What do you look for in a writing retreat, or a retreat of any kind?
I’ve gotten it into my head of late that I’m in serious need of a productive getaway. I’ve caught myself researching various retreat and residency options across the country. There are some really great sites and opportunities out there. But before I begin investing a significant chunk of time in the various application processes—not to mention in the retreats themselves—I figured it might be a worthwhile exercise to take a step back to ask two very basic questions:
- What would my ideal writing retreat look like? and
- How would such a space benefit me?
You know, sensible stuff like that.
Okay. So my ideal retreat would find me in residence in a small cabin or other rustic setting somewhere in the woods and on the coast. (Hey. It’s my vision. I can put an evergreen forest on the rocky coast if I want to.) I would have my own space, but I wouldn’t be isolated. There would be other people around, but only when I want to see them. My college dorm serves as a good model here: my own room for working and for alone time, but a common area not far beyond the door for when I want to hang out, work with others, share a meal, watch a movie, or whathaveyou. Because, naturally a little cabin in the coast-forest would also be part of a community complex—and also within walking distance of a pub-style tea house café and grocery with live Irish trad music. Yeah.
I can also tell you all about the temperature and weather, the fireplace in my room/cabin, the meditation garden, the communal kitchen, the excellent WiFi, the spooky local legends, and the nearby hiking paths.
But the more important question is how such a getaway would benefit me—apart from the obvious grooviness of the setting I’ve dreamed up.
As I and others have blogged previously and extensively, there are some wonderful aspects to working out of a home office and there are significant drawbacks as well. I’ve been feeling more of the latter lately, so it’s no wonder I’ve been restless. The cats march back and forth across my desk, including across the keyboard. Just the other day as I was saving out a newly edited file, one of the cats rested a single toe on my laptop and that was enough for him to randomly choose both a new file name and file location somewhere on my hard drive. It happened in a flash. And then I had to go hunting for that file. And the dogs like to follow me around the house—to and from the kitchen, in and out of the bathroom. They frequently bark at every little noise, especially the ones I can’t hear.
We also seem to be starting the local solicitation season, which means I get cable reps, siding sales people, and proselytizers from nearly every religion imaginable on my doorstep—ringing the doorbell and setting the dogs off, and not understanding that they’re interrupting someone in her workplace. I’m just going to have to hang one of those “No Solicitations” signs on the door, even though I hate the look of the things.
So I’m not getting as much done in my home office as I’d like. I try to mix it up sometimes—say, work from the dining room table instead of my standing desk for a bit, but the cats, dogs, and Jehovah’s Witnesses remain a clear and present danger.
I’ve had luck working from the neighborhood coffee shop once or twice a week, but that’s a habit that gets expensive pretty quickly, plus the place isn’t as quiet as it used to be. That’s great news for them, and I’m glad the business is doing well. But I still need to work.
As I type this, I’m sitting beneath an evergreen tree in a park near my house. It’s lovely! I should do this more often. But apart from the fresh air (when it’s not raining) and greenery, there are non-ideal and challenging elements to this arrangement as well, many of a TMI nature.
Suffice it to say that I do have options! I’m just looking for something more sustained than a long morning in the coffee shop here or a couple of hours in the park there. Maybe something like setting up a temporary work space on the front porch—out of range of the cats and dogs—and buying an invisibility spell from an earthy wise woman to shield me from the roving door-knockers.
Or something like my hippie cabin complex on the forest-coast near the laid-back Irish tea pub.
Does that sound like your place? Can I come over for a week or so?