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Writing: How to Gain Inspiration from Writers’ Retreats Abroad

Headshot of indie author and musician Jessica BellIndie author and poet Jessica Bell makes the case for investing in writers’ retreats abroad to gain fresh inspiration and growth in your writing – and a welcome alternative to social media for befriending other writers.

How many years have you been writing? Think you got the sport down pat? You’re an old pro now, right? All you need is to keep writing so you don’t go rusty. Just put your head down and write, every day, with no interruptions.

Are you nodding in agreement?

Don’t.

Start shaking your head.

I’ve experienced that mindset on many occasion. Then the loneliness sets in. And I get the urge to become a part of society again. You know… actually meet new people that have the same interests as me.

Jessica Bell swimming off Ithaca

The author escaping her hermit’s cave

I’m not a social butterfly. I don’t get a thrill from going out and mingling with strangers. In fact, I wince at the thought. I like my solitude, my routine. I need my solitude and routine to thrive as a writer. But I’ve also come to realize that I need fresh air, like-minded people, and to break free from my hermit cave sometimes, just as much.

But who has the energy nowadays to seek out like-minded creative types in a great big intimidating concrete jungle? I don’t. Are you kidding? There’s Twitter for that. All I have to do is type a hash tag into the search bar and voila. Lots of people to meet who are an #IndieAuthor, or into #SelfPublishing, or are consistently #amwriting.

So, where on earth can you find a bunch of other writers in an exciting new environment without having to brave the #geekpickuplines? Writers’ retreats and workshops abroad, that’s where. Maybe you think you’ve learned everything you need to know about writing and publishing and don’t want to spend your hard-earned cash on attending an event that’s just going to churn out the same-old-same-old.

Think again.

Small harbour on Ithaca

Inspiration abounds in an unfamiliar environment

In a country you’ve never visited before, there is always something new to learn.

And if it’s not about writing craft, or how to pitch a project to agents, or how to become an author entrepreneur, it’s about experiencing a new culture, being inspired by a new environment, meeting interesting new people, who, admit it, will most likely be inspired by you as much as you are by them.

Everyone has a different story to tell, different experiences to share, different lessons they’ve learned along the way. And you might even discover something new about yourself by putting yourself in an unfamiliar location. You might even get a shiny new idea for your next novel. The workshops might even reinvent your attitude toward some theoretical information and result in you looking at your work and career in a rejuvenated light.

So, even if you don’t need to hear about the dos and don’ts in publishing anymore, or how to start that first chapter, or how to implement conflict and tension into your manuscript, it would do you good to want to. Because it’s not only the writing and publishing theory you are going to walk away with.

New experiences = new ideas.

New ideas = new books.

Is it time to stop supplementing your social life with hashtags?

If so, attend a writer’s retreat. You won’t regret it.

Note: #geekpickuplines is a common hashtag on Twitter, and just for the record, I didn’t even know it existed until Googling “funny hashtags” for this post. I hear you all muttering: Yeah, right. 🙂

Photo of Ithaca

Ithaca, home of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat and Workshop

Jessica Bell will be leading a writers’ retreat this summer on the idyllic island of Ithaca, Greece, from 1st to 7th August 2014, with New York literary agent Katharine Sands and ALLi blog editor Debbie Young.

For more information, including a schedule of the workshops, social events and a photo gallery, visit Homeric Writers’ Retreat and Workshop.

In the interests of impartiality, as the BBC likes to say, other writers’ retreats and workshops are available! 

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17 Responses to Writing: How to Gain Inspiration from Writers’ Retreats Abroad

  1. John Yeoman January 24, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Jessica, have you ever thought of running a residential writers’ retreat in central England? The UK has no such retreats whatever, other than fusty Foundations located in inaccessible wildernesses.

    The Chilterns has beautiful countryside, accessible to motorways and airports, and a world-class beach at Luton. Seriously, why doesn’t the UK have a decent residential writers’ center?

  2. clare weiner January 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Mmm: aren’t words interesting, and the images and feelings they conjure up?

    I would love to meet and chat with other writers on a writing holiday.

    But… I’m not reclusive by nature, and I actually feel fearful when I read or hear the word ‘solitude’ – this is worrying since I also find ‘retreat’ scary!

    Though ‘Writers’ Holiday’ doesn’t roll of the tongue like ‘Writers’ Retreat’ – the alliteration does something to the concept, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for tempting post, Jessica: shall work on my fear of words…

  3. Donna Hole January 17, 2014 at 3:29 am #

    I’m not as reclusive as I sometimes would like to be, lol. I think its good to get out of the internet world sometimes and meet writers inperson. Doesn’t that sound sooo old fashioned? But yes, I’ve seen several writer’s retreats that I’d love to attend. If I could afford it, I’d be there at this one. Especially knowing you’ll be hosting it. Double dipping the treats there 🙂

    ……..dhole

  4. Matthew Connolly January 16, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    Thanks for your kind words Debbie I might just rekindle that dream but would imagine that, just like with Jessica’s retreats, it would have to be done for love rather than money! I’ll keep you posted though. Regards

  5. Matthew Connolly January 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Would it be unfair of me to suggest that:

    1. This article is pure advertorial for your business
    2. At a cost of £1,290.53 for this retreat, would you not agree that this is an astonishingly extravagant amount for a typical self-published author to spend, on what is in effect a holiday? You can pretty much publish a whole printed book for that!

    I’m all for writers’ retreats (I’d love to do one in the Lake District where I live) but I would only do it if the fee was so affordable as to be really be worth leaving the garret for and spending the few extra beans I’d actually earned from self-publishing.

    • Jessica Bell January 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      Hi Matthew,

      Thank you for your comment.

      1. No, I don’t believe this to be pure advertorial. My retreat is just a suggestion. This article is about the benefit of retreats in general.

      2. I’m sorry you feel this is expensive. But in actual fact, it’s not. The accommodation alone costs more than a 3rd of this fee. On top of that I have to pay for my speakers (plus THEIR accommodation). There goes at least another 3rd of that fee. On top of that I have the extra expenses such as the excursions, the gift hampers, the dinners, the van hire for transporting guests around the island, the gas for those vans. There is also the time I will spend giving critiques of the attendees’ work, not to mention the time I have spent (and continue to spend) on organizing the event and liaising with interested attendees via email. There are also advertising costs to consider. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. In 2012, I had 7 paying attendees. And I didn’t make one cent of profit.

      I do this for the love it. And I have made the cost of attendance as cheap as I possibly can. And despite not making any money from it last time, I am determined to do it again. Because the people that came had the most wonderful time. And I would be devastated if I couldn’t do it again for those who are interested.

      • Matthew Connolly January 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

        Thanks for your clarification Jessica. I admire you for that, genuinely – in fact I wish I could come along. My point wasn’t necessarily that you are making a mint on this at the expense of the attendees – I’m aware that these things are expensive to run – but that every penny really does count in self-publishing, and I would be surprised if many could afford it. But maybe I’m wrong. And I’m not being bitter about earnings – my book is selling well, but when costs and deals and discounts are taken into consideration it is a real struggle to make money on it. No hard feelings. Regards, Matthew

        • Jessica Bell January 16, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

          No worries, Matthew. I guess, just like everything in life, you have to make a choice. Not everything is affordable for everybody. But if it is something someone feels they can afford, the experience is priceless. I’d love to live in a mansion by the sea, quit my day job, and write all day long. But, that’s not financially viable for me, and so, I can’t do it. 🙂

      • John Yeoman January 24, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

        Jessica, no that wasn’t advertorial. And as a writing instructor, with my own online writing course, I know how little profit we make – and how much energy we expend – on ventures like that.

        Um, on reflection, was that advertorial? 🙂

    • Debbie Young January 16, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      Hi Matthew. I’m sorry you perceived this post to be advertorial – something that as editor of the blog, I am careful to avoid.

      It’s actually exactly I wanted: a piece about the value of writers’ retreats, published at a time of year (in the northern hemisphere, at least, where you and I happen to live) when most people start thinking about where to go for their summer holidays, written by someone with the authority and experience to talk about the benefits of a retreat at first hand. Many authors consider a Writers’ Retreat a very acceptable way to spend a holiday budget, whether or not they’re expecting to pay for their holidays out of the earnings of their self-published books.

      Jessica does not actually mention or promote her Retreat at all in her piece, but having taken advantage of her experience and her time given freely to write the post, it would have been churlish of me not to include a link to her Retreat’s website at the end. I would no more have done that than ask, say, an author to write a post about their experience of writing a particular kind of book without mentioning the book that they had written in that genre.

      I was also scrupulously careful to point out that other retreats are available, even though that’s stating the obvious, and to declare my own interest, i.e. that I’m going to be there too – (which is clearly stated on the retreat’s website in any case).

      That seems a reasonable balance to me!

      • Matthew Connolly January 16, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

        Hi Debbie
        Thanks for your comments. I know it’s a difficult balance to strike and I am in no position to criticise. I love the idea of retreats for artistic people. I bought the domain name artbreakhotel.org last year in an attempt to offer retreats for artists of all disciplines in the Lake District. Writers talking to musicians and painters. I got too sidetracked with self-publishing to push it further but I might just do something after all having read this. It seems to me artists of all disciplines, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in their art, are isolated by necessity and choice, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pine for the companionship of others. They do, but sometimes only other artists will do, and why, because other artists quite simply understand what it’s like being an outsider.

        • Debbie Young January 16, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

          Matthew, I think a Writers’ Retreat in the Lake District is an excellent idea – go for it! And of course it would tie in so well with the theme and setting of your book too (which I’ve looked up on Amazon following your comment earlier.) Living within striking distance of Wordsworth’s beloved Tintern Abbey and driving regularly through the Lake District on my way to Scotland (we go there most summers as my husband is Scottish), I for one would definitely be interested. I’M also interested in the notion of a retreat for different kinds of creatives, to include musicians and painters – that could be a real USP for you. Keep us posted!

  6. Kathryn Guare January 16, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    Oh, if I only had two pennies (or euros) to rub together! Although I can’t make it, but I blasted the site out to some fellow writers and will share it on my Facebook page. Hope you have a full house!

    • Jessica Bell January 16, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

      You are very sweet, Kathryn! Thank you1

  7. Alex J. Cavanaugh January 16, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    If you weren’t a world away from me…
    I’ve never been a socialite.
    And cool site. I think we have it listed at the IWSG. If now, we will!

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