Don’t Go to the Woods

You don’t need a writer’s retreat. You need a vacation.

We’ve all thought about it. Anyone who’s ever wanted to write a book has fantasized dropping out of society and retreating into nature, or at least solitude, to write.

Just imagine—the birds chirping, the fresh scent of pine trees. 

(The lumpy mattress in your temporary twin bed. That weird smell coming from the drain in your bathroom. The spooky wind whistling through a crack in the window frame while you’re trying to sleep.)

As one of my followers pointed out on a recent Instagram post, it can be tough to find the time to write. Most of our jobs take a lot out of us. There are not enough hours to take care of everything we need to do, and often we don’t have the energy to create the kind of work we’re proud of.

That is exactly why you shouldn’t flee into the woods and expect it to save you.

Years ago I went on a weekend getaway. Not to the woods—I watch too many horror movies to enjoy that—but just to spend some time on my own. Working on a thriller I’d been thinking about for a while was definitely part of my plan. I spent a few hours walking around the city, then retired to my temporary home in some nice couple’s addition to write.

Wanna know what I actually did?

I watched documentaries about cults and drank craft beer.

Judge away, but the fact was I was exhausted. It was December. My work had drained so much of my energy over the past couple years that there wasn’t a drop of creativity in my veins. Frankly, it’s a miracle I didn’t just hole up in the little loft bedroom and cry.

Yeah, I needed to be alone. That part was awesome. But write, I did not.

If you’re a burnt out participant of a high-stress economic environment, like most of us are, taking time off to go write in a beautiful place sounds like a dream come true. 

If you’ve got a couple weeks or more, then by all means, go ham on that book. 

Or maybe you’ve just got the superhuman focus to snap straight into writing mode as soon as you plop into a rustic arm chair. And in that case, you’re probably the type who can call on that focus wherever you are, you lucky duck. 😉

But for most of us, dropping out for a long enough time to both breathe and get into a good writing groove just isn’t realistic. We have neither the time nor the money to fork over for AirBnb cleaning fees (because that’s where they get you).

So if you’ve just got just a few days to relax, then relax. It’s going to do you much more good than if you spent the entire time trying to force yourself to write, or heaping guilt upon yourself for not writing. 

Go for a hike. Feed a duck some frozen peas. Read that novel you’ve put on the backburner because it feels too frivolous to bring into your daily life. Take a real break, look at the world around you, and let it teach you a thing or two. 

More than anything, that’s going to be what helps you be a better writer when you go back to the “real world.”

Want to get started? Book a 15-minute chat with Emily!