How to Have the Perfect Weekend Writer's Retreat

As storytellers it is so easy to fall into a funk, even if you're making an effort to write everyday or try out new mediums. Some writing days can feel wonderful and others can feel mediocre, but either way that's part of what makes the storytelling process so great, even if it doesn't seem that way.


However, no matter what type of writing life you currently have, sometimes you need a weekend to recharge and remember your purpose as a storyteller. You could be making crazy progress with your novel or being barely making it through your play, but if how you feel about your story is hazy or you feel you've lost touch with the medium itself, it's time to devote a weekend to your writing.

Most people when they hear someone say a writer's weekend getaway, they imagine someone sitting down at their desk and not leaving until they've forced out their required word or page count. However, this version of a writer's weekend retreat will not be an intensive experience, but a relaxing cleanse to rejuvenate your storytelling abilities. Sure, you'll be doing some writing here and there, but don't plan on a 10,000 word weekend unless inspiration hits or that amount of writing is a regular practice for you.

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Prepping for the Weekend

In order to get the most out of your writer's weekend retreat, you'll need to do some planning ahead of time. That doesn't mean booking yourself a hotel or anything like that - in fact, this entire retreat can take place in your own home if you'd like, or even with a friend looking to work on their stories - but just ensuring that when the weekend comes, all you have to worry about is storytelling.

Clear Your Schedule Out

It should be obvious that the first thing required of a weekend writer's retreat is to clear out your dedicated weekend. Ask off work, ensure there are no fancy parties or other events to attend, and come up with a pre-planned excuse for saying no so you won't have to think of one come the weekend.

While this doesn't mean you cannot see friends all weekend - in fact, if you have a friend who wants to join you on your retreat, by all means do it - but more so that all your weekend should be devoted towards storytelling. So if your friends are seeing a movie or if you have a storytelling friend who wants to read at a coffee shop with you, do it - but make a point to ensure all your activity this weekend is directed to create peace and clarity within as a storyteller. This is your time to stock up on inspiration in every way possible, and while people can be inspiring, they also can distract.

Create Goals for the Retreat

During your retreat you'll want to set some writing goals, but also inspiration goals. Creating both means you'll be focused on becoming a better storyteller in two different ways - the active and the passive.

Your writing goals - the active ones - should be things you know you are able to complete, that challenge you in a new way but that don't stress you out. So if writing sixty pages of your script stresses you out, but writing five more pages than you usually do each day seems easy, take that approach instead. Make a little push to write more than you would, but not so much so that you're dreading the writing process. You should come up with about three of these goals, but keep in mind not all have to do with actual writing!  Your active goals could also involve the planning or editing phases - so don't forget those!

Your inspiration goals on the other hand should be goals that you'd usually insert into your Storytelling Syllabus. These are efforts you should be making regularly to engage and consume new stories and are ideally stories from different mediums. The best way to pick your inspiration goals is to first address the medium you're currently writing in. Find one source of inspiration from that medium and add it to your goal list. If it's a book, it can be a goal to read 100 pages or if you're writing a movie you can strive to watch two new ones that weekend. After you've addressed your main medium, pick a new medium you think will challenge your story in a positive way (check out my Storytelling System ebook for ideas) and create two smaller goals for those two. This way you'll have three strong sources of inspiration to pull from that give you much needed break from writing, but still help you learn more about stories.

Make a Flexible Retreat Schedule 

A retreat should be a relaxing experience, but it should also have some sort of order to it. For that reason, you won't want to schedule your workday by the hour, but instead organize it into segments. For instance, you may decide that the first sixth of the day will be devoted towards your first active goal or you may allot the entire afternoon to free time to engage with new stories. No matter how you choose to organize, give yourself room to breathe, room to write extra or not enough, room to get lost in a story and room to take walks and just leave your head for a moment.

Plan your retreat with my free worksheet! Just fill out the form below!

Remember that while you want to achieve your goals, they shouldn't be so tightly packed into your day that you feel stressed out. You are a spending a weekend getaway with your story and you don't want to rush through it, but take the time to get to know it better and what it needs to improve. A little organization will help you get there, but don't live by the minute.

Stock Your Fridge With Energizing Meals 

The unfortunate part about being a writer and a storyteller is the sedentary life that comes with it. As a result, it's incredibly important that as storytellers we make an extra effort to eat better to help balance out the lack of exercise. Additionally, if you are going to have a weekend writer's retreat, it is essential your fridge and pantry is stocked up with healthy options to keep you going, not foods that will slow you down.

Omit any junk food and stock your kitchen up with fruits and vegetables, nuts and other healthy snacks that will leave you feeling good. If you're up for the task, you can even try and eat seasonally! Just do whatever it takes so you don't end up binging on cookies Saturday night after a long writing session.

Also if you love coffee, try to stick to one cup in the morning and replace future cups with Dandy Blend, a beverage that tastes a lot like coffee and is equally as energizing, but is healthier and free of caffeine. Otherwise, matcha or other teas are a great option for keeping yourself motivated without getting over-caffeinated.

Finally, feel free to buy yourself a nice treat to reward yourself, but otherwise stick to energizing meals and drinks to keep you working on storytelling!

During the Retreat

Now that you've finished all the prep for your retreat and the weekend is here, all you need to do is focus on storytelling. During this weekend retreat you'll follow a loose schedule of storytelling. Maybe you've planned to do all writing in the morning and then devote the rest of the day to soaking up stories or maybe you're a night writer who wants to wake up and get inspired with some stories before writing your own. Whatever you decide in order to really boost your experience and your focus, here are some other things to ensure you do during the retreat.

Omit Distractions

It may seem unreasonable to hide your phone for an entire weekend, and that very well might be true. But for your weekend retreat you'll want to ensure distractions like social media don't get in your way. The best way to do this without throwing your phone out of your house is to log out of all social media accounts on your computer and phone so you won't be as tempted. If you want to take it a step further, you can even delete the apps from your phone.

In addition to these precautions, turn your phone onto "Do Not Disturb" mode if you have it and try and only keep one device (computer, laptop, phone) per room. Just because you're not writing doesn't mean you can suddenly watch a movie and text at the same time - you're still in storytelling mode. So take these steps to ensure you always are engaged with one task at a time. If you need to set aside socializing time too, feel free to do so, but never spend more than 15 minutes on social media at a time this weekend or you'll be lost down the rabbit hole!

Connect With Nature

At least one time during your writer's weekend retreat, you'll want to step away from the stories and get back into the real world. The easiest way to do this is by taking a walk. This way you'll be able to get some exercise, step away from the screen, and mediate on your storytelling. Try and spend at least twenty minutes outside per day to refresh yourself and your mind. If you're having trouble writing or can't seem to focus, reconnecting with the natural world will bring your mind some much needed clarity on your weekend retreat.

Take a Bath

Much like with connecting with nature, taking a bath is a great way to relax and give yourself some love. After all, if you don't love yourself, how can you love your story?

The best time to take your bath this weekend is when you feel yourself getting stressed out or overwhelmed, though it also is a great way to end the night. Run the water, burn some candles or incense (lavender is a great relaxing smell) and let yourself soak for at least twenty minutes, trying to empty your thoughts. This will create a spa-like atmosphere that calms you down and helps you omit anxieties about finishing your project, being good enough, and all the other fears known to storytellers which will undoubtedly plague you at some point this weekend.

Another great way to add to your spa-like experience is with a sheet mask. These little masks are around $1 or more each depending on what the sheet part is made of. They come in little packages that are soaked in essences that pack your skin with moisture. I have been using these masks to destress for over a year now and find the Tony Moly brand to be the best bang for your buck. Just rip open the package and place one on your face while you take your bath or even afterwards! Your skin will glow and you'll feel rejuvenated as a writer.

Plan your retreat with my free worksheet! Just fill out the form below!

Get Lost in a Story

When I say "get lost in a story," I am not speaking about your own. While you should devote a hearty amount of time to not only writing your story, but also getting to know your characters and world better, a majority of this retreat is dedicated to soaking in stories. At least once (though the more the merrier) you should spend at least an hour to two hours fully engaged in a story.

This of course will be easier when you've omitted distractions and de-stressed, but once it's happened let it happen. Don't take notes on what is happening or what you like about the story, just become lost in it. Of course this is easier said than done - some stories are boring to us or slower than we're in the mood for - so if that is the case, set the story aside and look towards your favorite stories instead. Flip to your favorite passages or scenes and get lost in those instead. Just like with the bath and the connection with nature, this will inspire your storytelling abilities again and make returning to the writing goals all the more exciting.

Talk to Your Characters

In order to reconnect with your story, you'll need to sit down and get to know a character. This character could be the one you're having the most trouble with or it could be your main character or protagonist. Whatever you choose though, you want to spend some time really getting to know them.

You can do this in a few ways - you don't actually have to talk to them. You can write a journal entry like they would, you can sit around talking to yourself about who they are, you can write the different themes they represent in your story, you can take a Myer's Briggs test on their behalf - the ways are endless and it's just about finding what's best for you and your character. Each one may require something different, so only focus one strengthening and developing one character this weekend to their fullest potential.

Evaluate Your Story

Finally, you'll need to address your story as an entire piece. After all, there's likely a reason you needed this retreat in the first place, so take a moment to look over what you've written and what you've planned to write and see how they align. Ask yourself if the story is what you were hoping it would be, and if not address how you can change that.

Look to see if there are any parts of your story that you don't remember or are foggy to you. If you are writing a short piece, this is less likely to happen, but if you're writing a novel or video game you may need to skim over what you've written to ensure you remember certain parts of your piece, otherwise when you come back to revise later you may find that your forgetfulness has created an enormous plot problem in need of fixing.

Plan your retreat with my free worksheet! Just fill out the form below!

Because once the weekend is over your goal is to have a better sense of your story and what you are doing with it, but also storytelling in general. Using these tips and tricks for setting up the ideal weekend will ensure that happens, so get to planning and retreating!

Set yourself up for retreat success with a writer's ritual to motivate you and a genius to inspire you. And let me know below how your weekend retreat goes! My friend Rachel has a great post about her own experience with her weekend retreat.