I am typing very quietly because, on the other side of my hotel suite is a writer working diligently on her novel. A minute ago, so was I. Honest. But I am taking a short break to write my Sunday night blog post.
This week’s topic: A Writers’ Getaway Weekend.
I should amend that to A Successful Writers’ Getaway Weekend. I’ve had a few of the other kind, where I booked a hotel room for a good rate during the offseason and packed up my laptop and work notes and headed out full of piss and vinegar, determined to get 50 new pages written in one weekend.
Yes, 50 new pages. Did I ever actually write that many? No. Not even close.
Here’s why. In the past, my getaway destination was Lancaster, PA, which is close and affordable, and a very nice place that’s kind of a city and kind of a town. The really special thing about Lancaster is the presence of the Amish. I had this idea that the ambiance of hard work and clean living would seep into my consciousness. The Amish’ steadfast work ethic would inspire me to hole up in my room and write without stopping.
But here’s the thing about the Amish. They don’t just toil the fields and ride around in buggies. They bake pies and grow vegetables and sell them at farmers markets; they sew quilts and make handmade furniture that fill local antique and craft shops; they cook scrumptious foods and serve them family style in restaurants. Somehow, in Lancaster, my writer’s weekend always turned into me stomping my work ethic into the ground while I stuffed my face and power shopped.
Not this time. Why? Because this time, I changed locations, and I brought along another writer.
For years (literally), my writer friend Joanne and I said what so many writers say, “Wouldn’t it be great to go away for a weekend sometime and just write.” You know, one of those things you say and never do. But two weeks ago, a newly renovated hotel in Rehoboth Beach emailed me a “shopper’s weekend” special, near the beach, in a suite, for a price that will never happen again. It seemed like an ironic omen to turn the shopper’s weekend into a writing one.
So here we are. Okay, sure, we did a little shopping on the way in, and of course we had to eat, and there may have been a couple of walks in the sand, but there is also a chapter in my novel that is no longer a long boring info dump, and I rewrote some scenes that were full of clutter, and I figured out how to make my protagonist sound less like a talking head while explaining the history of her culture.
Why did I get all of this done this time, when I couldn’t when I was alone? Simple. I may be willing to distract myself, but I refuse to distract another writer who is working. Ergo, I work, too. The more she writes, the more I write.
So here is a recipe for a Successful Writers’ Getaway Weekend, for two:
1. Drive at least one hour to reach your destination. The drive gives you time to brainstorm and gets your creativity in gear.
2. If possible, get a suite. I’m working in the bedroom, she’s in the sitting area. There’s a partition that we can close for more privacy.
3. Bring snacks. Wine. Soft drinks, candy, popcorn. Hard work requires sustenance. Goals deserve rewards.
4. Set realistic goals. Was that 50 new pages ever going to happen, in any location? No. But a couple of revised chapters, and some reworked problem scenes, and 20 new pages over a two day period is not bad. I set a small goal for each period and didn’t stop until I had reached it.
5. Plan the day in increments. Work for a couple of hours, break for lunch. Work in afternoon. Break for dinner. Repeat as necessary.
6. Leave the room to eat and take walks. During these breaks, take turns discussing your work. Talk about what you’ve accomplished so far, and your next goal. Keep your head in your story.
7. Avoid the Amish.
There is it, as simple and sweet as shoo-fly pie. Enjoy!
PS – Here’s where you can find Joanne, but don’t disturb her now; she’s busy writing: