Designing the Ultimate Writer’s Retreat

$15,000 bed from Shawn Lovell Metalworks

When I was a medical intern, I longed for two things with equal intensity: to be competent/caring/omnipresent as a physician, and to ignore everyone and everything for a queen-sized bed with 200-count Egyptian cotton sheets. Now that I’m writing, as my kids would say, “Second verse, same as the first.”

My present two extremes: desire for universal approval and admiration for my writing and intellect…and no contact with another human being ever again. What’s more, I know I’m not alone. (Check out Therese Walsh’s blog for a lyrical poem which encapsulates the feeling. Scroll down to Bear Mountain).

So, courtesy of a week which has been eaten up by 

  • a quantity of non-serious but time-consuming events;
  • roofers who pounded merrily on my house for twelve hours a day, but did not consent to remove their shirts — once;
  • a writing task which asks much of me in courage, but which I can avoid due to “pressing”  online concerns;
  • and my own sheer Tarty contrariness…

dream with me, if you will, about The Ultimate Writer’s Retreat™. What would yours look like?

This would be pretty close to mine, although I’d have to remove the other people.

Three people in hot tub throwing snowballs at couple outside log cabin

Its necessary qualities:

  • no television, radio, Internet, or phone (cellular, land or satellite)
  • climate that makes outdoor walks enticing for several hours, but respite from nature also a decadent, delicious pleasure
  • natural surfaces/decor
  • no neighbors 
  • accessible by one road which is barred by a locked gate, key conveniently in my pocket
  • plenty of healthy, delicious food
  • a floor-to-ceiling library
  • limitless paper and my new pen
  • a fireplace

I’d take this one too, although the guitar would do me no good. I’d like a piano or, in a pinch, a recorder.  The local wildlife might object, but that’s honestly their problem.

Chair and Guitar Next to Window

Once upon a time I used to crochet, press leaves between the pages of a book, sketch, take photographs, perform crewel and cross-stitch. There’s nothing stopping me from doing those things, but I just forget. I think I’d remember in a cabin like this one. I know that handiwork tends to restore me to myself and make me more creative.

View of cabin on lake

How about you? Do you dream of solitude or locales where you can protect yourself against interruptions, both of the self-inflected and external variety? If you do, where would you go?

18 thoughts on “Designing the Ultimate Writer’s Retreat

  1. I picked up knitting again last year after a 14 year hiatus (not coincidentally the exact age of my son) and it has been soooo therapeutic to be able to create lovely things with my hands using fairly repetitive techniques.

  2. Jan – Love this post. What I would give for a getaway to write. I am a writer, and, what’s more, a mother to two toddler boys. I need an escape in the worst way!

  3. I haven’t given too much thought to a writer’s retreat, because I’m quite happy with my current spot. However. . .I would love to have a WINTER writer’s retreat in the Caribbean somewhere, because lately I’m very cranky about being cold (so don’t worry about me crashing YOUR writer’s retreat — LOL — too much snow!)

  4. Lucy, the sad thing is I have a beautiful afghan that’s 95% complete (crochet). I seldom watch TV, though, and that used to be what primed me to work on it. What do you knit?

    Jenn, I remember those days, although I had a girl and a boy, so that doesn’t really count. You may park on my bed, if you like, as long as you’re quiet. 🙂

    Donna, LOL, I think my retreat would be the antithesis of yours, being that it’s nature-y. My only problem with the tropical retreat is the risk of attendant poolboys. Can’t run that risk. 😉

  5. Since I hate the cold weather, this would be a perfect writing retreat for me. I would have no desire to go outside and explore. I love nature, even snow, as long as I am inside a nice warm cabin with a warm, cozy fire. I think my only break would be for an occasional hot cocoa.

  6. I have some of those things in my little log house in this cove – I have one neighbor ‘next door’ but they are as reclusive as I am and respectful of nature and quiet – the other neighbors are either above us or below us and we rarely see them – and there are only four or five of them in this cove full time — during peak tourist season, we do have visitors. You have to look for our road to get to us, unless you stumble upon us, so we aren’t on any beaten path roads or roads that lead to other roads or places. There’s a creek. There’s nature. There’s critters. There’s quiet and solitude most of the time. ahhhhh. But, everything you said resonates with me….

  7. Ooh, I’m torn between a lovely cabin in the woods during fall when I could go for invigorating walks among the foliage, or a lovely cabin in the woods during winter when I’d have no excuse to leave but could gaze upon the snowscape. Unfortunately, neither of those is compatible with the other pressing desire: room service so I don’t need to stop and make my own coffee or meals. 😉

  8. Jennifer, cocoa sounds divine. The other thing about snow is how still and silent the world becomes. Very soothing for a tilt-a-whirl brain.

    Kat, no wonder you’re so prolific. But how do you prevent the Internet distraction? Do you use a software program? Remember: I’m the woman with no self-discipline.

    Tracey, I propose a compromise: prefrozen meals, premade salads, loaded coffee pots with a thermal carafe and maid service once every few days, when we’re out for our walk. I think that could work. 🙂

  9. A agree with everything you said tart, except for one…..

    I NEED music. Particularly the kind coming from my new muses, Dead by Sunrise.

  10. I developed self-discipline for online procedures, and I can’t work when it’s too quiet. Our lovely little house sits on top of a hill on a dead end road and I couldn’t ask for more.

    Except for maybe roofers who look like the guys in the Coke commercials and remove their shirts. Otherwise, I have the perfect writing retreat. 😉

  11. I just want the bed — could I have the bed, please?

    I go away twice a year to a cabin near a beach. There’s no heat, no television, no phone, no books, and few neighbors. I get about 10 or 20 pages written each time — enough to keep me going for the rest of the year. It’s not the most comfortable place, but it serves its purpose.

  12. Donna, I know some people work much better with music in the background, even with vocals. When I’m in the zone I can tune it out, but it’s distracting otherwise. But whatever floats your boat. 🙂 It’s your retreat, your fantasy.

    Teresa, I had a roofer this morning that looked like the Coke guys, but there were no pectoral sightings. Your house sounds lovely. But I’ll confess I’d like your discipline even more.

    Liz, isn’t that bed gorgeous. Your retreat sounds wonderful! Are you due for a reprisal?

  13. Unfortunately, no. The water gets turned off at the end of Oct., and while I can live without heat, a phone, or television, I do require a working toilet. 🙂 It’s back to locking myself in the office.

  14. Sorry, All. My first thought for the outdoors is a nice large ceiling with retractable panels for rain, viewing stars, aircraft, launching spacecraft, etc. I think the far north has gotten to me. There are times I think I’ll scream if I see just one more tree…and it’s not a palm tree.

    So, definitely someplace warm with shopping malls, libraries, art galleries and a good Internet connection. As a writer I need my handheld PC and Bluetooth folding keyboard, although I’ve recently learned the dastardly techs have quit making them. A wilderness upon them! 😉 Maybe a mini laptop is in my future.

    Optional extras: several different brands of coffee shops, palm trees, places to swim, and lots of people to talk to. As I’ve tweeted at least once, ‘there are no strangers, only people whose ear I haven’t talked off yet.’

  15. Liz, I’m outdoorsy, but the toilet would be a “must” for me too. 🙂

    Monty, it is nice, isn’t it? Especially if the staff maintains it for us.

    Phyllis, you’re quite allowed to want something different, especially different from normal. If you’re used to isolation, pines and cold, it makes sense to me you’d find refuge in the opposite. 🙂

  16. I blogged about this awhile back as well. My getaway would be a cabin on a mountain lake. The stars would be so bright in the night sky and the fiery foliage would reflect in the clear water during the day. Nothing but me and nature. Talk about inspiration.

    Also, I would need wine. Retreat complete. 🙂

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