The Benefits of Attending a Writing Retreat

Wouldn’t it be nice to spend time cultivating your craft of writing in a professional academic setting? Can you imagine a getaway filled with writing workshops, exercises, and peer-editing sessions? A writing retreat may be the answer to your wish. “Research shows that personal creative writing is good for our well-being. Living with the uncertainty of a global pandemic has affected all of us. Writing things down is an effective way to process and release difficult emotions and to cultivate resilience.”

This blog is about the various opportunities to improve your writing skills, as a student, academic, or professional, by attending writing retreats. There are other ways to improve your writing as well. One way is to use the writing platform where you can get affordable proofreading, editing, and feedback on your writing. We do what we do, through this platform, the YouTube channel, and blog site because we know there are so many students and young professionals out there who want to hone their writing and research skills, and simply need an affordable solution. We also provide community and moral support!  Read more about the writing support platform here (You are going to think it is very cool)

This post was written by Rachel Simmons, BA (freelance writer) and Dr. Stephanie A. Bosco-Ruggiero (PhD in Social Work) on behalf of Dr. Dave Maslach for the R3ciprocity project (check out the YouTube Channel or the writing feedback software). R3ciprocity helps students, faculty, and researchers by providing an authentic look into PhD and academic life and how to be a successful researcher. For over four years the project has been offering advice, community, and encouragement to students and researchers around the world.

What is a writing retreat?

Created by academics, authors, film writers, and professional scientists, writing retreats are dedicated to writing, brainstorming, and editing elements of writing projects; they can be solo retreats but most often are in group settings with individual work time available. Complete another chapter of your novel, create gravitating blog articles, or finish that short story or poem so you can apply to a contest, present at spoken word night, or submit to a catalog, book, or website. 

Many writing retreats specifically cater to professionals, students, professors, and casual writers and there are tons to find, learn about and attend. Just as there are various types of writers, there are different types of retreats for those writers. Write fiction in front of mountain views at Rocky Mountain Fiction Retreat, at the beautiful Franciscan Retreat Center in Colorado Springs. Develop your self-help or research based non-fiction book or blog at the Mountainside Nonfiction Retreat, in Blue Mountain, North Carolina. Improve your research paper, dissertation writing, and academic skills at the Artisa academic and art retreat. Founded and led by scientists, psychologists, and doctors, Artisa takes both students and professionals on a journey to Italy or Greece to expand their writing abilities. 

Take advantage of the opportunity to travel and be productive with writing retreats, or build a strong-nit small community of friends and colleagues. Some writing retreats cater to groups of people who want to meet and feel supported by others like them. For example, there are writing retreats for emerging women, LGBTQ and queer communites such as the writing residency writer’s retreat organized by Lambda Literary

Why a writing retreat?

Whether you choose to travel to a foreign country or stay in the comfort of your own home, a writing retreat has the power to change your life as a writer. You will grow your perspective and learn crucial skills that will help you blossom as a writer. A retreat can also take you to the next level in your blog creation, book publishing, or Ph.D. dissertation research paper. Also known as a writer’s retreat, these events promote creativity, motivation, and confidence. A writer has the opportunity to improve their writing and/or begin a new project on a solid foundation. 

Because at every retreat you are in charge of your own work, this is your time to focus your attention on an area where you need improvement such as language structure or story flow. Be brave enough to push yourself and go for it on an idea you have been hesitant about. A retreat is a safe space for trial and error to occur and where the proper feedback is provided in return. 

Are there “writer’s” conferences? 

The difference between a conference and a retreat is that during a conference you will be mostly asked to listen to speakers and presentations, whereas at a retreat you will be mostly asked to work and create. Retreats engage academics and professionals and encourage them to focus only on writing endeavors. Everything else in life is on a pause during a retreat. It is a time to reflect, hear that voice in your head, and seek clarity. Research and conversations are also incorporated throughout many of these retreats to motivate and help generate ideas, concepts, and stories. However, doing a solo retreat will evidently provide you with the most time alone and in silence. 

Additionally, there are writing seminars, classes, and symposiums. The latter is a celebration and promotion of a writer’s works. Writing seminars and classes can be beneficial for crafting a style of writing over a longer period of time as some classes are over a year or several months. Retreats are an opportunity to get advice from multiple authors and one on one consultations that classes lack. Writing classes can foster great writing habits by having students engage in a  repetitive cycle of various writing techniques. Many colleges even require undergrads to take a first year writing course. Here are some tips for undergrads on college level writing. 

For those of you in graduate school, especially if you’ve been out of school for some time, you will probably want to visit your writing center or take an academic writing boot camp, tutorial, or class, if one is offered. We all get rusty with specific types of writing when we have not engaged in it for a while. Here are some writing tips for grad students specifically: 

At we strive to provide students and professionals at all levels with writing tips and support for writers and researchers of any kind. Read this blog for tips on becoming a better writer and to learn more about the R3ciprocity editing platform. 

Do colleges or universities host writing retreats?

If you are enrolled in a university for undergraduate or graduate work, your university probably hosts a writing retreat for students. Although these retreats are more common at the graduate and Ph.D. levels, universities like Princeton have a 6 hour per day writing retreat for undergraduate students within the Gender and Sexuality Studies department. Research the English department or Alumni affairs to see what your school has to offer in terms of programing. 

You may be wondering if such programs and university-run retreats have a more open or competitive application process. Odds are that if you already go to a competitive college, this application process will be competitive as well. Some ways to be prepared and competitive are to have a clear idea, research plan, and strong realization of your thesis topic. Most of the programs are looking to aid students to further their academic goals; show the decision board what your goals are and how the retreat can help you achieve them. 

For example, Vanderbilt University has a program open to all graduate and Ph.D. students writing a dissertation. The application is actually very short and only requires describing your dissertation topic and project in depth. Other institutions of higher learning, such as UC San Diego, have made writing retreats more available and accessible during the recent years by starting online retreats where resources are digital and the groups meet over video conference. This virtual retreat, like many others with this format,  are first come first serve and do not require an application. 

As a student, you have lots of opportunities to write. If writing is a passion of yours that you would like to expand your knowledge and skill set then research writing retreat through your school or other programs and try one out. You might also think about forming a writer’s collective or club. Watch this vlog for ideas about starting a writing club for your grad school program: 

Many universities and colleges also offer writing retreats to support and foster academic and professional writing endeavors of professors and faculty. Tulane University offers one-day retreats where professors can build on writing projects in a quiet and motivational environment. Surrounded by colleagues, these writing retreats offer plenty of opportunity for networking across disciplines and peer reviewing. This year Tulane offered a virtual retreat via Zoom. 

Stanford University also has a Faculty Writer’s Retreat, usually held in The Hume Center for Writing and Speaking, that is being held virtually this year in 2021. While the participants work on their writing projects, they are strongly encouraged to switch off email, phone, and texts to cultivate a quiet and distraction-free space. According to their web page, “The session starts with a brief check-in on writing goals for the week, and ends by reviewing  accomplishments and writing plans after the retreat. Brief workshops on specific writing concerns are offered if participants are interested.” There is an application to submit in order to be considered for the retreat. 

How should I prepare for a retreat?

Write, write, write on paper, in a journal, on your phone or computer. Write anywhere. It is good to get comfortable with your writing style and the activity of putting words together. Practicing writing before a retreat, you will feel more confident when you are prompted to write in a workshop. With more and more programs offering scholarships and virtual sessions, finances should not be a prohibitive factor in attending a retreat. All you need is a comfortable space, a motivated attitude, and writing materials. Unless you would like to travel and attend an overnight retreat, there are affordable opportunities to develop your writing. 

The night before the retreat make sure to get enough sleep and rest, pack your bags or prepare your writing space ahead of time. Make time to visualize yourself at the destination and imagine yourself completing your writing goals. These techniques can also be useful when you are trying to get a writing project done in any setting. Although retreats are “highly functional, most books are written from home, at the office, at the kitchen table, at a local coffee shop, etc.”

Where are the best writing retreats?

There are retreats all over the world. Research a country you are interested in visiting and you will find a retreat for you. The Write Life has created a list of over 50 retreats worldwide. If expanding your worldview and experiencing new cultures sparks ideas for you then traveling to attend a retreat might be for you. The Cairns Tropical Writers Festival is a 4-day retreat located on Mission Beach in the Queensland region of Australia. “Both new writers and established writers are encouraged to participate due to the combination of writing and storytelling workshops, gentle yoga, mindfulness and sound healing sessions.” 

Tripadvisor is a great resource for ratings and reviews of international retreats such as this Indian Summer House retreat at a luscious boutique hotel in Southern India as well as this 10-day Himalayan writers retreat in Indian Himalayas “covering all aspects, from the science and craft of writing, to getting published.” 

If you are looking to stay local and build community here in the United States there is a great writing retreat in South Carolina called the Watering Hole winter retreat. This retreat is aimed at providing more publishing opportunities for writers of color. This community building retreat is composed of poets and requires submitting 3 poems and a cover letter to apply. 

There also are writing retreats that focus on specific genres of writing, or specific types of cultural or ethnic writing. There are writing retreats for those who enjoy reading and writing African-American literature. Another example, highlighting Asian American literature, the nonprofit organization, Kundiman partners with Fordham University to host a retreat for 36 participants who are interested in Asian American poetry. 

The bottom line

Whether you attend a one day writing retreat, a multi-week retreat, or one at home or abroad, there are few drawbacks to attending a writing retreat, seminar, or conference. All of us can improve our writing, and the break from the daily grind will revitalize you. A writing retreat can be quite introspective or a place to meet like-minded writers. 

Stephanie will never forget attending a sleepaway writing retreat in the Hamptons on Long Island when she was a tween. We went to the beach, attended creative writing readings, worked on our own writing, and met other young people who also loved to write. It was an amazing experience for a young person. So, don’t only consider a writing retreat for yourself, consider sending your tweens or teens to a writing retreat as well if they love to write! 

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