DIY Writer’s Retreat

Once you start inviting writing gurus to send you weekly emails, you will find yourself facing a number of invitations to part with cash. Some of these money-spending opportunities are extremely helpful, depending on what you need at this point in time and where you are in your career.

One invite that never fails to draw my salivating interest is for writer’s retreats. A week away in a beautiful place with yoga classes and creative prompts, and no responsibilities but to write.

Doesn’t that sound like the definition of bliss?

Chances are, if you’re still in the ‘build’ phase of your writing career, you don’t have a couple thousand bucks to dispense on a week of bliss. Or maybe you do and you’re cheap. Which is basically my situation.

So what’s the cheapster to do when her writing piles up and Puerto Rico beckons? What we always do when we want something without paying for it. Do It Yourself.

No money, no problem. Hole up and write.

No money, no problem. Hole up and write.

With three quarters of a screenplay, a serial or novel, a short story languishing for want of research, a couple Ebooks, and an idea for a kids’ travel book weighing on my creative mind, I’m overdue for some serious writing time. So the plan is to devote three days of this week to writing.

No email. No errands. No cleaning. No phone calls. Just me and my computer and my notebook.

I hesitate to put this plan out there in Internet Land, only because my grand plans have an infamous history of falling apart. Undramatically, but tragically and completely. Leaving me with nothing but a list of good intentions and a guilty conscience.

But I am making an exception for scientific purposes. I’ll state my hypothesis, spend the week in experiments, then report next week with my conclusions. I flatter myself that this process will benefit other writers as well. So if a week away from life as you know it is just not in your budget this year, consider joining me on a DIY Writer’s Retreat.

Important considerations when planning one’s own writer’s retreat:

1. What is my goal?
Yes, writing, but more specifically, which writing. I listed four or five projects above, but no way will I touch all of them in three days. Better to choose one and go hard. The more specific the goal, the better.

I intend to finish the rough draft of my screenplay. That’s basically 40 pages. Just rough, no editing or tweaking. Not even spell-check. Just one pass to stretch it out to a full length.

2. Preparations
If all I’m doing is writing, that means I won’t be able to go grocery shopping. So I’d better do that first.

Depending on your personality, it could be helpful to come up with a rough schedule. For me, it’s hit or miss – a schedule could really help me focus, or it could send me into a panic of lethargy. So I’ll keep it low key: exercise in the morning, do some writing. Take a couple hours’ break for lunch and a book or movie, then write some more.

Nooooo pressure.

I do have a store of inspirational quotes and books and videos in the event that I lose motivation and wake up in the middle of a House marathon surrounded by origami rejects. A little Bret Lott or Anna Quindlen will get me back on the straight and narrow.

3. Go Somewhere
Just because I can’t afford Puerto Rico doesn’t mean I can’t day-trip to San Francisco. Or Phoenix. Or Starbucks.

Again, this is a matter of preference. I enjoy spending time in my little baby apartment, but it can get noisy during the day, what with the children and the skaters and the bird. My neighbor has a bird that squawks hellishly for approximately 2 hours every day.

I’m really good at ignoring stuff.

As long as I have music as white noise, staying home will probably work fine for me. But it could be fun to kick off at a coffee shop, so I can savor that feeling of starting something new and exciting.

4. Soften expectations
As much as I want to spend three days only writing, the bald fact is since starting this blog post, I’ve thought of calendar items for every day this week. Why don’t I write stuff in my calendar? This is a separate, but contributing, problem.

So in reality, it will probably be like 2 days and 3 afternoons. But that’s life. It’s DIY. We make exceptions.

But in the end we have this beautiful thing that we made, and it’s all the more satisfying because it didn’t cost a cent.

Off we go, busy writers. To create and to explore. Godspeed.

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Day 2: Commit Yourself to the Impossible

Yesterday’s challenge went so well, I almost wanted to do Day 2 last night! This place has been neglected since January and with one post I suddenly have two new followers, Jill of all Trades and Kashfi Fahim, two fellow writers and bloggers on WordPress.

Now that I know who I am, Robert Brewer wants me to lay down some goals. I guess the plan is to confront all my phobias right at the beginning of this challenge, and then things get easier later. Part of the problem with setting goals is that I set unreasonable goals. I’m sure this is not uncommon, but still it bugs me to have items on my to-do list that are simply not going to get checked off.

Whoever said writing was therapy, I’m beginning to see the point. Well, here goes.

Day 2: Set Your Goals

Since it worked out so well yesterday, I’ll start with Robert’s goals as a template and swap out my own. I just noticed these lists both suspiciously end with ‘Etc.’ Hmmm…

Deep breath. I can do this.

Short-term goals:

  • Complete this writing challenge (2 days down, 28 to go!)
  • In June, finish editing my pilot TV episode for The Chocolate Tourist
  • Increase traffic and visibility for online episodes of The Chocolate Tourist
  • In June, get to page 60 on the rough draft for my screenplay
  • Finish tweaks to 48HFP film entry for wrap party on June 6
  • Get in the habit of blogging weekly at DCTravels
  • Create my first e-newsletter for Pink Papaya
  • Come up with a basic marketing plan for For The Glory by the time I leave for vacation
  • Work out every day and track calories
  • Play an open mic before the summer ends
  • Go back to Europe with my mom and visit castles
  • Figure out how to sync my domain with my WordPress or Tumblr feed
  • Beef up my social media… with Google+
  • Figure out Reddit and Digg

Again, I’m sure I forgot something… there’s always editing.

The trouble with these long-term goals is that when any one of these things happens, it will throw most of the others off course. I guess then I will just reassess and rewrite. I can do that.

Long-term goals:

  • Get The Chocolate Tourist on air with a network
  • Develop other show ideas for web and TV
  • Teach some other people about what I’ve learned and am learning
  • Sell my screenplay
  • Become financially solvent with writing and production work alone
  • Record a CD of all my songs
  • Attain and maintain a healthy weight
  • Find someone to marry and marry him
  • Enjoy each day with whatever it brings
  • Get closer to God
  • Learn French
  • Live in a treehouse

What about you? Are your goals in front of you somehow? Do they motivate you?

Courtesy of THE FLAMES THAT FUEL HER on Tumblr

New Year, New Rules

It’s 2012. Has been for nearly a day now.

I seem to be in a somewhat deadpan mood, so bear with me. I’m not unhappy, just a little worn out. Too many late nights, spending time with great people and celebrating big deals and eating a lot more sugar than is normal for my body. So. Indulge my short sentences and limited punctuation, if you please.

Perhaps you caught this article in Writer’s Digest suggesting 12 writing exercises coinciding with the 12 days of Christmas. I don’t know about you, but Christmastime is lucky to get an email from me, let alone gratuitous writing. Plus I didn’t see the article until last week.

So let’s start off the new year with some flexing of the writerly apparatus, shall we? Here we go:

Day 1:
Write 10 potential book titles of books you’d like to write.

Wow. 10 potential book titles. It doesn’t help me that titles are often pretty obscure references to the subject matter. I’m going to have to let my imagination do a dance on this one.

1. A Collection of Short Stories Having to do with Spies

2. Jack and the Magic Coffee Beans (I love fairy tales, and often play with twisting around some of the key concepts for major plot changes… in this instance Jack’s giant is on the hunt for a triple venti latte, no foam)

3. Ghost Hunter (Pac Man brought to life, eating his way through a foresty maze)

4. Proverbs 3 Principles for Success 

5. An Encyclopedia of Chocolate Customs and Creations Around the World (heavily researched, of course)

6. Ms. Magnifique’s Summer Camp for Young Ladies of Consequence (A novelization of my last script)

7. I Ran Away From Home And No One Noticed Until Christmas

8. Nine Ladies Dancing: Diaries of the Ruminostian Ballet (fiction)

9. Disciplines of an Angry Gnat

10. Where Are You Going? A Universal Comparison of Places, and What I Thought They’d Be Like Before I Got There

Wow, that was so much harder than I thought it would be. Not totally sure I would actually want to write each of these books, but at least most of them. The others are books I’d like to read. Or at least pull off the shelf and flip through.

To whomever is reading: What about you? Any book titles rolling around your brain?