Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Enjoying a Writers' Retreat on a Writer's Budget

Oh! It's Tuesday! Where was I yesterday? Recovering from a Writers' Retreat.

Sometimes you just need a jump-start to get you working, and there's not much better than a weekend away surrounded by other writers to get the creativity fires burning.

The early risers enjoy coffee and a
spring morning in the mountains.
Of course, a lot of writers' retreats are week-long getaways, or a couple of hundred dollars. But if you have a group of trusted friends and a weekend, you can do a decent retreat on a budget. We pooled 15 people together to rent a cabin and kept it under $100 each for two nights at a lodge in the mountains. It's not free, but it's a heck of a lot cheaper than most commercial retreats, and most vacations, for that matter.

We let everyone volunteer for a meal and/or beverages and general supplies. It's also a bit of a drive for us, so several sets of people carpooled. A Google Spreadsheet did a lot for us, though if I do again, I've had people suggest doing Forms or other signup methods that force people to sign up for meals and decide whom to room with right off the bat. Having a group of people who all know each other was especially helpful in arranging rides and rooming arrangements. We had a couple of friends-of-members who came, but since we limited to members and friends of members, and no friends-of-friends, everyone had someone they were comfortable around.

If you're within driving distance of the NC mountains, the
Davis Family Lodge is a great for a writers' getaway.
I did learn a few things from being the sucker coordinator in charge of planning, like charge as if a couple fewer people are going to show up than have planned to do so if you don't want to stress before the event itself trying to fill last-minute spots, and also that having a great group of friends really makes it possible to relax. There's a lot of things that could have gone wrong, but as everyone who went was responsible, easy-going, and invested in the trip, nothing did and I didn't feel like I had to worry about much.

Want to plan a writers' retreat yourself? A money-saving hint: go off-season. You're writing, not partying, so the weather isn't that important anyway. Look for a place with comfy sofas, a nice kitchen, enough sleeping spaces for everyone, and plenty of outlets; nearby attractions aren't very important. In fact, distractions are what you're trying to get away from, so a place out in the middle of nowhere is ideal. (Okay, the hot tub was a bit of a distraction, but a nice one, and everyone still got lots of writing done anyway!)
Lots and lots of comfy seats, indoors and out,
helped make sure everyone could focus.

I skimmed through VRBO to find a good place. Do note that a lot of places charge flat fees in addition to than the listed price, such as rental insurance and cleaning fees at the end of the stay--make sure you read the whole description so you know what deal you'll be paying. It may still be an excellent rate even with the extra fees, so don't let those deter you--just know they exist and will probably up the price listed.
A lot of retreats are run to make a profit for the hosting group, and for the most part those sound pretty amazing. But it's also possible to just get a bunch of friends together for a weekend in the mountains, at a rate you'd spend for a single night at a hotel. The keys are communication and having a group you know you can trust.

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