“Think of it as your own personal writing retreat.” That was the advice my husband gave me when I found out work would be sending me away for three months. And it is advice which has been fueling my creative tank for 90 days.
This I what I’ve always wanted. Time away from the obligation of family, without the distraction of TV, video games, and social media. Time to just… write.
Granted it definitely isn’t the small cozy cabin in the woods I’d always imagined my personal writing retreat to be. Sacred writing time might sound glamorous to you all now, but it wasn’t. The three months I fondly deemed “writing time” was also a time when my job kept me away from my family. I was still working full time, living in a small room, with a roommate and no access to wine for three months. It was a lot like college, but less fun. The good news is I’ve found I can work anywhere as long as I have my laptop and my kindle. That is the beauty of being a writer.
For three months I took the time to adjust my priorities for my writing. I changed my outlook, thinking of writing more as a career than a dream.
It has never been a hobby, that’s for sure, but if I wanted to be taken seriously and if I really wanted to get published I needed to tackle my projects with gusto.
I listened to RWA conference recordings while falling asleep, writing podcasts as I walked around South East Asia, started reading ALL the books on craft and self-publishing I could find, but most importantly I carved out time to write!
One of the lovely books I read, that fueled my soul with motivation was Jennifer Probst’s, Write Naked. I would have killed for this book back when I was just starting to write. Jennifer is thoughtful, gives great advice, but most importantly her experience speaks to the romance writer in me.
Jennifer’s advice on protecting your writing time and understanding its importance is something I know in the back of my mind but have finally taken to heart. I realized the three months I was spending away from family was valuable for me to get a head start on my next book, and backlist a few short stories. It was time for me to get in touch for my old creative spirit!
It was great! It also wasn’t easy, but carving out writing time never is. I found I’ve had to force myself to stare at the page until I accomplish the goal for the day. Either finishing a chapter or hitting a certain word count. Sometimes it takes a while for my mind to realize that now is writing time, but when it finally does get it I lose myself in a project and that’s a great feeling. But again, a lot of staring happens before that.
“This is my writing retreat,” I told myself every day, “If I can’t even get a chunk of this project done now I’ll never finish it!”
Those first two months I guarded my writing time like a gargoyle. I hated it but still sat at my little desk every day and wrote something. A short story, a blog post, edits for Book 2, more edits for Book 2. My WIP wouldn’t be where it is today if I didn’t have this writing time.
But it was also exhausting. Being away from family and working so hard was taking its toll on me. The last month I was working 12 hour days (night shift) and I just wanted to be done with the job. No writing got done, but I did finish the entire last season of Friends.
I’m not proud of that. Not all of my goals were met but I still accomplished a lot and this writing time helped me learn a lot about my own writing habits.
Here’s what I learned about my writing time:
- The internet is a scourge, (and while I rely on it whole-heartedly) it is the biggest reason no writing ever gets done.
- I am not a “write drunk, edit sober” kind of gal. In fact, alcohol prevents me from accomplishing most of my goals. The three months I spent limiting my consumption were my most productive.
- A good writing schedule is the key to productivity. Write at the same time every day.
- A healthy balance of work, family, writing is needed. Working 12 hour days, while missing my family killed my creative juices.
Believe it or not, I’m leaving for another trip today! I’ll be gone for a month but I’ll have internet and won’t be on hiatus. Again, it isn’t a cozy cottage in the woods but it is time away from my demanding work center and time for me to rediscover my creative side. I plan on taking what I learned from this last experience and getting as much done as possible in a month and a half. I’ve written down my writing goals for the year and I intend to continue to tackle this mountain as if it is my job and not just a hobby.
Time to clock into work.
I’ll leave you all with some of my favorite advice from Jennifer Probst: “I had to stand up and announce I was a writer and that my time at home was sacred. I had a long talk with my husband, explained my frustrations, and he understood. I learned to say no. A lot. Much more than I was comfortable with as a huge people pleaser. But slowly, I began to do the main thing that writers need in order to succeed. I protected the work.”
Protect your writing time everyone. And value your creative spirit.