October Writing Retreat

As I’ve mentioned before, one joy of being self-employed is setting my own schedule and the opportunity to NOT schedule any clients during the 5th week of any month.

July 26-31 offered one of these glorious goldmines — and I agreed to drive my sister and her daughter to California on that power road trip I wrote about. I have no regrets! In early September, I shared the experience of my 6-day Self-directed Writer’s Retreat. Visions of complete manuscripts danced through my head!

Last week, October 25 – Nov 1, offered another opportunity for my 5th-week retreat – 7 days – to focus on writing.

After completing my 101 Things in 1095 Days list, and because I will be presenting workshops to nonprofit professionals next week and in early January, I decided to focus on my business book during this week to allow workshop participants to sign-up for pre-order updates.

I’m what many would call a ‘Pantser’ not only in writing but in life. I appreciate creating to-do lists to help me see what is on my plate, but I do not function well with scheduling and planning when I will do what. I am a tangential thinker and doer. I complete my house chores, work in my garden, write, read, and even carry on text conversations this way. I OWN that I enjoy spontaneity and intuitive processes more than scheduling and outlining.

That said, I began the week determined to stay focused without stressing out. I wanted to write and relax (and celebrate my birthday).

The first day, I fiddled with some catch-up paperwork (FASFA and medical insurance), wondering if I’d piddle away the week as I felt I did the last retreat. I’ve been developing and gathering content for the book for several years, with chapter outlines and sample stories – but nothing was clicking for me. During my bike ride, I finally landed on the framework for the entire book which enabled me to decide my tone and became an impetus to sit and write this week.

While I can’t claim to have zoned in for more than about 3 hours at one time, I developed a comfortable pattern of engaging in key lifestyle elements to support my progress:


As the weather has begun to cool and cloud-up, I’ve introduced the practice of finding a work-venue destination a good walk or bike ride from my home. One day I rode 6 miles, spent 4 hours at my computer, met up with a friend for the last hour to visit, and rode 6 miles home. Another, I walked 2.2 miles, wrote for 3 hours, and walked 2.2 miles home. The featured image for this blog post is a cozy room at Chicago’s Navy Pier – one of my work-venue destinations about 7 miles from my home.


tacosI spent a few hours early in the week chopping veggies to be used for fresh lentil soup, noodles, skillets, tacos – and other favorites of mine throughout the week. These kept me well nourished — a balance for the chocolate cake and pies I enjoyed while celebrating my birthday.


I didn’t want to totally neglect my blogging efforts to offer three blogs a week – one for each category – In the Kitchen, Book Reviews, and Midlife Musings. The shift in writing style and content can be jarring when I’m in one zone, so I allowed myself some flexibility in timing. I pulled off posts on Oct 24 (What Difference Did I Make?) Oct 25 (Book Review) and two on Oct 30 (Book Review and Pushing My Comfort Zone).

Reading & Reviewing

I also read and reviewed two works from fellow writers I interact with on Twitter and Facebook. While I totally enjoyed reading and reviewing Positive Aging by Kathy at Smart Living 365 and offering a beta-read to Pat Doyle for her WIP, I was not too excited about the books I read this week. I realized that I should be more careful in the offer to read longer works of individuals whose shorter work (blog posts, articles) I have not yet read.

Improving My Craft

I also took advantage of a 24-hour open period to consider the Writers’ Resources and Master Class of a Jerry Jenkins, prolific novelist and writing coach that I follow. While the resources tend to concentrate on fiction more than nonfiction, I found tidbits of wisdom even for my current nonfiction manuscript – and absolutely plenty of tips for when I return to my novel manuscript.

Jigsaw Puzzleschicago puzzle

I’d hoped to return to my jigsaw puzzles this week, but find I am still percolating how to best protect the six puzzles I want to complete in the next 1095 days, from my son’s kitten.


On Halloween, I enjoyed a lovely dinner with my husband and one son currently living at home before a surprise viewing of Hamilton. Creative genius!

Hamilton pic


While I did no writing on October 30, and my number of focused hours varied from day-to-day, I am proud of the progress I made.

I’m happy to say that with a total target word count of about 25,000 words, my first draft currently sits at

14,380 words


I believe I am on track to launch this nonprofit business book by mid-December. If you know anyone who works or is interested in the nonprofit arena (particularly around fundraising) – who might want to be a beta-reader, please let me know or send them my way.

Stay tuned for further progress on my manuscript….


And please chime in — do you have a plan to write a book? Have you seen Hamilton and did you enjoy it? Are you a pantser? Have you ever attempted a self-directed writer’s retreat? How did it go for you? Any tips for my next one?


  1. Happy birthday Janet! When it comes to some things (like housework), I am definitely a pantser. I don’t follow a schedule anymore and, living alone, it takes a long time for my place to even need cleaning. And the weather outside definitely impacts my flying by the seat of my pants. If it’s nice, I throw whatever I was thinking about doing out the window and head outside to enjoy. Chores will always wait, luckily. Sounds like you had a great week!



    • Deb – you and me both about heading outside to enjoy the weather! So much esier to write and focus on projects in the winter! And yes, chores will always be there when we get back. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That is quite a list of accomplishments! Good grief and all while pantsing. For me, there is a great joy in seeing an unplanned day, noticing what is stuck in corners to be done ‘later’ and digging through those. The sense of accomplishment is huge!

    I like your ‘fifth week’ idea. Hmm…


  3. Happy Birthday Janet! I really like the idea of work-venue-destination. I find that when I get into a writing mode, my steps disappear. I’m going to have to find a few locations and try this on! Also, I’m totally a planner… I even put “clean the bathroom” on my schedule. LOL

    And…. because of you, I’m taking the next step in publishing. Connecting with imprint presses this week and making a selection – full-service self-publishers with good reputations. Not published by Christmas, but a new year’s gift for sure.


    • Pat – that is so great that you are publishing your book! And I’m delighted that you might benefit from the work-venue destination exercise idea — I haven’t done it the last two days and, alas, have not exercised at all! Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy Birthday Janet! I love the idea of a writing retreat and also the work-venue destinations which combine exercise with your writing. Like Pat, I’m a planner and need to have that order in my life as a basis. Well done with the progress of the book. I’m always in awe of people who write books and would love to incorporate some of my writings into a book – perhaps in 2019? Who knows? Have a beautiful week, Janet. x


    • Sue – thanks for the birthday greetings. I think you could definitely write a book! It is so good that planning and order help you – I sometimes try, but always return to my spontaneous ways. Enjoy your week – and thanks for joining the conversation!


  5. I’m big on organization and on trying to stick with the plan (otherwise it messes up the next day’s organization). Although I’m certainly able to adjust if I don’t make it through the plan for the day, I mostly do and get to go to bed feeling as though I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.


  6. I am pantser too, also in life. I keep reading about these people who’ve done Nanowrimo in 4 days and I think wtf? are you serious. I’d love to read the book they wrote in 4 days! lol
    I’d love to see Hamilton. I listened to an interview with the writer. wow. what a story ❤


    • Christine – sorry for my delayed response to your comment. I saw it a few days ago but somehow didn’t respond and have been prepping/traveling for a conference this weekend and now playing catch-up. Yeah – a novel in 4 days seems pretty crazy — but some creative geniuses can probably pull it off. I read recently in Publishers Weekly about a young lady who wrote a YA novel in 11 days and it was auctioned for 6-figures publishing and had 20 movie companies vying for rights. As for Hamilton — talk about creative genius! – but I’m sure he didn’t do it in four days. Keep plugging away!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I absolutely LOVE every bit of this post. I love hearing how you gave yourself grace and still made progress (14,000 words is AMAZING!!). and I love how you incorporate exercise with work (and you have inspired me to try the same). Sounds like a VERY successful writer’s retreat (and a fabulous birthday celebration) 🙂


    • Molly – so delighted that my post inspired you! I certainly felt happy with my week — and then quickly returned to the reality of a full client load and a conference this week…which while more tiring, I have enjoyed. I’m planning a post now on a few thoughts from this weekend’s experience in Arizona. Thanks for joining the conversation.


  8. Wow Janet, what a productive writing retreat! I have a horrible habit of piddling away my designated writing time. On the other hand, I have participated in NanoWrimo several Novembers (But not this year) and been quite happy with my output. My novel is coming along, with the first draft almost finished, but lately I have been distracted by writing notes for a prequel.



    • Jude – that’s great that you are nearing the finish of the first draft! Congrats! And good luck with the prequel. One of my main issues has been getting to scattered within one book — and getting twisted in knots! I haven’t made progress on this book since my writing retreat — but hope to this next weekend. Thanks for joining the conversation.


  9. That’s a great word count. Like you I’m absolutely a pantser. I’m writing a tad out of my genre at the moment – going into a bit of the whole cozy mystery thing – and am finding I have to make a few notes…but tend to start writing and ignore them anyway!


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