan I would never have discovered it.

As you prepare to go on retreat, keep your eyes and ears open to what you may find. Pack essentials but leave space for the unexpected.

Give yourself freedom to write what needs to be written.