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There was a point in my writing life when I dreamed of seaside cottages and isolated mountain cabins.  Some quiet place to spend a week or two writing with no interruptions.  It seemed like I would really be a writer when I could take a vacation to write.  (Sure, there was the whole “getting a book published,” but that was a given.)

I was wrong.  You don’t have to go to some isolated place surrounded by nature to have a writer’s retreat.  You just have to go somewhere different and give yourself permission to write.  I knew this on some level.  After all, I occasionally go to a coffee shop to write, because it separates me from the internet and my soul-sucking cats.

When my sister was very ill, I went to spend a few weeks with her.  I never expected to get any writing done, but that first afternoon while my sister slept, I sat down at her dining room table and opened my notebook.  I didn’t expect to get much done, but I started writing down a scene that had popped into my head a few days before.  A small ugly girl  was alone in a forest at night, chopping wood.  I didn’t know why, but I needed to find out.  That’s how things always start for me.

Three hours later, I had written seven pages of what would become Ugly and the Beast.

The next afternoon, I repeated it. The day after that, I started in the morning and worked all day.  My sister slept through most of it, with me waking her up on schedule to eat and take her medication.  With only one patient, though, the nurse had plenty of time to write.  By the time I went home ten days later, my sister was on the mend and I had 50,000 words of the book, plus a rough sketch of the remaining pages to be written.  Voilà.  A writer’s retreat.

I did it on a much smaller scale with my recent trip to California.  I went out to visit friends, who are also writers.  In the lulls between eating, drinking wine, and chatting, there was writing.  I didn’t write an entire novel, but I did manage to squeeze in 6,000 words on Lie, Lay, Lain.  (Of course, to be honest, most of this writing took place in a cottage by the sea, but hey, I never ruled that out as an option.)

It’s all about taking opportunities where they come.  What’s your favorite unofficial writer’s retreat?

By the sea

By the sea

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