Life lessons from hosting a writer’s retreat

I know that not everyone has the desire to host a writer’s retreat, but if you have any desire to take a big risk, the skills and lessons are the same. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I’m making an effort to go into more details about what I’m doing and still keep it relatable.

In mid-January, I hosted my second writer’s retreat in the Catskills. This is one of my favorite parts of the year. I love being around other writers 24/7, sharing ideas, supporting each other, and getting motivated by the clicking of their keyboards. As enjoyable as these retreats are, the preparation for them can be a stressful practice in patience and faith.

If you are planning to take on a new challenge, here are some lessons I’ve learned from organizing this retreat:

  1. Commit Commit Commit
    This is the most important rule for any risk you take. If you try to do something new and out of your comfort zone, there are going to be challenges. There will come a time when quitting seems like the most obvious and sane choice. The only way to succeed is to decide that there is no quitting: you will do whatever it takes. Surprisingly, everything gets easier once you take the option of quitting off the table.
    Once I found the venue I liked for my retreat, I had to pay the dreaded deposit. This is super scary to do when you have no one signed up, but you can’t get people to sign up if there’s no venue. Once I sent out the deposit, I decided that I wouldn’t back down no matter what.
  2. Strike while the iron is hot
    For some reason, I thought it made sense to book my writer’s retreat one month after my writer’s conference. The conference takes about 200 hours to plan and market. It’s thoroughly exhausting. A week before the conference, I realized that I had no one signed up for the retreat, and the final payment was due in two weeks. I was in jeopardy of losing my deposit.
    My husband suggested I give a promotional discount for the retreat during the conference and let everyone know that it would expire by the end of the day. This seemed beyond ridiculous to me. My guests were already shelling out their hard-earned money for my conference. It felt greedy to ask for more money.
    That’s when I was forced to confront a harmful belief I had. I was thinking my guests were doing me a huge favor, rather than recognizing that I was giving them an incredible gift: my conferences and retreats are inspiring, informative and an incredible value. Once I accepted that fact, it was easy to announce the promotional offer and capitalize on the excitement and motivation I had already worked so hard to create at the conference.
    And guess what? Five people signed up that day!
    This is all to say, figure out when you can maximize your efforts and don’t let any doubts get in your way.
  3. Relax and enjoy the ride
    At a certain point you have to believe that all your planning will pay off and that it’s okay to enjoy yourself. I believe one of the reasons why my events are so powerful is because I am a writer and I give other writers exactly what I would want. If I can’t enjoy my own events, why the heck am I doing it? Passion projects are going to wipe you out. They will use up every last reserve of energy and will. If you can’t stop and enjoy the moment, I promise you won’t be able to sustain the passion.

Is there anything else you would add to the list? Was this helpful? Leave a comment ’cause I’d love to hear from you. Also, if you’re interested in joining the next retreat, send an email to Tracy [at] writerswork [dot] org, or apply here. I am starting to plan a week-long retreat for this summer in Long Island, and it would be a huge boost to know that people are interested in it.

*** Pictures provided by Josh Conrad. Josh has a blog where he’s tackling 25 interesting dares this year. You should definitely check out his blog and see what he had to say about the retreat! ***

My 300th Post

When I started this blog I wasn’t sure if I could come up with 10 posts, and now I am writing my 300! In honor of the big 3-0-0, I’m reposting three of my favorite post.

  1. My trip to Nicaragua. This post reminded me of how small the world is. I wrote about the volunteer project I did in a little town named Bajo De Los Ramirez (we were the first tourists to ever visit this remote town). Incredibly, someone left me a comment saying that she had been to the same town years later and they still talked about us. Sometimes when I blog it feels like I’m just throwing words out into the wind, but this serendipitous connection made it feel like I was blogging for a reason.
  2. Don’t hold on to old raisins. I was amazed at the amount of positive response I got from this post where I shared a belief that contradicted common advice.
  3. And of course, the post which started it all. After rereading my first post I can’t believe how much it still rings true for me. 300 posts later, I have a business up and running and it’s making me happy. Just more proof that when you know what you want it’s much easier to get it.


Ok. I’ll admit it. I kind of sorta lost my motivation. When I first started this blog ideas were tripping over each other, fighting to get out of my head and onto the World Wide Web. But now there’s a huge void in my brain, and I’m left asking, “what the heck happened?”

Well the truth is it’s just not fun anymore. OK I take that back. I get really excited when I see someone new has subscribed to my blog, and I almost cried when the blog reached 2,000 hits, but what I mean to say is that it’s no longer easy. It’s just like when you join the gym after a  New Year’s resolution to get in shape and you go every day for two weeks.You start thinking of training for a marathon. Then all of a sudden you’ve run out of clean sports bras, your ankles are hurting,  you forgot to charge your i-pod, and the it seems like everything is conspiring to keep you off the treadmill. The excitement and newness of it all wears off and the real work begins.

This is the critical point. This is when I can decide: Eh it’s not for me, or:  Hey, I’m not a quitter. I believe in commitment. And I’m going to choose the latter. As Richard Back said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” I will keep Paco the Piper in mind, and keep pushing forward.

So this is not to say that I am going to bombard you with a bunch of boring, forced posts, it’s just to say that I’m publicly renewing my vows with HeSo. I, Tracy, take you, HeSo, to be my never ending project, to research and to flourish, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, through excitement and hard work, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow. I do.