Action & Momentum

How to Design an Inspiring Solo Creative Retreat

September 23, 2015

I’ve always loved the idea of doing a writing retreat and have considered doing one several times. But they all seemed to cost more than I wanted to spend and require a lot of faff in terms of transport and logistics. So when I read this post by Sarah Von Bargen a couple of months ago, I knew I’d found the answer. It was perfect timing: I’d just started this website so would be blogging for two. I also knew that I would be packing up and moving abroad at some point in the next couple of months. It would be a great opportunity to get ahead.

Following Sarah’s suggestions, I booked myself into a hotel in Crawley (a grotty town in the south of England) for two nights. During that time, I wrote 3.5 months’ worth of content (including this post—hi from Crawley!). This is going out in September, at which time I’ll be planning something similar for Q4 content. (P.S. I am)

At first, I was skeptical about spending the money—especially to go somewhere so grotty.

But it ended up being the best.

As much as I love my husband, having two nights away by myself was awesome (<– introvert). Getting away from my regular workspace also helped. Even though the surroundings were less than inspiring, I could review and revise my plans with fresh eyes.

The best thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be blog writing: you could do the same for any creative pursuit. Writing a book, doing a website overhaul, doing an end-of-year review.

It could also be something you do with friends, accountability partners or collaborators. This kind of set-up is perfect for anything that benefits from intense, uninterrupted focus.

Here are a few tips for planning your own DIY creative retreat:

1. Go cheap but not too cheap

I intended to opt for the cheapest thing I could find. After reading reviews, however, I figured it was worth paying a little more to find somewhere with a desk (and without bedbugs and mould). Sarah recommended using Hotwire to find a last-minute room. I also found good listings on

2. Travel some distance from home—and preferably somewhere boring

I don’t own a car so I needed somewhere that was close to public transport and had a decent number of hotels (and therefore competitive pricing). It also needed to be somewhere I wouldn’t be tempted to explore—hence the grotty location. The journey wasn’t too long, but it was long enough that I felt like I was taking a trip and making a special occasion out of it.

3. Prep in advance or stay an extra night to do the planning

Planning 3.5 months’ worth of content took time, especially because I was also planning out the content for a brand new website. It took the whole of the first evening to do a (much-needed) overhaul my content planning system and outline everything I wanted to write. You could also do this in advance though and save your retreat time just for writing.

4. No internet

A creative retreat isn’t the same as a vacation (it’s a work-cation). I deliberately chose somewhere with no internet to avoid distractions (looking at you, Facebook).

Think about what you’ll need in advance and make sure you have any print-outs and downloads with you before you. This stops you having to waste time looking for the nearest Starbucks (like I did) because you forgot that super important document.

5. Use a Pomodoro Timer

This is good practice anyway, but especially useful if you’re doing a lot of creating and don’t want to get burned out. I used the longer breaks to go for a walk, stretch, read a book for a few minutes and grab another drink, before getting back into it.

6. Take downtime material

The second night, I had huge trouble sleeping because I worked right up until it was time to go to bed and then felt totally wired (don’t do this). Take some downtime material like an episode or two of your favourite TV show or a book. I avoided hotel TV because I know how easy it is to slip into mindless watching.

The best thing about this kind of retreat is you can make it whatever you want to be. It’s a lovely investment in yourself and your most important projects <3

Have you ever done a DIY creative retreat? Share your suggestions below!

Image: Carli Jean

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How to design your own DIY creative or writing retreat

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