The DIY writer’s retreat

OK, I realize some people plan a getaway to, I guess, go to a spa or sit on a beach or get in some serious shopping. I planned a getaway to sit in a room and write. It was glorious.

I had three picture book manuscripts I wanted to revise and a novel whose direction I hated hated hated. Basically I wanted to junk the novel and start fresh with the same characters. But I never seemed to have enough uninterrupted time to do it. And real writers’ retreats, though they sound lovely, are not cheap. So I thought, why not just go find a nice hotel room somewhere, hang out there and call it a DIY retreat?

I settled on Frenchtown, because it’s a lovely little spot with a walkable downtown, cute shops and restaurants, aka everything I need for occasional diversions. Also, it has a fantastic little indie bookstore, where I finally bought my own copy of “Big Magic”; Elizabeth Gilbert is an occasional resident here, so it seemed appropriate. (I’d call “Big Magic” one of those essential books for the creative and would-be creative, right up there with Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”)

Things I didn’t take into consideration:

  • It’s a small town. So if you’re hanging around it by yourself for several days running, that will be noticed.
  • If you set your retreat in a small town during the week, you might just be the only guest in the entire hotel. You will find this vaguely creepy. (Even if the manager is nice.)
  • Meals. You will be bringing a book to every single one. Which is slightly more awkward during dinners, when the tables around you are clearly full of couples.

That said, the days went pretty well. I took some nice walks around town, did some shopping (well, no way I was skipping that), then holed up in my room and wrote. Just having uninterrupted time to myself, with nothing and no one to intrude on my thoughts, made all the difference. It was unexpectedly peaceful. Net result: thorough revisions on all three picture book manuscripts, plus I got a good chunk written of the new version of my novel. So I call that a win.

In fact, I’m already thinking about where to go for my next retreat. Though I might consider bringing some groceries next time.