How to Dream a Writing Retreat Into Your Life

By Milli Thornton

The Spirit of Flight journal - my perfect place to dream

The Spirit of Flight journal - my perfect place to dream

I WAS DREAMING of a week-long writing retreat—or even two weeks—because I want to write a new book. Sure, I can write at home. I do that nearly every day. But this is the kind of book that would thrive on a little extra magic.

Financially, a one-week retreat was not even remotely on the horizon. Self-employed taxes hit hard and so did property tax. Still, it’s rumored that the act of dreaming can work small miracles, so I started hunting online for likely retreat settings.

I looked in states close to Ohio, such as Pennsylvania and Kentucky, but there didn’t seem to be much. It was either group retreats or somehow just not suitable for my needs. I looked at B&Bs and cabins, but nothing felt quite right.

Reluctantly, I decided to look in Ohio. This didn’t seem very exciting but at least it would be closer. Less gas money to get there. And less of a bite out of my writing time for the travel.

With keywords something like “writing retreat B&B Ohio” I found College House in Ashland, only two hour’s drive from my house. The rates were affordable and the rooms looked intriguing, so I bookmarked it. My first symbolic act of dreaming for a writing retreat.

While that link simmered in my bookmarks folder, I dreamed about what I wanted to write. There are actually two books brewing within, and I would need to choose. But it fell into place without any hard decisions: one book needs to follow the other because the first one paves the way. One is non-fiction and one is fiction, both with the same underlying theme.

Next time I clicked on that College House link, I picked out which of the four themed rooms I’d most want to stay in. There’s the Art Dept., the English Dept., the Music Dept. and the History Dept. You’d think the English Dept. would be a no-brainer for a writer, but it wasn’t quite my cup of (English breakfast) tea.

The Art Dept. was the one. Upstairs in a garret (the most private room in the house) and with clashingly colorful and funky decor, it echoes my theme for the new book: creative wildness.

Still, all I could do was bookmark the Art Dept. Seven night’s accommodation would be $875 plus tax. Then food and gas.

One Saturday morning Brian and I were drinking cappuccinos when I decided to share my dream. As some of my writing friends know firsthand, telling an engineer something about creativity is not always Fun with a capital F. I was afraid he’d squash my passion with his relentless practical streak and the old “You know we can’t afford it.”

I warned him I was only dreaming so don’t step on my dream, Mister.

Guess what? Brian came up with a solution. (Darn engineers. They’re always doing that.) He suggested I go for two nights: a mini retreat. That way I could test out the B&B and see if I would even want to go there for a whole week sometime later when we can afford it.

He said, “We can afford two nights.”

Things happened rapidly after that. I called the B&B and the owner was super-friendly—even excited about my reason for coming. She wants to hear all about my writing when I get there. I got the dates I wanted and I was in seventh heaven. I bought a new journal (The Spirit of Flight) and started my dream/plans for the retreat.

Then disaster struck. I had wantonly chosen the week the rent’s due. A bunch of other bills were falling due that week, as well, making it now look impossible. I was devastated. My dream felt smashed.

But then a refund check came from the IRS. Huh? We owed them, not vicky-versa!

We’re still scratching our heads about the tax refund. But the amount is comfortably more than I’ll need for accommodation, food and gas for two nights, so now I’ll even have emergency money.

I’m leaving tomorrow and the Art Dept. will be my home for the next two nights. There’s a coffeehouse called Common Grounds only four blocks down from the B&B so I can walk there for cappuccino. (Can’t plan a retreat without a coffeehouse somewhere in the mix.)

The delicious-looking breakfast served by Kathy at College House will fuel me for many hours of household-chore-free writing, and my room has its own desk and chair. A chair with a cushion. For my (ahem) two-years-over-the-big-5-0 writer’s derriere.

My plans are to write wild and see what comes out. Pre-writing, so no pressure to make it into a “book” just yet.

Ahhh. Creative bliss, here I come.

Would a writing retreat make you happy? But you know you can’t afford one? Try dreaming for one anyway—the power of dreaming might just surprise you. Maybe a relative with a cabin in the woods will offer you a little time there. Or maybe you’ll win a trip somewhere. Or maybe . . . who knows? Start dreaming today!

Milli Thornton, Fear of Writing Blog | Fear of Writing Online Course

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of Unleash Your Writing! and the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli also blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers at Writer’s Muse.

16 Responses to How to Dream a Writing Retreat Into Your Life
  1. Julia
    May 1, 2012 | 2:04 AM

    The Spirit of Flight journal sounds interesting. Thanks for letting me visit your site.

  2. CurtissAnn
    May 1, 2012 | 8:22 AM

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Marilyn
    May 1, 2012 | 8:43 AM

    Milli the universe is with you. This must be fate. I am so happy for you and jealous! I can’t wait to hear about your fabulous creative retreat.

  4. Lois
    May 1, 2012 | 10:21 AM

    That’s so cool, Milli! 😀 I’d like to plan something like that–maybe in September–? It would definitely have to be close to home, but I haven’t seen much of the area, so why not? 🙂

    I know you’ll have a great time!


  5. Carole
    Twitter: cjtreggett
    May 1, 2012 | 10:33 AM

    Milli, thanks for such an inspiring post! Wow, it’s so exciting and encouraging to read how you went ahead and intentionally and specifically dreamed up your writing retreat so that the universe could, indeed, gift you with this wonderful opportunity!

    Don’t you just love serendipity? Fantastic about that IRS refund; my face hurts still smiling about that little miracle.

    The takeaway lesson for me after reading this is: don’t be afraid to be specific about our dreams, to set the intention of our creative plans deliberately ‘out there’ so we can recognize the miracles, be flexible enough to receive, and participate in having our plans come to fruition!

    I hope you have a MAGICAL writing time during your mini-retreat. Bon Voyage!

  6. Annie Neugebauer
    Twitter: AnnieNeugebauer
    May 1, 2012 | 10:59 AM

    A mini retreat! I love it, Milli. I hope you have a wonderful, inspiring, creative, productive time. =)

  7. Laura
    Twitter: dream_mancer
    May 1, 2012 | 11:37 AM

    That sounds so fun! I know that when our writing group goes on our annual retreat every November, I get so much done. No internet, no phones (except my iPhone that I can’t live without), and nature. I do so love nature as my soundtrack! There’s just something about getting away from the norm that helps creativity flow!

    I hope you really enjoy your time, can relax, and get those ideas on paper!


  8. Deonne Kahler
    Twitter: deonnekahler
    May 1, 2012 | 2:02 PM

    Milli, I love the serendipity of this story! I’m guessing even two nights away will be hugely productive for you, and I can’t wait to hear about it when you get back. I was thinking of setting up an at home writing retreat, and you’ve inspired me to make that a real plan. Yay!

  9. Julia Munroe Martin
    Twitter: wordsxo
    May 1, 2012 | 4:39 PM

    This sounds like just the perfect writing retreat (and of course I’m jealous!!); hope you’ll write about it because I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  10. Valeka
    Twitter: runningonheavy
    May 1, 2012 | 5:13 PM

    How WONDERFUL, Milli!!! And what a great solution Brian came up with! You have inspired me to look for the perfect retreat that isn’t too far from home (gotta be budget-friendly!). May the pixies of creativity and inspiration sprinkle a little of their magic on your journal!

  11. j
    May 1, 2012 | 7:17 PM

    WOW! And yes! I too have dreamed of a retreat. I can’t even imagine writing away from home for any extended length of time. Like all of us, I’m fitting writing in when and where I can. A week (or two nights) somewhere beautiful and quiet and soulful… I’m so jealous! And happy for you. I can’t wait to hear about your experience.

    I must start dreaming more specifically. Love your “process” for making this happen.

  12. Sandra Williams
    May 2, 2012 | 12:21 AM

    What a great post and a great idea! I want to dream an inspirational road trip. That’s often when the best ideas get churned into butter in my clabbered milk mind!

  13. Estrella Azul
    May 3, 2012 | 5:03 AM

    I have to start dreaming of a writing retreat right now!
    The Universe has a way of providing, even if sometimes it has a dark sense of humor, and I’m so happy that this worked out for you so well!

  14. Toyah
    May 6, 2012 | 9:23 AM

    Wow – I just looked up that B&B’s website and it looks amazing (American places always look so much nicer to me than British ones!), I have to say that I love the huge bath and the ornate basin in the English Dept. 😉 I might have to get dreaming of my own retreat and hope it spurs me to get back into writing…

    • Fear of Writing
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      May 18, 2012 | 7:22 PM

      Hi Toyah, Lovely to hear from you again. 🙂

      We Americans can look over the pond and think things over your way have an olde world charm that we don’t see very often here. I guess images on the Internet can be powerful!

      I hope your dreamings for a writing retreat helped spur you back to your writing.

      Cheers ~ Milli

  15. Dana
    Twitter: danapittman
    May 7, 2012 | 6:17 PM

    Yeah Milli! A dream becoming reality. And Hubby is a keeper. 😉

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