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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Diary of a writing retreat

Many authors struggle with the discipline of writing regularly. It can be difficult to fit it in and make it a daily priority, particularly when you also work full time in a regular day job, and also have to keep up with such things as cleaning, washing, cooking and shopping. How does an author manage to fit writing into such a schedule?
The thing that works best for me is to plan a writing retreat - a time to devote exclusively to writing. But for this to work properly, I have to plan it well. While writing Mine to Avenge, I occasionally went away for the weekend, or for a longer period to a completely different environment well away from any usual distractions.
While I can and do schedule writing retreats at home, as I have done this weekend, I am not always disciplined enough to avoid the distraction of the familiar environment. It’s easier to stay focused if the writing is flowing and the ideas are spilling over, but if I’m at an inspirational standstill, it’s easy to lose my focus. This is what has happened to me this weekend.
Today was the first day of a planned weekend writing retreat at home. Just for a bit of fun, I’ve written a diary of how things went today to show you what I mean - and the fact that I’ve even written a blog post shows that my focus wandered from my novel in a big way. But I still have a few hours left to work after tea …

6.15am - Wake up. Get up as planned to spend the day working on my novel. This is a great start. Didn’t even need the alarm. Drag computer back to my bed while rubbing sleep from my eyes. Make coffee.

6.30am - Prop myself up in bed spilling chocolate coated coffee beans all over the quilt. Mug of hot coffee nearby and laptop ready. Plan to start by re-reading my WIP to immerse myself into the storyline, which I haven’t looked at since November.

7.30am - Realise I have been surfing the internet for an hour. Stop surfing internet and start reading my story.

7.15am - Realise it’s breakfast time, so get up to make breakfast.

10.00am - Finish reading story. Find myself tying to think of an inspirational status update for Facebook, rather than inspiration for my novel. Move from bed to sunny back patio, hoping vitamin D intake will inspire creativity, but stay in PJ’s. Notice yesterday’s washing is still outside, so I take a load of washing inside. Check the mobile phone which rang earlier - after vowing that I wouldn’t - to see who the call was from. Turn phone onto silent after deciding the message wasn’t urgent. Resist impulse to go out to front lawn and stare across the road at the roof of the house I just recently bought - being in PJ’s makes this an easy decision.

10.15am - Finally start writing with no idea where the story is going.

10.30am - My stomach thinks of the cappuccino yogurt in the fridge. Go get it hoping it might work where the Vitamin D doesn’t seem to be.

11.00am - Word count: 794. Take in  a second load of dry clothes, fold them and put them away - grab 2 biscuits. Start writing again.

12.00 noon - Word count: 1544. Certain it’s all rubbish, but I do a little dance on the patio. It’s 1544 more words than I had this morning. Start thinking it might be lunch-time soon, but try to dismiss the thought, hoping that if I push on I might find myself on a roll - decide to keep at it for another hour before rewarding myself with lunch.

1.30pm - Lunch - salad, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. While eating, I notice my brand new Les Miserables DVD, still inside its cellophane packet. Voice of temptation says, ‘Watch it now! Watch it now!’ Resolve to leave the cellophane packet on it all weekend.
Surf internet while eating to distract myself from Les Miserables. Get distracted looking at home décor ideas for my new house. Then get distracted by new review of my book on Amazon and tweet about it. Get side-tracked with research for novel that isn’t needed yet.

2.00pm - Return to writing

2.30pm - Overwhelming wave of fatigue sends me to kitchen to make coffee. Make coffee. Notice Les Miserables DVD again. Hide DVD in drawer where I can’t see it.

3.00pm - Word count: 2916. Go on Facebook to celebrate - manage to keep it to ten minutes and get back to writing.

3.45 - Get distracted by internet again - find recipe for homemade Greek yogurt. When I realize I have all the ingredients, I go and make a batch.

4.00pm Writing again

4.30pm - I suddenly remember that 'Midsomer Murders' is on in half an hour. A voice in my head justifies watching it, as there might be something in the plot I can use to advance my story. Check TV guide to see if anything else worth watching.

5.00pm - Word count: 4205 words. Give in to voice in head and watch 'Midsomer Murders'. Another voice in my head starts telling me that I have no will power, for not sticking with my resolve to write all day. Try to deal with consequent guilt by writing this blog post while watching TV - after all, it’s still writing, I tell myself.

6.30pm - Distracted by watching 'Gardening Australia', which happens to be about small gardens. This is very useful I think, as my new house has a small garden. I ignore the voice in my head telling me that I can watch this show in iView later on.

7.00pm - Starving: time for tea. Panic a moment or two realizing that the day is almost over and the idea for a critically important scene has suddenly come to me. Run back and forth between computer and stove while cooking tea, hoping to bolster my word count a bit more. Manage to add another 128 words while doing this.

8.00pm - Post this blog post and resolve to write non-stop until 10.00pm, and do better tomorrow for day 2.


  1. Kerry, I, too, have had inspiration hit late in the day when I really should stop to fix dinner for my poor husband, whom I've ignored all day trying to get some work done. No matter how hard we try to plan, our muse often has other ideas, and you are so right about the need to stay focused.

  2. Thanks, Maryann. Nice to know I'm not alone.

  3. Inspiration always seems to hit me just as I am going off to sleep - so much so that I have to get up and write it down because I know I will have forgotten them by morning - what is with that?

    1. Thanks for your thoughts too Daystarz. Yes, inspiration usually has a habit of striking at times when it is impractical to go with the flow.