Do-it-yourself online writing retreat

The writing life can be a tad isolating, so a few years back, I started my own writing forum, Procrastination, as a way of keeping my treasured friends-who-also write close as we grew further and further apart geographically. We’re a small board; maybe five of us post regularly, with only three or so more than that who pop in every couple of months. We’ve even taken to (most years) meeting up for the community-building/inspiration-boosting/writing-celebration of them all–the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

Then this year at SiWC, late Saturday night, missing one of our Procrastinators who couldn’t make the conference, feeling sad and a bit blown away that our wonderful weekend was almost over again already, we started discussing (or maybe bellyaching, just a bit ;-)) how Surrey gives us energy/motivation for our whole writing year, and how the conference never arrived a moment too soon . . . In fact, wouldn’t it be great if we could afford do two a year–SiWC, plus some other retreat or something six months or so later?

Enter fantastic brain wave! It occurred to us that we already had a perfect meet-up place, and instead of just using it as a message/conversation board, as fun and valuable as that is, why not use it for something a little more planned out. An online writing retreat! Our set up was simple.

I created a private thread (only people who had signed up ahead of time could see the thread when they entered Procrastination.) On the set day, at a set time, we each posted one exercise. Then we spent that full day, plus one more day writing according to our own schedules. On the third day, again at a set time, we each posted our results to each exercise (with no disclaimers about perceived quality, etc). Everyone who signed up committed to reading and responding to each participant’s posts. The result was fantastic–much better than we’d even anticipated in terms of fun, inspiration, and concentrated, results-based motivation.

We all came away a bit in awe that we could write so much in such a short time period–and that a lot of it was “keeper” material, stuff we wanted to do more with, possibly lengthen, possibly tighten and polish and submit as short stories.

Seeing as it was such a success, and how (for now) our ability to take in bigger conferences/retreats is limited to annually, we decided to make it a seasonal event–our spring writing retreat is just around the corner; I’m already excited and brainstorming what exercise I’ll offer.

If you’re part of a small online writing community and feeling a bit low energy in the ol’ writing department, I highly recommend organizing some form of your own online writing retreat. And if you don’t have that kind of online community, but long for a bit of a writing extravaganza/refuelling? Well, come visit me here again soon. A while back I did a writing retreat for one and I’ll post a bit about that in a few days.

Happy writing!
:) Ev

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About Ev Bishop

Ev Bishop is a writer, editor and workshop facilitator, living in beautiful Terrace, British Columbia. Her works appear in a variety of publications and she writes in many formats and genres. She loves Barbara Kingsolver's belief that "There is no perfect time to write.... There is only now," and has modified it to be her own motto: Write here. Write now. View all posts by Ev Bishop

8 responses to “Do-it-yourself online writing retreat

  • jenniferneri

    It’s a great idea, Ev!
    I have never done a writing retreat, but always wanted to/ plan on one day!

  • Ev Bishop

    Dear Jennifer,

    Oh, you really should do one/attend one someday. They are very affirming, motivating and FUN. :)

  • Laura Best

    It’s obvious you had a great time, Ev.

    Like Jennifer, I’ve never attended a writing retreat. Just too many other obligations. At least that’s what I tell myself…

  • Jen B

    I’m so thankful for the fantastic brain wave! And looking forward to the retreat. :)

  • Ev Bishop

    Dear Laura,

    Oh, you should definitely add “must do a conference or a retreat” to your list of obligations!
    :)

  • Ev Bishop

    Dear Jen,

    I laughed when I wrote “fantastic brain wave” too. :)

    The retreat is gonna be great!

  • Jodi Cleghorn

    Ev this is a brilliant idea… I’m here via Jen. We build an interconnected anthology every year and something like this would be a wonderful idea for us to do, maybe ‘off season’ as all our 22 writers live at distance from each other and do not necessarily have access to a writers group etc.

    Anything which brings writers together and gets them writing is beneficial.

  • Ev Bishop

    Dear Jodi,

    Thanks for coming by. I hope you visit again–and I definitely hope you follow through with an online retreat of your own. The two I’ve taken part in have been fantastic; I think your 22 writers would love it.

    “Anything which brings writers together and gets them writing is beneficial.”

    Absolutely!

    And speaking of which, your interconnected anthology idea is awesome. I’m totally fascinated/intrigued by the how it comes together and all these separate, individual voices link to create a cohesive work. So cool.

    Happy writing,
    Ev

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