by Korina Moss
When I’m feeling writer’s block or a deadline is nearing, I’ll sometimes search for a place to retreat to for a few days to spur my writing. A change of scenery gets me out of my routine, gives me permission to ignore most of my obligations, and tends to put the mojo back in my muse. I’m able to get a lot of writing done in a short amount of time. However, the most recent retreat I’d planned wasn’t intended to increase my word count—book 4 of my Cheese Shop Mystery series had been sent to my publisher the week prior. What I needed this time was to renew, refill, and recharge my creative energy. I was low on fuel from the intense month behind me and burning lower in anticipation of the busy months ahead.
The release of book 3 in the series, CURDS OF PREY, on March 28th has filled my calendar with extra blog posts, podcast interviews, giveaways, and in-person and virtual events. My editor would soon be sending her feedback on that book 4 manuscript I’d just turned in, expecting my new revisions before the end of the month. And let’s not forget, the clock for my next book in the series has already begun ticking, which means brainstorming and outlining book 5 is also on the agenda. Thus, the need for all those aforementioned re words. A solo retreat was in order, but what kind would trigger my creative energy and preempt burnout?
Nothing makes me feel better more quickly than being out at sea, but I’d never tried combining writing with cruising. After hesitating to try it for years, I finally decided to pull the trigger (sorry, it’s the mystery writer in me) and take a week-long solo writing retreat cruise. If you think a cruise is the last place to have a successful writing retreat, let me tell you why it worked for me.
No responsibilities or decisions.
Unless you count which food to eat or where to write, I was completely carefree. There was nothing to figure out, no meals to plan, buy, or cook, no dishes to wash, no chores to do. I didn’t even have to make my bed. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes.
To borrow from Jimmy Buffett, new scenery and a warmer climate are good for the soul. Speaking for myself, a new perspective is good for my writing. Booking at a time when there were no school vacations and leaving from a northeast port made the cruise more convenient for me, less expensive, and less crowded. I could write wherever I wanted, whether it was outside by the pool or in the cozy wine bar, while listening to live music or in the solitary space of my balcony cabin, or while in the shade or soaking up some sun. And I got to be in the Bahamas in February. New attitude, here I come!The vibe.
An atmosphere conducive to writing was achieved through good planning coupled with good luck. I chose Anthem of the Seas—not a small ship, but also not in Royal Caribbean’s fleet of largest ships. The research I did showed lots of cozy indoor and outdoor writing spots for cool and warm weather. This particular ship had three pools but no big slides, and all the children’s activities were in one central indoor gaming area. There was also an adults-only solarium providing wide vistas and a smaller, quiet café. I felt all this would bode well for me to find adequate places to write and brainstorm and snack (an essential part to my writing and brainstorming). I’ve been on three-day cruises out of Miami, and I’ve been on school vacation cruises with my son. Both are as crazy and crowded as you’d expect them to be and wouldn’t have worked for my purposes. Luckily, the vibe on this cruise was decidedly chill—perfect for my retreat. I also chose a cruise with four sea days, and I skipped the two ports that didn’t entice me. This meant more time to settle into ship life and focus on my writing.
Almost every spot on the ship had a great view. What better place for your imagination to roam than the expanse of the sea? Getting to be in a beautiful location sure made “working” easier. My balcony room instantly put me in the right frame of mind every morning, no meditation required. Going to sleep and waking up to the sights and sounds of the sea was a direct route to all those re
It would’ve been best to eliminate internet entirely and really unplug for the week. However, I felt I had to be available to my editor and publicist for any inquiries that might come my way, since this was my book release month. (Sure enough, I had several events that needed to be scheduled.) I also enjoyed taking my friends and social media followers along on this trip with me, but I kept it in check, as there’s nothing more creativity crushing than spending time scrolling social media. The good news is that internet is slow and sometimes hard to access on a ship. I brought my laptop to post my retreat updates and I checked my email twice a day. The rest of the time, I only had a pen and notebook. Forcing plenty of quiet time on myself—time without talking, scrolling, mindless TV, or reading all day—focused my mind on creative pursuits.
Time for play.
How often do your daily writing breaks at home include purposeful recreation? With so much at my fingertips, I made my non-writing time count. I indulged in pool time, I attended a musical, I listened to the guitarist at the pub, I participated in a Sudoku challenge, I chatted with other cruisers, I enjoyed leisurely dinners, I read on my balcony at night under the stars… I even took a whole day off to enjoy the beach when we docked at the ship’s private island. If I’d come with someone else, I would’ve been too tempted to play all day. Cruising solo with my mind set on the trip as a retreat, my limited but purposeful “play” time was restorative.
My solo writing retreat cruise accomplished all the re words. It was the reset I needed to support my creativity and my mental health. I’d love to be able to take a cruise whenever I feel the pressures of a writing career unbalancing me, but alas, I have yet to win the lottery or a six-figure publishing deal. Until then, I’ll carry over some of the lessons learned from this retreat into my daily life at home. Now if I could only replicate that view…
Readers: Would you consider taking a solo cruise? Where would your dream retreat take place?
To read Korina's daily log from her solo retreat cruise and see more photos, go to her author FB page.
Korina Moss's latest book in the Cheese Shop Mystery series, CURDS OF PREY, releases March 28. To learn more, visit her website.
Glad it worked for you. I've been on one larger cruise ship and two much smaller ones. I loved the smaller ones and have another planned for 2024. Not going to do a larger one again -- too much, too much.
I like all the places to roam on the large ones — if only they wouldn’t put so many people on them. 🤣 You’re right about the smaller ones being nicer. I’m excited for your planned cruise! I hope I can swing another one next year. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of it!
What a wonderful retreat! So glad you got the time to restore, Korina. I need to make a note of this -- I wonder if any cruises would allow Eevee to come with me :)
Sounds like you had a productive time and also got away. Perfect combination.
Great pix! So glad you took the time and had a great cruise. Before I married I would take a weekend, travel to the Keys, and stay in one of those little bed and breakfast places. Total recharge!
What a wonderful idea! I've only been on one cruise (a large one) but I'm dying to do another. Especially one with a private island! I don't know how you got any work done. I admire your discipline.
Wow. I would take that exact cruise for all those reasons! OMG. I'll be in touch about details...
Twice a year I take a solo "land cruise" as a writing retreat - that is, I rent a cottage on Cape Cod in the off season for a week. My retreat has many of the advantages of your cruise, with an easy walk to a beach, no obligations, and lovely scenery, except I have to fix my own food (and it happens to be dirt cheap).
Glad yours worked for you.
That was such a creative idea, Korina. I have spent hours at sea writing, and was always able to find a quiet spot. I’ve never taken a cruise solely to write, but that sounds like a fabulous idea.
Thanks everyone for your comments. Edith, seeing your annual retreats on FB was what gave me the idea in the first place that I should start doing it. Unfortunately, the cruise is not dirt cheap (as cheap as I could get it, though)-- wish it was, I'd have us all go regularly!
Glad it worked out and you had time to rest, relax, eat, and think.
Idyllic! Happy to hear it worked so well for you.
Oh, wow! I've never gone on a cruise but you've made it sound refreshing.
I enjoyed following your journey online—jealous but happy for you! You've inspired me!
Wonderful post about a wonderful idea. I've gone on several cruises, and if I were to take another cruise it would be another river cruise. I love the sensation of docking and often being able to walk into town.
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