Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly

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The Don’ts of Creative Writing Retreats

A House on Lantau IslandI have returned! As promised I am here to tell you what I accomplished during my trip. But first, allow me to distract you with the above picture.

I managed, with help from some brilliant friends, to stay in a beautiful little house on Lantau Island. The house above was near where I was staying and I just had to have a photo of it. Isn’t it amazing? You wouldn’t believe it was in Hong Kong. The area was idyllic, complete with visiting cows. I loved it!

Ah, but what did I accomplish writing wise? Well I scribbled down some scraps of character dialogue, brainstormed a couple of concepts for my blog, drafted two blog posts (this one included)… But truth be told I came across more snags to writing than inspiration. So I am here to share my new found wisdom about things to avoid on creative retreats.

Don’t Surround Yourself With Interesting People

Engrossing conversation and fascinating stories leave very little (if any) time for writing. I came a cropper on this one several times. Each time I was sure I could get some writing done, and instead ended up on the couch kept agog by someone’s descriptions of their life. (I hasten to add that this is all excellent fodder for later stories.)

Don’t Surround Yourself With Stunning Scenery

Knowing the friends I was staying with would keep me entertained whenever I was in their company, I decided the next best place to write would be on the bus. But can one really write when being driven along beaches and through mountains? The answer in my case is a definite ‘no.’

In fact, the picture often painted of a writer sitting on a tropical beach hammering out pages and pages of sparkling prose is a myth. In that situation the writer is usually too distracted by the breathtaking scenery in front of them (or the novelty of sunshine and fresh air) to actually focus and write. As MH commented in the previous post, often a brick wall is often the best view for a bout of writing. A small cozy room or corner can also work well.

I can pretty much guarantee you that if you’re surrounded by beauty, your attention will be focused on your surroundings, not on your writing. And let’s face it, when you’re within walking distance of once-in-a-lifetime scenery, why not take advantage of the moment?

So, bottom line, when picking a creative retreat, make sure it’s in a spot where you’d be happy to sit still and miss the scenery.

Don’t Waste Wait Time

Even if you are busy chatting with fascinating friends or visiting stunning scenery, there are often times when you find yourself waiting. Perhaps at a bus stop or subway station. This post was drafted in a plane which had been delayed 2 hours while still on the tarmac. Although some of the passengers were less than pleased with the development, I happily scribbled away in my notebook, grateful for the extra couple of hours (and convenient fold-out table) which allowed me more time with my pen.

So look for times when you might otherwise be twiddling your thumbs and set about twiddling your pen instead.

Don’t Forget to Smell the Roses

Life, and therefore creative retreats, should be enjoyed – not milked for every productive minute possible. It is perfectly acceptable to use your retreat to recharge. Perhaps you need to give Creativity space to find his/her own way out of a problem. If nothing comes when you try to write, then savour the small – the one word, phrase, sentence or idea you managed to get down on paper. And if all you can do is stare at the scenery, then stare to your heart’s content…and choose somewhere more boring for your next creative retreat.