Jerks & Irks LXII: The Pros and Cons of a Writing Retreat

Well, folks, I’m back from the weekend writing retreat in Rehoboth Beach, DE. I am happy to say I was pretty productive. I regret to say I don’t know if I’ll do another one. What? I know. Crazy talk. But let’s break the experience down a bit, shall we?

PROS:

  • I was very productive. I wrote over 10,000 words between Friday night, when we checked in, and Saturday evening. It came out to be about fourteen ‘bare bones’ chapters. I wrote so much I had to stop early. While the other ladies were still typing away, I buried my face in my Kindle. Check out was early on Sunday morning and I left even earlier than that, without so much as cracking open my laptop. I had nothing else left in me.
  • It’s easy to write when everyone else around you is writing. I currently write full-time and aim for at least a thousand words a day when I write. But some days I don’t feel like it and some days Hubby-pants comes home early. Other days, there are shows clogging up the DVR that require my attention. But when there are five other people, arduously working, the television is off, etc., there’s really nothing to do but write or risk feeling like an ass. Even though I had nothing left to do by 9pm on Saturday, I still felt a little like an ass when I curled up on the couch with my Kindle.
  • The surroundings are inspirational. Not only was the cottage about twenty feet from the water, not only was there a beautiful view from the main window, not only was there a lovely gas fireplace, but the cottage itself was nice and clean. Why does that matter? It just created a sense of “not a care in the world.” When I’m home, even though I could strictly dedicate two full days to writing and vow not to turn on the TV or surf the internet, the environment isn’t always very appealing. The stains in the carpet. The cats in the hallway throwing up hairballs. The dishes in the sink. The cars driving by. My dumbass neighbor, Tool Time, clamoring away at some home project. These things aren’t inspirational, no matter how nicely my desk is set up.

CONS:

  • There was NO WiFi. My phone barely had enough reception to send texts to my husband. I’m sure there are other locales with WiFi available, but this past weekend, not having WiFi was a drag. Not because I missed scrolling through Facebook (okay, maybe I missed that a little bit), but because writing psychological/crime fiction takes a lot of research. When I arrived at the cottage, I had less than a thousand words written of the next book, Blood in the Paper. I had a general storyline, but I hadn’t done any research yet. I do research as I go, as questions arise. Without WiFi, I was forced to keep writing without knowing if my characters’ surroundings, circumstances, and decisions were even plausible. I ended up stopping on Saturday evening because I refused to go any further without knowing if I was on the right track, if my story was realistic. Before I picked up my Kindle, I read through what I had written so far and jotted down any questions that popped into my head. When all was said and done, I had SEVEN notebook pages of questions that needed answering! Now, do you see why I stopped? The worst case scenario is I have to scrap all the work I did over the weekend and start over and that really grinds my gears, guys.
  • I don’t write like everyone else. I already knew that I don’t fancy writing to music. Instead, I prefer writing with TV reruns on in the background as white noise. At the retreat, however, everyone was fine writing in silence. This drove me nuts. The sound of six people click-clacking away at their keyboards for hours on end was like an auditory form of torture that I think they should experiment with at Guantanamo. On Saturday afternoon, one of the women mentioned she was going for a walk on the beach and I couldn’t put my shoes on fast enough to join her, to hear gentle waves instead of incessant typing for just a few minutes. When we returned from the walk, I found the sound of typing even more jarring and had to sit outside for a little while so I didn’t overturn furniture in a rage of irritation. Why didn’t I just force myself to listen to music, you ask? Because I don’t have any songs stored on my phone or laptop; I love streaming too much. And without WiFi or proper cell phone reception, I couldn’t stream a damn thing.
  • I really did feel like an ass when I couldn’t write anymore. As inspirational as the surroundings and the company proved to be, I don’t like being judged for not writing. At home, there are no judgments. If I want to stop to watch an hour of TV, I can. If I want to catch some of the Final Four games, or watch the Yankees for a bit, I can. There, like I said above, you feel like an ass if you stop writing. I actually had to explain myself to someone when I picked up my Kindle in lieu of my laptop. Mind you, the person wasn’t accusatory when they asked if I was “done for the night” or whatever, but a small part of me resented being asked.
  • People have different sleep schedules. After the whole No WiFi thing, this probably bothered me the most. I slept in the living room, on an air mattress beside the fireplace. It was very cozy and I enjoyed not having to share a room with anyone else (I’m a very light sleeper, even with ear plugs). However, I did not enjoy having to wake up at 7am on both Saturday and Sunday. Not that I’m the type of person to sleep until noon, but I normally wake up at 8 or 9am. I think that’s respectable. Then, even though I was tired later in the day, I had to watch everyone else be able to retreat to their rooms to nap whereas I didn’t have any such option, being set up in the living room. At night, I felt like I was kicking people out when I began setting up my bed to go to sleep. I felt like they wanted to keep writing. Again, I felt judged for wanting to call it a day a little before midnight. Now, I understand that these complaints are probably the sole result of having been the one who slept in the living room, but had I shared a room with someone else, you would have seen that listed here under ‘cons’ instead. I would have been the one waking up whoever was in the living room, or the person sharing the room with me would have woken me up. I would have been the one who wanted everyone to be quiet while I was taking a nap. I would have been the one who felt put out when the living room sleeper set up their air mattress. So you see, there’s no winning when it comes to sleep schedules.

All in all, I’ll summarize the experience like this: My first weekend writing retreat was quite possibly very productive (only time and research will tell), but the arrangements themselves were a bit uncomfortable. Will I do it again? Not sure. Maybe when I start the last book in the Blood for Blood Series, I’ll venture out again to get a 10,000 word head start. But I will only go if there’s WiFi and I have my own room. 😉