Writing is hard work, especially when you must squeeze it in alongside the daily commitments of employment, relationships, domestic engineering, childrearing and pet wrangling. Sometimes the only way to get anything done is to abandon these commitments altogether! If you find yourself desperate for time away in a place where you can focus solely on writing, you’d do well to investigate options for a writing retreat.

What Makes for a Good Fit?
This past weekend I joined my friends/critique partners for our annual writing retreat overlooking Lake Tenkiller near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. We’ve been meeting at this location for well over a decade, which definitely puts a check in the “Good Fit” column!

Additional reasons this retreat works:
Proximity. Of everyone in our writing group, I live the farthest from Lake Tenkiller, but it’s still less than a three hour drive for me. Sure it would be nice to live closer, but I actually like having this time to get my head in the game AND sing at the top of my lungs.

Inspirational setting with space for working and socializing. I’m fortunate that three of my critique partners have cabins overlooking Lake Tenkiller. There’s space for everyone to work and sleep, plus a large deck for meetings and meals.

Professionalism and Trust. This is a time to work and to celebrate friendship. There’s no pressure to network or sell your product. And we’ve known each other long enough to accept criticism without resentment. Most of the time, anyway! 😉

Play. Long walks, swimming, paddle boarding, and other physical activities provide a break for the brain.

FOOD. Everybody contributes something. I confess this is a challenge for me because I’m not a good cook, but I can manage dessert offerings and snacks.

Don’t have a Writing/Critique group?
Check out these resources for tips on finding your own group:

How to Find the Right Critique Group or Partner for You, by Jane Friedman

How to Start a Writer’s Group, by Marisa Mohi

Critique Partners: What You Need to Know, by Leslie Wibberly

In the Meantime…
It’s probably going to take a while to pull that group together, but the good news is there are options for individual writers to have a writing retreat experience…

Solo retreat:
Over the years I’ve seen various writers leave their families and day job behind in order to hole up in a hotel room to finish a project. This perhaps isn’t the most nurturing option, but it’s there if you really need time alone to get work done. I fully intend to do a solo retreat in the next year, hopefully at nearby St. Francis of the Woods.

Large group retreats:
While they offer more opportunities for discussion, socializing, and networking, large group retreats can be expensive. If funding isn’t a major concern, check out these recommendations:

55 Incredible Writing Retreats to Attend in 2021

Writing Residencies and Retreats to Apply For in 2021

Fascinating Writing Retreats in 2021 to Escape To

Or, there’s this: Introducing the DIY writing retreat

Since we’re already more than halfway through 2021, many of these options will have expired. Use the links as a way to research opportunities that might work for you in the future. You never know, you might meet the perfect critique partners at one of these retreats!

Keep in mind that large retreats can be a little overwhelming for introverted types (like me). It can be exhausting–not to mention distracting–when you’re trying to work, so be sure you have a space all to yourself for writing and thinking.

Larger retreats I have enjoyed:
Madcap Retreats: Writing Retreats & Workshops for aspiring & established authors

Kindling Words (For published authors of children’s literature)

The Writing Barn

If you want to find critique partners but feel overwhelmed and shy, just grab your computer and search for local writing conferences. This is how I met the folks in my group. It doesn’t happen instantly, of course, but if you are genuine and persistent, you’ll find your people.

Whether you retreat solo or with a group, I hope you find a way to put aside daily concerns/obligations and put your full attention toward creating. Good Luck!.

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