I have a romantic daydream that I like to revisit. In it, I’ve rented/borrowed a small cabin on a high Appalachian ridge. The only traffic is the mail carrier, who comes at two o’clock each day, and the sound of this engine is the only human sound I hear for the entire time I’m at the cabin. I watch the sun rise and melt away the mist from the wrinkles of hollers and hills. I take long walks along the ridge, past cow pastures and through the surrounding forests. And I think–deeply. And most of all, I write. (There’s electricity for a refrigerator, landline phone, and laptop charging–but no cell or wifi service. This is my daydream, I set the rules. Besides, this is Appalachia, so it’s likely the case.) I write until I finish my current novel, then I plot the next two. And if there’s still time, I just write for the unburdened joy of it.
And then I wonder about my dog… Is he with me or back home? If he’s back home, he’s definitely not cooperating with Mr. Smith. Speaking of Mr. Smith, I’d be missing him desperately at the cabin. Maybe he and the dog can come, too. But then it wouldn’t be quiet. Plus that would mean two more diners, so we’d need to plan and bring more meals, and…
…and the daydream fades in this way, yielding to real-life logistics and concerns.
I think I will secure that writing retreat one day. But for now, it’s better to take a writing staycation.
Set the Scene
I love days when I can clear my calendar, stay home, and write all day…or as much of the day as possible. But I do have other tasks around the house that nag at me and fritter my attention. If you’re able to stay home and really settle in to a creative groove, you can have a productive staycation right at your own headquarters. Send the rest of the household on a day of fun, then enjoy having the house to yourself. (My own Mr. Smith works rotating shifts so my staycation coincides with his dayshift.) Plan ahead and arrange no-fuss meals or delivery (using GrubHub, Door Dash, Uber Eats, or your own favorite delivery service), so you won’t have to bother with cooking and washing up dishes.
But if you’re easily sidetracked by the never-ending list of chores or the familiar quicksand of the couch + streaming service, then you may be better off getting out of the house. It’s still a staycation if you stay-put close. It might even feel more like a retreat if you go somewhere special.
I love our West Virginia state parks for impromptu writing retreats. Whether I’m looking for a rustic lodge where I can settle down in front of a fire, or a quiet pavilion beneath a canopy of thick trees, I can find it at a state park. Plus? There’s food nearby 🙂
You might prefer a museum or library. You could even cafe-hop for the whole day. Every two hours or so, move to another cafe or coffeeshop. This allows you to have breaks, stretch your legs, and sample your favorite treats all while staying within your budget and city.
Plot the Project
Before you start your staycation, decide what you want to accomplish. What’s most important to you? If the water pipe beneath your kitchen sink bursts, or you run into that friend of your parents, the one who won’t…stop…talking… What’s the one writing goal you’ve got for the day? I know, we’d all like to finish the WIP in one go, but set a reasonable minimum expectation. It can be a word count, a page count, a submission, an article–whatever you choose. But make sure it’s achievable and reasonable. That way, when you reach that goal, you can relax as you get even more done.
Decide what your smaller goals are, and list them. After you accomplish your main expectation, see how many of these smaller goals you can knock out. If you’re doing the cafe-hop, set milestones or mini-deadlines for yourself. In order to move to the next place, you have to complete four pages, say. If you’re at home, set the timer and don’t let yourself stop until the time’s up. Then set it again and take a short break.
To end your staycation on a satisfying note, plan something at the end of the day that you’ll truly anticipate. Maybe a movie with friends after being alone all day. Reserve a romantic table and arrange to meet your sweetheart for dinner to compare notes on one another’s days. Plan an at-home spa treatment, followed by your favorite book or magazine in bed.
Whatever you choose, let it be something that delights you, something that ushers you into a peaceful night’s rest. Because your brain’s going to keep working on your writing project while you sleep, right? 😉
If you feel like you’ve been stuck on your WIP or that you just haven’t had the time you’d like to devote to it, I hope you’ll decide to take a writing staycation. Give yourself the gift of space and grace to work on your project, and see if it doesn’t feel like the rest of your life steps back a little to show respect for your writing habit.
NOW YOU: Have you ever taken a writing staycation…to write?
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