Why Have Write Ins and Writing Retreats?

Some members of my local RWA® chapter have been having “Write Ins.” Members within an area (Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, etc.) are notified that there will be a Write In at a restaurant or coffee shop on a specific day at a specific time. Those who want to attend will then arrive at the specified location, set up their laptops, pads of paper, or whatever they need to start writing, will get a beverage or something to eat, and will begin writing.

Of course, greetings are shared at the beginning, when people arrive, but this is not a social time. It is a writing time. And that’s what they’ll do for whatever amount of time they have. (Write Ins usually last two or three hours and are held twice a month.) There might be a few who do gather together to discuss a plotting problem or something about their writing, but they position themselves away from the “actually writing writers.”

There’s another group in Michigan (I’m not sure if they have an official title) who have been holding Writing Retreats twice a year (one in the spring and one in the fall). These occur at a motel/hotel where those participating reserve a room, generally at a slightly reduced rate. The writers check in on a Friday afternoon, get settled in their rooms, and then gather for dinner. During dinner the writers get to know each other, share their problems or concerns (which may or may not have anything to do with writing) and simply relax. Then it’s back to the motel and to their rooms to write. (Or a few may break off and meet in one room to discuss life as a writer.) Saturday is spent writing with a few breaks for meals and conversation. Sunday, it’s eat, write, and finally check out of the motel and return home.

So why are writers leaving their homes and doing these write ins and retreats?

I can’t speak for all, but I know when I’m away from home, even if I’m in a busy coffee shop, I can block out everything but my writing. I don’t feel I need to put a load of wash in or make the bed. If there’s a noise in the motel’s hallway, I don’t care (unless it’s a fire alarm). I know it’s not my dog getting into something he shouldn’t. Away from my house, I don’t notice the dust that’s built up on my desk, or the dirt on the floor. I can ignore that nagging feeling I should clean the bathroom, and I’m not interrupted by my husband’s, “Honey, could you help me with this?” or “I’m not interrupting, am I?

For two hours or two days I concentrate on my writing. And when I do take a break, I have an opportunity to talk to other writers.

Personally I like the idea, I just wish I could participate more often.

If you’re interested, you might look into some other Write Ins and Writing Retreats

Nano Write In       nano_12_new_Come_Write_In_Logo1

Live in New York? Here’s an idea.

Gotham Write-Ins

And if you have the money, here are some delicious sounding ones

2014 Best Writing Retreats

And if you want more information about the Writers’ Retreat in Michigan, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the person in charge.

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18 Responses to Why Have Write Ins and Writing Retreats?

  1. Diane Burton says:

    I haven’t participated in the Write Ins for a couple of reasons. Since I live at least a half hour from a gathering, that means an hour or more of lost writing time while driving. And I have a supportive spouse who leaves me alone to write. Yes, all the things you mentioned (laundry, dust, etc.) are here, too, but I have such tunnel vision when I write that I don’t “see” the work that should be done. That being said, I wish I lived closer to the Write In locations.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Diane, I, too, wish I lived close to the Write In locations. I did participate in one Writing Retreat and was amazed by how much I accomplished that weekend, even though I’d had a month when my husband wasn’t around. The difference was my focus. At home I couldn’t control the external events.

  2. Connie Bretes says:

    I haven’t participated in the Write Ins because of the distance and because I don’t really have the problem of having quiet time to write. However, I fully support the idea for those who really benefit from it. I also agree that there are interruptions such as laundry, dishes, cats wanting attention, etc. and usually my husband is pretty good about not disturbing me. I just block it out. I’d be interested in doing a write in if there was one in Jackson, because I think the connection would be very helpful, but, I’ll be moving out west by the end of summer so I’d only get to participate a few times. Interesting blog, Maris.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Connie, I hope you find a great critique group once you’re settled in your new location. I find reading my work aloud to others and getting their feedback better than simply quietly writing with other writers.

  3. I participate in weekly online write-ins but I wish I lived close enough to attend the in-person ones. I can ignore laundry and dust, but my hubby keeps the television on ALL DAY LONG. He also likes to go out for lunch and doesn’t consider the hour it takes to go somewhere and eat as an interruption. I guess I need to invest in a really good pair of headphones.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Patty, please explain how an Online Write In works. Do you each check in and promise to work uninterrupted for a certain amount of time or what? And at the end of that period of time, do report how much you accomplished or what?

  4. Melissa Keir says:

    I haven’t done any of the write-ins and while they sound like a lot of fun. I do love to have the noise around me at home. Curling up in bed with the puppies or looking over at my hubby while I’m writing that sex scene helps set the mood. 🙂

    • Maris Soule says:

      Hmm, I want to say something about the last line of your comment, Melissa, but I’m not sure how to word it. Basically if that situation set the mood, I probably wouldn’t get any writing done.

  5. I’ve never been to a writing retreat mainly, I guess, because I want to be alone when I’m writing and I can arrange that at home. I can’t imagine writing with other people are around. Perhaps I’m too easily distracted.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Okay, I’m going to be sexist here, Allan, but I think male writers have an advantage over female writers. You can shut the door and ignore what’s going on, most women can’t. I’ve always said I want a wife.

  6. There are so many distractions when we, as females, I might add, are home. Also, someone who works at home seems to be considered, always available simply by being at home. I’ve run into that little issue over and over and over again. Great post, Maris.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Margo, I agree with your “always available” comment. I think it is really difficult for unpublished writers. At least it was for me before people knew I was a “real” writer. Up until then they acted as if I were toying with the idea and certainly could take time to be on a committee or baby sit or something like that.

  7. Peg Cochran says:

    Your comment to Allan is so true. I never interrupt my husband if he’s on his computer (except to call him to dinner) but he comes into my office, sits down on the sofa and expects me to chat even when it’s obvious I’m working. I’d love to go on a writing retreat so I would love more information on that.

  8. Hi Maris, I read your post with great interest. My MWA chapter is in the preplanning stages of a writing retreat, so the link you had to the list of writing retreats was an awesome find for me. It helps for us to have a template.

    I’ve written in all kinds of places, though I generally prefer my office. I have the same issues as others have mentioned – distractions by laundry, etc., but I often find those distractions give me time to work out a sticky problem in the story.

    Thanks for writing on this topic!


  9. Maris Soule says:

    Maggie, I, too, use those distractions to help me think through a problem with the story, and that’s great. It’s when a nagging voice tells me I need to leave the scene I’m writing and start dinner or get the laundry into the dryer that frustrates me. (Sometimes that nagging voice is in my head and sometimes it’s my husband with, “When were you planning dinner?”)

  10. I participated in two write-ins: the first with a couple of chapter members in a bookstore about 45 minutes from my home; the second on the last day of MMRWA’s Retreat from Harsh Reality. Both times I managed to work through sticking points in my manuscript that my critique partner identified and that I knew might present a problem. Being away from the distractions at home, my retired husband chief among them, allowed me to relax and focus on writing. It is freeing to know I won’t hear, “Is this a good time to interrupt you?” I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually screamed, “No!!!” at my husband on one particular occasion. He closed my office door and hid from me. I probably sounded homicidal. I agree that it’s different for women who write at home than it is for men. I still remember a neighbor’s phone call. She asked if she was interrupting anything. I replied that I was writing. She said, “Oh, good. I thought you might be busy.” She then proceeded to inform me of everything going on in the neighborhood. I couldn’t interrupt because she never stopped to breathe. ::groan:: It reminded me of a quote I once read: “A man writing at home is at work; a woman writing at home is available.” Sad but true, which is why write-ins and writers’ retreats are blessings for women.

    • Maris Soule says:

      You said it all, Lana. And I, too, have had those “Oh good, you’re not busy” phone calls. Sometimes I wish I could be rude and just hang up.