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Last week I did something truly delightful: I went on a four-day writing retreat. It sounds so luxurious, doesn’t it? Before you get too carried away imagining a long weekend of spa treatments sandwiched between spurts of blogging, do note that it was definitely a working trip. I worked on my book proposal from the time I arrived on Friday evening until the last few moments of editing with the car packed late Tuesday morning. I did take one writing break to go to the grocery store once, and another to, well, write a story that was on deadline. No massages. No hottubs.

But regardless of the nose-to-grindstone nature of the getaway, when I finished, I felt

I needed to get away to finish a project. Not a bad choice of locations, no? Indian River, Michigan.

like I was walking away with far more than just a completed book proposal. Taking the time to physically remove myself from my regular writing routine and get into a new, albiet temporary, one turned out to be really beneficial in a number of surprising ways.

  • Getting caught up In addition to the writing assignments I receive that are due at wildly varying dates and times, I have weekly deadlines. In order to get away from a Friday afternoon through a Tuesday afternoon, I had to get one week done early and be prepared to start the next a little late. I also hammered out (almost) all of my feature assignments so everything was closed out before I left. When you live in a world where various assignments are always at various stages of completion, it’s difficult to ever savor finishing one, as one deadline quickly follows the other. For this occasion, however, I got everything done. It was the first time in years that I felt done. For a few minutes.
  • Mono-tasking Because everything else was done and all I had to do was focus on my book proposal, my brain got a break from multi-tasking. Now, would a break from tasking completely have been nice? Sure. Someday I’ll be reintroduced to a beach and I’ll remember what that’s like. But to go from constant multi-tasking to only thinking about one thing for four days was amazing. It felt like giving my brain a chance to wring itself out and relax and function like it’s supposed to. It. Was. Awesome.
  • This is pretty much how it went: Gunshy was worn out after the morning romp, and Lois always needed to know what was next.

    Doing one non-writing thing well  Of course I didn’t drive five hours north to stay in a cabin completely alone for four days. I had my furry foot soliders with me for protection. Lois and Gunshy needed the getaway as well. Our oversized puppies are always great sports about our busy schedules at home, but they loved the chance to run around the huge yard, take long walks, bark at each other at all decibels and go overboard on the treats. As they were my only non-writing responsibility for the entire time, it was food for my heart to give them the space, time and attention to have all that fun.

  • Finishing something important  Large projects just don’t happen quickly. It took me three years to write my book, and that included many month-long hiatuses when other priorities arose. As I tried to get started on the proposal several times before my retreat, I realized the same would be true of this large undertaking. If I wanted to get it done this year and get it done well, drastic action needed to be taken. And it was. And it’s done. To have the kind of life that can facilitate that is to know how lucky a person you are.
  • A new perspective  I write every day. I love, let’s say, mostof it. I do nearly all of it

    Not my regular working space, but one I could definitely get used to.

    from my couch, the cushy reclining chair or my desk. These three locations are all within the same five yard radius and have the exact same view. Though I work well that way, there’s really nothing like working from a new angle to make you feel rejuvenated – particularly when that new angle is looking out over a quiet Northern Michigan landscape. There’s really nothing better.

And now I’m home and back to work. Everything is back on the upswing, but I feel better all over. My brain feels juicier. The dogs are happier. This spot on the couch where I’m sitting this moment is cozier. Remind me in six months when the opposite of all these things are true that I really need to pick a project and retreat. No matter what the project is, all of my other work will definitely benefit from the time away.

 

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