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Five Things I Learned From My Personal Writing Retreat

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I took my very first personal writing retreat a couple weeks ago to finish the third book in my current series. I wasn't sure what to expect since I'd never been to this retreat center. I've never been to any retreat center to stay more than one day. A trusted friend suggested I try it. I stayed an entire week at Potter's Ranch.

The picture to your left is a road I walked up and down every evening thinking about very little after spending most of the day writing and knowing the evening would be spent writing as well. There were horses everywhere. I could actually stop and listen and hear nothing but crickets, geese, and birds.

My cabin was awesome and had two bedrooms and two baths, a full kitchen, and lovely living room. I brought snacks and breakfast food with me and joined the staff and other guests for lunch and dinner every day at the lodge. There was no television channels but I could watch DVDs. The only thing I brought with me was season one of Downton Abbey. I watched the entire season again but only after I'd met my necessary quota of words for the day. :)

Five things I learned from this experience.
  • FOCUS is a powerful tool. When I write at home it's so easy to be distracted. But when I scheduled my time to run away from home I didn't have to worry about the dishes or dinner, laundry or running to the store. I was able to stay in my story and that helped me get more done faster.
  • ACCOMPLISHMENT fuels me to want to accomplish more. After all, I was by myself. I didn't have anything else to concern myself with.I accomplished more than I thought myself capable of doing.
  • SELF MANAGEMENT is more than managing my time. I took breaks to keep my back from aching and keep my head clear. I used the timer on my cell phone to see how many words I could write in 15 minutes, in 30 minutes, and in an hour. 
  • PEACE is essential. I knew that, but I rarely experience it. To walk and not see anyone, to spend time with God and just let all my worries pour out. Great therapy by the way. To read my Bible looking out over fields and trees, was like living on another planet for me.
  • CONTENTMENT blooms from within when I allow it to happen. Life can be crazy, can't it? The days fly by me so fast and until I took this opportunity to go away, even though I had the specific purpose of finishing a book, I received so much more.
 I hope you will treat yourself well and think of doing something similar for yourself down the road. We can't always run away from home, but with some good planning you can find a way. Maybe you can't get away for a week but even a couple of days will bless you.

Now that I've had my retreat I'm looking for ways to keep retreat alive in my daily life. What about you? Have you enjoyed a personal retreat of some kind? What did you learn?


  1. Jillian -

    This sounds really lovely. Excellent idea to disappear on a retreat for yourself. I may have to try that. Thank you for planting the seed.

  2. Wow, that sounds so nice! I wish I had the luxury to escape and just write. Sigh.

    Perhaps someday...but this summer will be all work and very little writing. I hope to get back into it late July, but not sure.

    We'll see what the Lord has planned...


  3. Hi Donna,
    So nice to see you here. Can't believe we missed each other on Saturday at Lori's event. If you can get away it's a wonderful opportunity.

    Perhaps you can get a writing retreat without going away. Let's see. Put your favorite photo of nature in front of you, a pair of head phones if music helps and give yourself mini retreats. It's worth a try! Take care and try not to work too hard. The Lord will have a good plan.

  4. This sounds like a wonderful experience. Hopefully I can try this sometime. Thanks for sharing what you learned, Jill!

  5. Hi Susie,
    It's worth it! Very reasonable. We just don't take care of ourselves enough. I know I don't. I try but there is always so much on my plate. Somehow we have to find a way. I feel like this retreat helped get me on track. Try it as soon as you can. :)

  6. How far from your home was this retreat? Was it just other writers there?

    Downton Abbey is a good carrot to dangle!

    Hooray for retreats and for book#3~

  7. Hey Deb,
    I like your enthusiasm. :) It was only about an hour from home, but felt like another world. No other writers. There were riding instructors there certifying others. I ate lunch and dinner with them. It was fun since I grew up with horses. The staff was awesome.

  8. Hey Donna MacMeans,
    I just realized my reply to you didn't come through. I recommend you try the retreat sometime. Loved meeting your daughter at the book signing. Lots of fun.

    I must get that other formatting so that I can reply to each visitor that post. Calling JONES HOUSE CREATIVE!

  9. Jillian, I love, love, LOVE this post! You can't see me, but I'm applauding like mad. Good for you! Personal writing retreats are, in my opinion, a necessity. For me, I go places where I don't run into a single person. I take all food and the coffee pot with me and lose myself in what I'm writing. I find that time is insignificant there. I write as God inspires, so I could be writing at 3am and sleeping at 3pm. I'll be getting away again in August as some deadlines approach. Can't wait! And I'm just thrilled that your writing retreat was such a blessing and so refreshing.

  10. Donna, you've done this. Brava! You've gone even deeper if you don't see a single person. So glad you could relate to this post and I love the applause. :) It's amazing how richly God inspires and in my recent experience how nature nurtures the spirit. May your time of retreat in August be blessed also. I want to hear all about it!

  11. What a wonderful retreat. Glad you were able to go and finish the book. My husband and I often plot while we are driving to our destinations. We've plotted whole books on the road. It's a great place for us to focus on our books, of course it only works because he's driving and I'm taking the notes.

  12. Hi Catherine!
    Glad you have fun plotting with hubby. I still recommend you get out of the car and away by yourself sometime. You'll know when the time is right. :)

  13. Jillian, I'm so glad you took the chance to retreat. For each of the past three years I've joined with five other writers for a week away. We share costs to rent a vacation home. This year's retreat will be on a quiet island in Puget Sound. None of us would dream of skipping our retreat, and we've formed heart bonds through praying for and helping one another past problem spots in our manuscripts and writing lives. And every year we get to celebrate new victories together.

    I've never experienced a private retreat such as you describe, but I'd like to try that option at a different point in the year as well. Our group retreat works because we all respect one another's need to concentrate and think, so it may not be much different. Anyway, I hope you'll continue going on retreat on a regular basis. Once you start, there's no going back. :)

  14. JUST AS I'VE YEARNED FOR - This past winter I wanted to RUN to a retreat cabin in the big woods - just me - fireplace - food and my writing - couldn't find such a place that didn't cost more than my house payment for several months. ';D

    Someday I will do a personal retreat EXACTLY like yours - it is completely what I've asked God to provide - now it's all in His hands as to the timing and finances!

    I'm so glad for you, Jill and CANNOT wait to get my hands on BOOK THREE!


  15. Janalyn,
    The retreat with a group of writers sounds awesome as well. My first thought was do you have enough quiet time to get your writing done? You answered that. :) I was on deadline for this retreat so I felt I needed no other distractions. I have to admit though if I was brainstorming or needed the time with other writers, your idea sounds VERY appealing. Thanks for weighing in.

  16. Hi Joy!
    You'll love it when you can do it. I didn't spend a lot of money and since I'm not going to ACFW this year and it's far less expensive I grabbed the opportunity and was glad I did. Next year ACFW is in Indianapolis and that's only 2 hours from me. I will go back to Potter's Ranch again when I need to. Have a great weekend!

  17. Hi JIll, thanks so much for sharing this. It is only a little over an hour away from me, so I hope to go there sometime, too. I do take a retreat each year, but it is a spiritual retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in KY (about a 2 hour drive for me). It is at a monastery guest house (like a dorm with each one having their own private bedroom and bath). The only cost is your travel to and from and they ask for donations to help with cleaning and food costs. I love it there, but a couple friends went with me once and have never gone back again! LOL One person said it was too quiet! There is a sign in the dining hall and most of the inside spaces that says "Silence is spoken here." I love it that way! You do have to reserve a room at least 4 months in advance, tho. You can go for 4 nights (M-Th) or the weekends (F-Su)

  18. Hi Rose!
    What great information. Don't think I'd make the drive with Potter's Ranch being so close but the price is right so I won't say I would never go.:)Probably too quiet for me too.