December is a minefield of writing distractions—parties, presents, way too much egg nog, and not nearly enough silent nights. Fortunately, January is the antidote. The indulgent holiday spirit is replaced with a refreshed sense of discipline, ambition, and self-improvement.
What’s that you say? You didn’t start the new year sprinting to your keyboard? The anemic daylight and bitter cold have you huddling under a blanket, cursing that perky weather girl? You still feel weighted down by the inertia of a lost month?
Time for a DIY writing retreat: a single day devoted to shaking off bad writing karma and reminding yourself why you do this in the first place. Here’s how:
1. Start on the right foot—Start your day with a treat. Something that feels a little special, but will also get you going (a bracing run, a challenging read, that really nice tea you like) rather than slow you down (all the waffles).
2. Block off your day—The most important aspect of a writing retreat is the ability to dedicate long blocks of time to writing. Stealing an hour on your lunch break or before work is great, but it can’t give the kind of concentration that will get you deep inside your writing. So cancel your appointments. Get a babysitter. Hide your smartphone. Whatever you need to do to get a whole day of distraction-free time. This is important.
3. Set a clear goal—Whether you’re stuck on a particular scene, trying to tighten up your prose, or just in a mad dash to generate as many new words as possible, setting your goal at the outset will help you focus your time.
4. Find some new territory—While we all have a favorite writing place, putting yourself in a new setting can shake you out of a rut. So go to the library in the next town over. Find yourself a new coffee shop (those baristas are starting to give you funny looks anyway). Work at a friend’s kitchen table instead of your own, but…
5. Choose your company carefully—Communing with other writers can give you encouragement as well as accountability. But you need someone who will give you a push in the right direction, and then get the hell out of the way! If you know that you and your writing buddy will just end up talking half the day, catch up with them another time.
6. Give yourself some credit—Even if that scene still needs some work. Even if your word count is a little puny. Celebrate what you DID get done. And give yourself a pat on the back for making your writing a priority and giving yourself the time and space to make it happen.