Do You Need a Writer’s Retreat?
We freelance writers are bombarded with distractions: e-mail, blogs, social media sites — the entire Internet — along with phone calls, visitors, family, pets, and more. It’s difficult to get our writing done.
My solution? Get away from it all by heading out into mountains to focus on completing my writing assignments and projects.
My Writer’s Retreat: I Go Camping
I personally prefer camping. I go way out into the forest far from any actual campground and find a level spot with good shade. I take a comfortable folding chair, a folding table, any necessary work/research materials, and my laptop. I have a device that converts the DC electricity from my car battery’s cigarette lighter into AC current to run my laptop directly, or to just charge the battery, so I can write as much as I want.
There’s no Internet and often no cell phone reception. In short, nothing to distract me except nature.
Another Writer’s Retreat Option: A Cabin in the Woods
If camping is bit too rough for you, consider a writer’s retreat in a cabin. There are many places scattered around the United States and the world where you can rent a cabin cheaply. Some places specifically cater to writers and artists. You might also know someone who has a cabin or isolated home where you can house-sit.
Don’t Have the Time for Camping or a Cabin in the Woods?
You can also do this for just an afternoon by going to the forest or a park or picnic area, or any place you will be relatively undisturbed and will be in nature. Just be sure that you don’t have Internet access and your cell phone and any other electronic devices are turned off, and that you are in a beautiful and tranquil spot.
Key Considerations, Especially for Campers…
1. Be prepared for the weather. (Check the forecast.)
2. Be prepared for insects if you plan to write outside. In many places mosquitoes can be a major problem. You can use repellent or you can set up your table and chair inside a tent. Ants can also distract you and potentially bite you. Place your chair carefully. Make sure you are away from both ant mounds and ant trails.
3. Bring a comfortable chair, but also one that won’t sink into the dirt once you sit in it.
4. The folding table must be large enough to hold your computer and any reference materials.
5. For both the table and chair, pay attention to proper ergonomics as best as you can.
6. You can usually camp for free on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands. Get detailed maps and advice from your local office. You want a level spot that you can access easily with your vehicle. I find that heading down smaller dirt roads off main dirt roads is the best bet.
7. Make sure you have adequate food, water, clothing, and shelter.
8. Tell someone where you’ll be and for how long.
My 2009 Camping and Writing Getaway
In July of 2009 I spent several days camping, writing, and exploring in the mountains above the Middle Fork of the Sacramento River west of Mount Shasta. Here’s my campsite…
And here’s my beautiful golden retriever Molly taking a swim in the little creek right next to the campsite. (Molly passed away in 2010, last summer, at the age of 14. You can read my tribute to her here.)
And here’s a view of Mount Shasta…
A bear story. Molly and I took a hike up the dirt road by the camp. I looked across a meadow and saw what I thought was a black SUV driving slowly. A few seconds later I realized it was a humongous black bear and that my perspective was a little off. On the way back to our campsite, we heard very loud crashing in brush 50 feet to our left — another bear, although we couldn’t see it.
I’m Off Camping and Writing Right Now…
I’m writing lecture outlines for a college-level science textbook, a project that’s due this Friday. I’m leaving this afternoon (Monday) to camp in the mountains west of my home near Mount Shasta, California, and I won’t be back until Wednesday. I’m looking forward to reading all your comments when I get back.
Just returned and the camping trip was just what I needed. Here’s what I did:
- Recharged my mental and physical batteries.
- Got even more work done on my science textbook lecture outlines project than I had expected.
- Did at least an hour of tai chi every day.
- Saw the waning gibbous moon rise both nights.
- Looked at the stars with my binoculars.
- Did a six-mile hike, some of it cross-country, to Chipmunk Lake.
- Saw two very large bears together on said hike: one black and one cinnamon. As usual, by the time I get my camera out, the bears went behind some trees.
Have you ever taken your laptop out into the woods to get some writing done? Did you camp? Stay in cabin? Any suggestions to add here?