Jessie: On a writing retreat on the coast of Maine

One of my favorite things in the world to do is to head off to the beach for a writing retreat. I love the experience of being away from the responsibilities, routines, and expectations of my ordinary life in order to make room for whichever ideas and stories might care to grace me with their presence. Each time I prepare in a similar way. I make a list of the things I need to do before leaving like setting my email to vacation mode, preparing anything that needs to be taken to the post office, and gassing up my car.

Then I make a list of the things I need to pack for actually writing. I always take a notebook for the novel I am working on, a selection of freshly-filled fountain pens, headphones and a charger, sticky notes in a variety of colors, and my planner. I also make a list of personal items like coffee, clothes, at least one knitting project, running shoes, my Kindle. And, of course, I make a packing list for my faithful assistant and constant companion, Sam, the Poodle: treats, a bed, two or three favorite toys, and kibble.

I try to head out early, hopefully on a sunny day. The drive takes no more than an hour, but as I crest the top of the hill at the only stoplight in town I feel as though I am a world away. There, just ahead, is the sea, blue and thrumming. I turn onto my street and then pull into the drive, eager to throw open all the windows in the house to let in the salt air. Sam and I race round the small house, making sure all is the way it was when last we were here. I cart in my kit and caboodle and then, without fail we make our way to the beach for a wander.

In short order, the ocean works its magic and I feel the ideas begin to flow. We head back to the house and I usually make myself a coffee to carry to the front porch which houses my office. Sam springs onto the rattan settee where he can keep a close eye on the goings-on along the street whilst a sea breeze ruffles his ears. I dig out my notebook, settle beside him and begin to ponder. Even though the worlds I write about are far from my spot on the porch they feel closer than ever. If my luck holds and history repeats itself I will have another Beryl and Edwina novel called into being in no time at all!

Readers, is there someplace you love to go to clear your mind and get away from the everyday? Writers, do you go on writing retreats or do you prefer to work close to home?

35 Thoughts

  1. How fun that you and Julie and I are all on retreats of different kinds this week, Jessie! I drove to Cape Cod yesterday with many of the same supplies (except sans doggie). I’m always eager to return to the cottage I rent solo, and I too get myself unpacked and settled in before my own walk to the beach.

    This time I’m working through hard book revisions, but I hope by the end of the week to have brain space for imagining the first story in my new series, which I need to start writing soon. Have a great week!

  2. When I lived in New England, I loved to go to the Maine Coast. I could walk or sit for hours and work out whatever was troubling me at the time. Now that I live in FL the beaches are so crowded but after one of my doctor appts, my husband showed my this small park and it was quite peaceful. There is no beach but I could bring my chair and a book or just look at the view and be very happy. Enjoy your day!

  3. My retreat is a nearby Holiday Inn Express. I check in on Friday afternoon and out on Sunday morning. I bring laptop, microwavable food, snacks, etc. I write on Friday,then Saturday I write during the day, husband picks me up Saturday night for dinner, puts me back and I write some more. Write Sunday until check out. Meanwhile I enjoy the free breakfast, coffee all day.I usually do this when chasing a deadline and feel I need the alone time to get ‘er done.

  4. I took a writing retreat 2 years ago to Nashville, Indiana, a cute little town not far away. Thoroughly enjoyed it and got a lot accomplished. I hope to do it again soon. Cheers!

  5. The mountains use to be our retreat. We looked forward to vacations so we could once again relax and unwind in our happy place. After retiring, downsizing and moving to the mountains, it’s still my favorite happy place. Now instead of having to bother with packing and doing all the things on the to do list before and after a trip, all I have to do is to remember to take my book and a drink, turn on the porch ceiling fans and step outside for a relaxing, stress free time any time I want. Can’t beat it!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  6. I really miss going on retreats! I need to find a little rental away from home but not too far away.

    We used to have a camp a couple of hours away. Hubby and the cat(s) came along, but it was fine. He would leave early to fish, and I would spend the day writing while the cats snoozed.

    My local SinC chapter is reviving our old traditional retreat this fall. I’m really looking forward to it!

    1. It is really nice when it is not too far away and also someplace that is familiar, isn’t it? I hope you have a wonderful time with your SinC chapter in autumn!

  7. It’s so wonderful that you are able to “disappear” for a while and concentrate on your writing. I used to go to Peru for my getaway, particularly, before the advent of cell phones and the internet. I was unreachable except through a complicated string of connections. I loved it. I no longer need to get that far away. Most of the time, my home office/museum is all the retreat I need. It is truly a sanctuary.

  8. I love retreats – solo and group. There’s something very refreshing about being in a setting where all you have to do is write. And something very energizing when you have a group of writers to do it with.

    We were *this close* to putting a bid in on a “cabin in the woods” that I could use for personal retreats, but someone put a bid in in before us. I suspect we’re going to have to wait until the housing market cools a bit, because I can’t bring myself to buy something as big as a house without seeing it first in person (not just pictures) and because we both work, we are limited in when we can do that so we’re always missing out.

    Annette and I are in the same SinC chapter and I’m so looking forward to the retreat this fall.

  9. Not being a writer, no writing retreats for me. A really good reading place is in my downstairs family room. In the summer, it’s cooler and in the winter there’s a nice cozy fireplace. Of course wherever I am my dogs go too. Usually my younger cat comes down with me as well. My 21 and a half year old cat stays upstairs curled in my chair. It’s peaceful and seasonally adaptive. My escape part is reading a book. With my MS I don’t drive anywhere by myself but I can go anywhere with a book.

  10. Oh, I love writing retreats. I haven’t been able to do one for a few years – COVID fears and critters. The cats are no problem, but transporting birds – well that’s another matter. No worries though. Home is 167 wooded acres in Northern Maine and there’s a copse of pine that makes a perfect circle and a shelf of granite with a natural desk. Both are heavenly. I may persuade hubs to build me a she shed in the tree copse next year. It would be lovely.

  11. I am so with you on this! I find relocation a great tool for rebooting. We go up to Utah for a few weeks each summer and I always find my first couple of weeks there creatively inspiring. It’s like something in my brain opens up. Then when I come back to AZ, my first few weeks have the same feeling. Fresh scene, even if it’s familiar. I think I have a bad tendency to get bogged down in the daily minutiae (dishes, laundry, picking up the house) when I stay in one place. But speaking of Maine … I am going to be in Biddeford, ME at the McArthur Library on July 18, 6:30pm for a book talk. If you’re anywhere nearby (and I know Maine is a big state), I’d love to meet you. 🙂

    1. Karen, if you send me an email through my website,, I’d love to set up a time to meet. I am only minutes away from the MacArthur Library!

  12. Sounds heavenly. Can I come if I promise to read and work on reviews and not bother you at all? Pretty please?

  13. I enjoy looking out the window to see nature as well as see the stray cats. We also go to the park and sit in the car to people and animal watch. We are disabled so we cannot walk to explore. Thank you for sharing.

  14. I wish that I was a writer, but alas, it was not meant to be. We used to rent the same house in the Florida Keys for 6 weeks to 2 months for about 12 or 13 years. It is right on a canal but two houses from the ocean. It had a great balcony with a long-covered area and another uncovered deck that faced both the canal and the ocean. You could walk down the spiral staircase to the deck and dock below. Great to sit out there, have a drink, read or look at the ocean. We always had a pup with us enjoying the life! Now I just go upstairs and work on a jigsaw puzzle all by myself.

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