Hi guys! I just got home from a self-constructed writing retreat with two of my best writing buddies. Before I get back into the normal of groove of things today, I thought I would share with you all some of the things I learned on my little trip.
And if you haven’t yet, writers especially, please go read my guest blog at Writer Unboxed! Okay, here we go…
Lesson #1: My “ergonomic” keyboard is useless if I don’t use it right.
If you work at a computer, take a moment to look at your desk. Now think about your body. What hurts? My bet: neck, shoulders, wrists, and forearms, plus possibly back, knees, and even ankles.
I thought I was doing pretty good. I mean, I have an ergonomic keyboard, a foot rest, and my screen raised up on a stand. But I was still having pain.
Three day retreat, with five times my normal daily word count, and I was almost pain free. The difference? The table I was using and my positioning on that table. I had my laptop propped up on a binder and pushed back about two feet away from the edge. That way, my forearms were resting on the desk. That this could make such a difference had never even occurred to me.
My lesson: Experiment until I find what feels the best.
Lesson # 2: I have been setting my daily word count goal way too low.
Everyone has different word count goals because everyone has different circumstances in which they write. Some people have three day-jobs and can only write on the weekends. Others, like me, work at home all day writing. So this isn’t about my specific numbers; those are irrelevant. It’s about goals.
When I’m not working on a first draft of a novel (which makes my word count go up drastically because I like to pound them out), my daily word count goal is 1,000 words. That can include poetry, short stories, or whatever (blogs don’t count), but I try to hit that minimum five days a week.
At this retreat, I did 5,000 words a day. That’s FIVE TIMES my daily goal. And it wasn’t even difficult! What the spelunking?! I know retreats are different than real life. I mean, there really isn’t anything to do but write, so it’s easy to have a higher output, but still. Adjust that number for paying bills, cleaning up cat vomit, and buying groceries, and I could still easily double my previous goal.
My lesson: I had gotten comfortable with where I was and never moved up. I was being too easy on myself.
Lesson # 3: Brains need food too.
So crazy output is great, as long as you don’t feel like a steaming pile of zombie brain at the end of the day. At the end of my first 5,000 word day, I was so tired I couldn’t even think. As I lied in bed wondering how just sitting at a desk and thinking could be so tiring, it hit me: I was doing five times my normal output and eating less food.
I mean, all I was doing was typing. Who needs a big lunch when they’re sitting still all day? But the thing is that even brains need fuel. The next day I did the same output, but was conscious to have small snacks every couple of hours. I was still tired at the end of the day, but I didn’t feel like a brain zombie.
My lesson: higher productivity requires higher energy input.
Lesson #4: The world doesn’t end when you don’t have internet.
Really. It was still there when I got back.
(I know, I was kind of surprised too.)
My lesson: It’s okay to unplug.
Lesson #5: My friends are the best.
I mean, look at them! They speak of movies, boobies, books, and awesomesauce.
This is Addley. She has excessively loud sneezes.
This is Febe. She helps me rate Addley’s excessively loud sneezes on a scale of 1 to 10.
My lesson: writing with friends is only about a thousand times better than writing alone. Bonus: free brainstorming sessions!
Lesson #6: Beautiful views are not so much seen as felt.
You must feel it here *taps heart*, not here *taps head*.
We were lucky enough to have a gorgeous, brand new vacation house to go to for free. (Thank you to Addley’s Aunt Susan!) There was a whole wall of windows overlooking a lovely view of a part of the Colorado River. I looked at it, of course. I stared at it. I went out on the deck and mused over it. And then I got to work.
Did I need the view to write? No. When I was actually actively writing, I didn’t even glance at the view. But the strange thing – the really magical thing that makes retreats totally worth it – is that I could feel the view as I wrote. It was like a peaceful, inspiring, but invisible blanket tucked in around me. I didn’t need to look. I knew it was there.
My lesson: Hold this retreat feeling in my heart as long as I can, and get to work.Share this: