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Sunday, January 9, 2022


by Korina Moss


Over Christmas break, I took my teenage son on a cruise. The vacation was the first real travel we’d done in two years. Don’t let the fact that I used the words break, vacation, or travel fool you into thinking I didn’t work while I was away. I still have a crazy spring coming up that includes the release of Cheddar Off Dead, my first Cheese Shop mystery, and a deadline to finish writing the third book in the series.


On the balcony
I’d worked overtime to finish the first draft before we left so I wouldn’t have to write more than a couple of hours daily during the nine-day trip. I wanted to at least feel like I was taking a break from it all, even if I was sneaking in some work. However, I found that the fun and relaxation of the cruise, coupled with a new view (that sea!) actually made me want to pick up my manuscript during my downtime.


Writing from my car (Oct)

Before the cruise, having fun had become a fuzzy memory since the pandemic. I’d gotten used to focusing almost solely on work, but when I’m feeling too much pressure and stress, I experience writer’s block. The best trick I’ve used to combat it is to get a fresh perspective by changing my view, literally. I can do it by simply working in a different room or taking a walk. I’ll even drive somewhere and sit in my car to write. But my favorite safe way to do it is with a solo retreat.


Here’s a checklist of what makes up my perfect solo writing retreat:


My own space. No coordinated writers’ retreats for me. I can’t have anyone else around—I’m too social. I also need the freedom to wake, sleep, and write when I want, brainstorm ideas aloud, make faces when I’m trying to come up with the right way to describe an emotion, have music or silence, and most importantly, go bra-less.


No internet or TV. I have no willpower—social media will beckon me. I need to allow my brain to get quiet for longer than five minutes without picking up my phone. When I do this, the best ideas germinate, and creative sparks ignite.

Tiny house in the Catskills

Everything at my fingertips. Some of my fellow moms check into a hotel for uninterrupted writing time and treat themselves to a nice restaurant for dinner. I prefer to be in a vacuum. Since my retreats are generally only a few days long, I prepare my dinners ahead of time, so I don’t have to be interrupted with cooking. I bring plenty of easy food, snacks, and Coke Zero. Bonus: No restaurant, no bra.


Walks in nature. As I said, I like my retreats to be solo, but even I get stir crazy. I like to have a nice place to walk, breathe in the fresh air, and get rejuvenated for more writing.


A pretty view. I’ve found this to be the most essential factor. I need something beautiful to stare at while my mind is in motion. Even though I have a nice view at home overlooking the woods, sometimes a total change of scenery is what I need. I prefer a view that feels open rather than closed in, which is why I love the water. An open space seems to unlock any constriction I may be feeling, unleashing my creativity, as well.



AirBnB in upstate NY

Of course, going on solo retreats isn’t always feasible. But any time I can get away from home, I carve out some quiet time to let my imagination roam free with no pressures, no restrictions, and no routine. Just give me a good view to summon my muse.


Have you ever treated yourself to a solo retreat (even if it’s not writing-related)? What’s on your checklist?


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

My ideal retreat would be in a seaside cottage, just me and the seagulls. During the pandemic, I use the screened porch as my retreat.

Kait said...

I love this! Reminds me of the lyrics of the Jimmy Buffet song “When the Coast is Clear.”

Before I married I took an annual solo retreat. Usually to the Florida Keys. I would check into a hotel, and do what appealed. Scuba dive, hike, zip line, sleep, write, journal, sketch. Room service was frequently involved. I would come home refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Jim Jackson said...

I am more productive when alone. Which Upstate NY lake was the AirBnB on? (Asks this born and bred upstate New Yorker who hasn't been back in years.)

Debra H. Goldstein said...

If I can see water, I'm in writing retreat heaven. Doesn't matter if it is the back of a boat on a cruise or looking through an air conditioned hotel window. The key for me is the calmness the water gives me. Thanks for reminding me I need a retreat asap.

Molly MacRae said...

I went on a solo writing retreat once - to an Air B&B half a mile from home. I didn't want to spend time or money to get somewhere, just wanted time alone to do nothing but write (we are four adults in a small house with one small bathroom. Like you, I took my food with me. It was GREAT! Except for the blizzard. And coming down with a horrendous cold. Would I do it again? Maybe. Mostly I'm happy writing up in my attic room, even with the other three around and having to call dibs on the bathroom.

KM Rockwood said...

Debra, I had a friend who maintained that having a house with the Kalamazoo River flowing past the end of the back yard was the key to her sanity and productivity. She was very disorganized in her early adulthood, but once she moved to where she could see the river while sitting at her kitchen table, her life came together completely.

Rosalie Spielman said...

What a wonderful trip! I'm glad you got the chance to travel and the opportunity to refresh.

I took myself to a hotel once, all by myself. Heaven, but can't be done too often. Now I have an office with doors, but they are French doors and I get to see all the little faces looking in at me. lol

Shari Randall said...

I NEED a retreat! You've piqued my interest in doing one on a cruise - the water is so calming isn't it?

Korina Moss said...

I LOVE hearing about all of your retreats! The consensus is, we need time to refresh and focus on our love of writing.
Kait, that sounds magnificent.
Debra -- I'm with you -- water is where my muse hangs out.
Shari -- I looked into cruising solo as a retreat before the pandemic. It has to be a particular type of ship, but there are lots of quiet spots and always a good view.
Margaret, I'd love a seaside cottage. I may try to do one off season next year.
Molly & Rose -- you both made me laugh!
Jim, I'm also from NY but haven't lived there since I was 15. The house was on Burden Lake in Averill Park, NY.

Karen said...

I know exactly what you mean about feeling recharged by your cruise and by a new view. Living in Arizona, where the temps reach 120 in July, we head to Park City for about 6 weeks each summer. I notice that my first few weeks in Park City are creatively some of my most productive. I credited just being away from home, with the laundry/dishes/house project routines. But when we return to Phoenix, I have another burst of about 3 weeks of creative energy. So after reading your essay, I think it's not Park City. It's the change of scene. Thanks for sharing :) Best, Karen

Korina Moss said...

Thank you, Karen! I completely agree! (But Park City also sounds fabulous!)