Routine is a writer’s ally

Karalee’s Post #115

Our 5Writer’s retreat was a much wanted and well deserved coming together for our group, a push to jump start our writing and marketing again. Our passion is definitely there and we set deadlines again for critiquing.

We agree, deadlines will keep us going.

Sometimes I wonder if we need this camaraderie to keep our writing on task. Are we passionate writers? or hobbyists and coffee lovers with a computer at hand? Writers, well, just write, right??


Last week’s retreat once again brought us together and showed me that we all have the fire of fiction within us. We all want to get our stories out and reach The End with a sense of great self-satisfaction. We want to share our stories and keep writing more.

To me, that’s the essence of being a writer.

The fact that it’s difficult to sit and get the job done is simply that, a fact of life. It is hard for me to put the time in daily, difficult to say no to other important things in my life. But truth told, if I want to get to The End, I have to sit and write. Often. With a sense of importance.

So, routine has to come into play. Once again WRITING is on my “must do” To Do list. My daughter is getting married in July and I’ve recently started a new business, so I will be realistic and put 2hrs/day as my set amount of time. Note to myself: Don’t veer from it. The dishes/cooking/looking after the family and dogs/part-time work, etc. all have their spots too. BUT don’t bypass the act of writing!

Stick to your routine.

Out of curiosity I looked up the word routine. The Miriam Webster dictionary defines routine as:

: a regular way of doing things in a particular order; a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way; a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance

Well, these definitions have me wondering why I would say in my title above that ‘Routine is a writer’s ally’. None of the above definitions really fit. For instance:

  1. a regular way of doing things in a particular order. For me, I don’t write in any particular order. Often I write the first chapter and jump to an intermediate chapter to capture my thoughts and actions that I feel are important. Also, I usually write the last chapter early on to have a place I head towards. That said, the ending is often not in the place I first had in mind. I am flexible and take heed
  2. a boring state or situation in which things are always done the same way. Maybe the fact that I rarely do my writing in the same way day-to-day is a good reason that it is never boring. For me the process is never boring. Challenging, absolutely. The great thing is that I can always “have something happen” in my story to entertain myself at any moment. That’s the magic of fiction!!
  3. a series of things (such as movements or jokes) that are repeated as part of a performance. Well, writing isn’t a repetition of the same thing over and over regarding what is happening in a story. A theme can be repeated by having different character’s life story played out in the same theme, but the actual events happening will be very different. Although writing often feels like a juggling act (who is where when, and to do what), the balls in the air are never the same and they are all dancing to their own arc. But, if my book ever becomes a movie, now that would be a great performance!

Since for me writing isn’t a routine that fits the MW’s definition, then why do I think that routine is my ally in writing?

It comes down to TIME. Time dedicated to the act of writing. Time slotted in my day on a regular basis. Maybe that’s what is defined as being boring and regular.

Regarding the actual writing itself? Thank goodness that is never routine!


Writing Goals: 2 hrs/day. Submit 30 pages/month to my group. We chose the 5th of every month. Fitting, right?? 🙂

Keep in mind: 

  • 2 hrs/day, one word at a time will soon become a scene, then a chapter, and eventually a completed book. Keep sticking to the Slight Edge philosophy.
  • daily meditation and exercise keeps me centered and healthy.
  • our group is amazing, their support a great motivator!
  • a positive attitude leads to more happiness, and more writing!

Perspective Photos:

















Happy writing!

Retreat, revitalize, re-writewritewrite


With a view like this, how can you not be inspired?

Silk’s Post #131 — Two of the greatest letters in the alphabet: RE. They’re magic. Adding this little prefix to every imaginable action verb reminds us that life is full of do-overs.

There is a huge collection of old saws, clichés, quips – whatever you prefer to call truths we all know but nevertheless have to remember again and again – that elaborate on the power of restarting …

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
  • It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.
  • Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries. — James A. Michener
  • If you never fail, you’re not trying hard enough.
  • Never, never, never give in! — Winston Churchill
  • A few fly bites cannot stop a spirited horse. — Mark Twain
  • It’s never too late to start over.
  • Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit. — Vince Lombardi
  • It’s like deja-vu, all over again. — Yogi Berra
  • Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. — Babe Ruth
  • It always seems impossible until it’s done. — Nelson Mandela
  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
  • It’s always too soon to quit. — Norman Vincent Peale
  • If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer. — R.A. Salvatore

Karalee captures the Sunshine Coast scene.

So, that’s what we did this past weekend.

At our 5/5/5 writers’ retreat, we reconnected with our writing colleagues, recharged our batteries, renewed our commitment to the writing life, resurrected old manuscripts, revived our enthusiasm … but mainly, we took step one again: we just wrote some stuff.

5writer Paula (who herded us cats), her ever supportive husband, John (who baked us cookies), and her entertaining poodles (who took us for beach walks), were hosts extraordinaire. We ate well, slept well, read to each other, drank a little wine and a lot of coffee, and thoroughly got our heads into writing.


Paula, Karalee, Loulou and Gryphon. Trusting you can figure out who’s who.

If it must be quantified, we did pretty well production-wise. I think Joe did about 20 pages of wow. Karalee rewrote her opening scene twice; she aced the last version. Paula went berserk and wrote at least 30 pages on a brand new story. I wrote one of my main character’s mysterious backstory, desperately needed to drive the whole plot – 10 pages of blood, sweat and tears. Helga continues with her journal. She is our saint for finding time to join us and for keeping her writing close to her heart.

More important, by miles, is the qualitative measure of our writers’ retreat. We’re excited. Can’t put a measure on that. It’s too huge. The proof? We’re getting back into a schedule of monthly cyber-critiquing. Just to keep us honest.

We’re back, baby!


One word at a time

Karalee’s Post #114

Paula's 7Imagine life with no responsibilities except to write! Sleep, write, eat, write, eat, write, sleep….. You get the idea.


One word at a time. Before you know it, a whole scene has been written! And scenes lead to chapters…

There’s breaks for a bit of dog walking to keep the circulation going, a bit of standing to prepare meals, and the occasional stretching of one’s arms.

The rest of the time is for – writing.

I admit it’s a bit weird to have our group together so quietly, at times all in the same room. There’s an occasional laugh or gesturing as one of us reacts to something going on in our imagination that seems “real” and “is happening” in our story. It’s fun to watch really. It’s also enlightening that others do it too, that I’m not crazy after all. My fellow writers are normal too!

It’s also odd that we are together and not critiquing. Not even 30 pages each, nonetheless a whole 250 or so page book, a book a day for 5 days like we pushed to do at our Whistler retreat! Now that was WORK!!

Oh, we’re spending a few minutes talking about our openings, how we are outlining with purpose, discussing how we mind map, or how we are working on character development through backstory to understand at a visceral level how a main character thinks and reacts. But on the whole we are, well, writing!









Paula's 3

Paula's 5








The dog may be bored. But hey, a dog can’t write!










Writing Goals: study mind map in detail again, write 2 scenes a day (or rewrite)

Keep in mind: 

  • One word at a time will become a scene, then a chapter, and eventually a completed book. Stick to the Slight Edge philosophy.
  • daily meditation and exercise keeps me centered and healthy.
  • our retreat is amazing, our group is amazing.
  • a positive attitude leads to more happiness.

Perspective Photos:



















Today I am happily writing! Are you?


Inward bound


Silk’s Post #130 — Ready … set … retreat!

When the 5writers began discussing a writers’ retreat, the idea had just a slight whiff of desperation to it. At least it did to me.

The fact was that, for a variety of reasons – some no doubt avoidable, and others clearly inescapable – all five of us were struggling at times to maintain our writing practice.

In the “old days” (pre-2012) we’d produce 30 first-draft pages each month for submission, critique 120 pages of our colleagues’ manuscripts, and spend a few lively hours together every few weeks to discuss our writing progress, successes and problems. It was damn hard work, but it kept the words flowing and the enthusiasm level high.

It wasn’t perfect, and there were times when one (or more) of us would leave our critique session discouraged or confused. For me, though, it was just the discipline I needed and it was during this time that my commitment to being a writer – a real writer, a good writer – became carved in stone.

Then came our grand 5writers experiment in 2012-13: writing 5 novels in 5 months, followed by a critique extravaganza at a week-long retreat high in the mountains at Whistler. Another amazing learning experience. Although some of us fell short of the original goal, it was still exhilarating, and it gave birth to this blog.

Since then – let’s be honest – it’s been a bit more hit-and-miss. Life has thrown all manner of challenges and opportunities in our paths. House moves. New relationships. Business ventures. Health issues. Travel. Volunteer commitments.

Some of us have taken courses and forged ahead (kudos to Karalee), or taken off on great spurts of productivity (congratulations to Joe). But if you’re one of the loyal readers who’s still following this blog, you know that the thing we’ve been writing about most is how hard it is to get back to the “writing life” and make consistent progress.

And that doesn’t even touch the looming challenge of actually getting published – another whole learning curve in itself.

So back to step one: writers gotta write. We need to chip the rust off those brain machines and … Just. Sit. Down. And. Write. Somewhere away from all the distractions competing for our time and attention. Get the momentum going again. Get inspired. Get obsessed and stay obsessed, as one of my favourite writers John Irving would put it.

And so, we retreat this week to Paula’s idyllic Northwest home on the Sunshine Coast waterfront to pound out some wordage.

But how to prepare for this intensive experience? This inward-bound journey into our writers’ hearts and minds, in search of story? So I indulged my research geek side today and looked for “writer’s retreat” advice online.

I didn’t expect the deluge.

Why, oh why, am I surprised that we’re not alone in the quest for retreat? Oh, I know writers have been stealing off to focus on their writing – retreating temporarily from the inconvenient traffic jam of life – for years and years. It always sounded so exotic: the vagabond artiste, sojourning in some Tuscan villa, or mountain chalet, or hut on a palm-studded beach, writing Something Important in between long, soul-searching walks.

I just had no idea that writing retreats had already become such an industry.

Like the ubiquitous writers’ conferences, writers’ workshops, and writers’ courses, there is now a plethora of writers’ retreat opportunities to suit every travel whim, budget, and lifestyle preference. Some sound more like vacations than working retreats, but many include writers’ services such as coaching, critiquing and workshops.

The Write Life website lists “20 Incredible Writing Retreats” to attend in 2015, including an all-inclusive resort in Baja, Mexico; an eco-lodge on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast; an island outside Savannah, GA where such writing luminaries as Annie Dillard and Alice Walker have scribbled; a Colorado Rocky Mountain fiction writers’ getaway; a writing and mindfulness retreat on Maui with Cheryl Strayed; a nature-oriented retreat with workshops on the coast of New South Wales, Australia; a retreat for women writers in Florence, Italy; a proprioceptive writing retreat (huh?) at a traditional Irish B&B; an intensive learning experience at a private Texas ranch …

It goes on and on. Tuscany, Greece, Spain, the French Alps. Writing retreats combined with spiritual discovery. Writing and yoga in a Danish castle. Screenwriting in Spoleto, Italy. Weaving words among Peruvian tapestry weavers with a side-trip to Machu Picchu.

Closer to home, the Pacific Northwest is lousy with writers’ retreats, many of them combined with yoga, cleansing, meditation, nature, healing arts, self-discovery and god knows what other super-duper healthy holistic practices. Check out Retreats Online for a listing of artistic retreats so wholesome you’ll feel better about yourself just perusing them.

There’s even a website for those who want to set-up and promote their own writers’ retreat business – kind of like a literary airbnb network. The Writers’ Retreat Network tells all, for a membership fee of course, and includes a handy “Step-by-Step Guide to Set Up and Operate a Writers’ Retreat”.

Among all these packaged travel-and-writing experiences, I did come across a useful article in the Books section of Huff Post, where Holly Robinson tells us “Why You Need a Writing Retreat and How to Make the Most of It.” She offers good advice on types of retreats, differentiates retreats from conferences and workshops, and gave me fresh enthusiasm for our own upcoming retreat with these observations (loosely quoted from her post):

You can make your own writing retreat on the cheap

All you really need is a desk and a power outlet, she says, and it pays to look for a place off-season (if you don’t happen to be lucky enough to know Paula!). She says lots of people are happy to have you use their houses for the price of a cleaner’s fee (presumably while they’re off somewhere warmer), and she’s also found incredible deals at summer resort hotels in winter.

It’s more fun with two or more writers

This assumes a pretty high level of compatibility, of course, but splitting costs makes it more affordable to rent a place short-term, and meals are less work and more fun when shared. She also enjoys reading pages aloud to each other at night and having mini-workshops or social time to unwind.

When you go on your retreat, let yourself take breaks

Don’t be guilty about taking some time to chill, she warns. She reminds us that refuelling is part of writing, too, and she’s amazed how much more productive she is when she’s rested and clears her head now and then with some exercise.

If you can only get away for a weekend, that’s okay too

According to Holly, you can get a lot done in two or three days. She says to use the opportunity to focus on thorny issues like plot pacing, a conclusion, point of view, or any other sticking point that has kept you from progressing, so you can keep working on it after you get home again.

Do it four times a year

Okay, this was a “whoa!” for me. Four times a year? But Holly’s argument is that “we need to visit the muse” at least quarterly. Maybe she’s right. I can’t wait to see how our first Writers’ Retreat goes. (See? I’m already thinking of it as the first in a series.) If I find myself writing 7,000 words in a day (as Holly claims she did on a writing retreat to Cape Ann last November), I’ll be all over that quarterly schedule.

“I can’t be that focused at home,” she writes. “I bet you can’t either.”

She sure got that one right, so I’m paying attention. Wish us luck!

You can follow Holly Robinson on Twitter: