Writing Retreat Rule No. 1: Must Have Distracting View

Hi all,

My husband’s gift to me last Christmas was a few nights away in a waterfront studio apartment. After the Year That Was 2020, to say I was excited was a massive understatement. A few nights away!!!

Anyway the trip was last week, but hubby didn’t come with me. That’s because it was a DIY writing retreat, especially made for one. Just me, my laptop, and a bunch of revision notes – a BIG bunch. Oh, and this awesome view:

I rocked up to my accommodation with my laptop, phone, heavy manuscript, heavier folder of notes, plot outline poster, enough big paper to make another plot outline poster, an every-colour-in-the-rainbow set of highlighters, sticky notes galore, enough food to eat non-stop all day when frustration set in, wine when the food didn’t deal with the frustration, comfy clothes, and sport shoes to go for that run I secretly knew was never gonna happen.

Yep, I rocked up to my accommodation, took one look at the view, and thought, I’m doomed. THAT’S gonna be too distracting.

Now carving out a decent slab of time to write is never easy in my household, but writing with this view right outside my window? Now I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but had my husband not thought things through when he booked somewhere so…lovely? Would I be more productive if I stayed somewhere with a view much less distracting? Like somewhere facing a brick wall? Okay, that’s not the best example. Made me think of the proverbial brick wall that I had a good chance of hitting on this retreat…but you get what I’m saying. Don’t you?

Turns out the view did prove to be distracting. But in a good way. It became my meditation tool, my focus when I needed to clear my head and solve one of the (many) manuscript problems I came away to, well, solve.

Lemme explain.

See that boat in the middle of the picture, in front of all the other boats? It’s gentle bobbing on the water helped me trim my lengthy Act One. And that palm tree on the left? The rustling of its fronds calmed me when I hit a supporting character roadblock. And a dog that swam between the boats will never know how much his antics helped me seamlessly move from one plot point to the next without…dare I say, drowning.

The view was soothing, carthartic, like a yoga child’s pose without the threat of banging your forehead on the floor. It gave me something to look at when I was fed up with looking at my laptop screen, my manuscript, my notes. I looked at the view without really looking at it, my eyes on the landscape while my mind mulled over writing issues. Without panicking.

And it WORKED.

I re-ordered scenes, improved character motivations, and even came up with a juicy new plot twist. I improved my story.

And while I came away from my DIY retreat without achieving everything I wanted – who does? – I did solve some big-picture issues with the help of nature’s picture in front of me.

Distracting in a good way.

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