writer's life, Writing

Retreat

Untitled designLast week was a roller coaster.

Let me back up. This year I decided to pursue writing with a new intensity and a greater focus. I set goals. I made plans. I took risk. And I set things in motion. Last week it all came crashing down on my head. I had bills to pay, I had projects that weren’t working out the way I thought they would. I had a calendar full of to do lists with little time left for writing, and then on top of it all, I had writer’s block. Ugh!

So, what’s a girl to do when everything feels a little (a lot) too intense and you’re in danger of losing all your dreams? RETREAT! I set aside three days to join an online writing challenge a few friends had put together and I logged out of my life to dive into my next project. My husband, bless him, offered me his office for the weekend and worked from home so that I could have some privacy. He even brought me lunch each day! Isn’t that the sweetest?

I hid away in my little writing cave from Thursday¬†morning to Saturday night coming home to sleep each evening. The first day was a little rough. I had a lot of unexpected interruptions that were all really nice, but ultimately kept me from adding more than my daily average word count which falls between 1500 and 2000 words. Then on Friday, something magical happened. I started the day in prayer, literally asking God to give me words to write for the day and inviting him to shape the story. Then, I went to my desk and at 9am I began typing. That day I added nearly 9,000 words to my new novel. I didn’t want to stop! The story was getting exciting and my heart was racing as I typed those last few words of the day. I could hardly believe my final word count! Then, the next day I did the same thing and it happened again. Amazing!

By the end of the third day my brain was definitely feeling the wear and tear. In the middle of Friday I was writing an average of 1200 words per hour, but by the end of Saturday I was struggling to do half that. My last entry for the weekend was just over 200 words. My brain was mush and it was time to call it quits. I had earned a day of rest.

In the end, I had added 20,000 words to my new novel. That’s nearly a third of a book! I learned a lot from this experience.

Sometimes you just need to RETREAT.

I was overworked and overwhelmed. Next time I feel that way I’m going to set aside time to focus on my creative work and escape the daily stress that keeps me from producing good work.

It is possible to write all day.

Until this writing challenge, I didn’t really know if I could write more than three or four hours at a time. It’s really hard to find time to write longer periods in my busy life and I honestly wasn’t sure if I could focus that long. The best part about this challenge was seeing how my husband reacted because now he’s dreaming of a day when I can write full-time, too. A shared vision will always be more likely to become a reality.

Know when to stop and give your body rest.

My brain clearly had a breaking point where it could no longer continue at its maximum capacity. However, just 48 hours later I was able to sit down and pick up right where I’d left off with a great writing session. Writing like a maniac might be fun, but it can’t last forever. You have to know when to rest.

Have you ever taken a personal retreat? How did it affect your stress levels and your work productivity? Let us know in the comments about your favorite retreat.