I had a novel to revise (and also type up) and a noisy house. So I drove to a cabin in the woods.
The Highlights Foundation offers year-round workshops for kidlit writers and illustrators on its campus, the former home of the founders of Highlights magazine. It also offers Unworkshops: You can stay there a few days without registering for a formal workshop, so you can get some creative work done, and they’ll provide meals and snacks.
The last time I tried to do a DIY writing retreat, I ran into two problems. One, at some point you have to flee the hotel room so the staff can clean. And two, you end up eating alone in restaurants. I don’t mind bringing a book to dinner, but it did look a little weird when I was surrounded by couples on dates. An Unworkshop solved both problems, because no one bothers you. You don’t even have to socialize with other people during meals, if you’re feeling especially introverted or time-crunched (although I did end up socializing after all). You can stay in your little cabin and get work done.
The cabin was quiet, the scenery outside was gorgeous, I had a desk and constant coffee. And now I have a manuscript.
Some notes on the experience, if a cabin creativity retreat interests you:
- You will be driving up country roads to get there. Several will be gravel. Drive carefully.
- Beware of bears (didn’t see any), and also ticks (didn’t see them either).
- The staff is incredibly nice and will introduce you around to whoever’s there.
- The internet is spotty. Hey, you’re in the country.
- Seriously, it’s pretty outside. Take a walk.
But the best thing the campus offers is quiet free time to get things done. Never feel like you need to earn that, or you’re not at a point in your career where you ”deserve” it. Camp out at the library, find a diner booth, DIY it like I did and get a hotel room somewhere. But take the time. You’ll be a better writer or artist for it.