As a writer who works from home with four young children, there is one fantasy that constantly makes its way into my mind—and it has nothing to do with any shades of anything gray or freed.
Instead my fantasy is pretty simple: it involves running away for a day or two, all alone, just me, my computer and no agenda or timeline. Whether you have children or not, escaping the reality of the world to focus completely on your craft is the dream of every writer.
Just picture it: you, holing away in some blissful hotel, lost in the woods, or near the beach, with endless amounts of time to craft your words and maybe eat some excellent room service. I have often dreamed of taking my own writing retreat, but I was surprised to discover that unlike me, who has only dreamed about it, many writers actually do create their own solo writer retreats. And not only do they create their own retreats, but they make a habit of it. For example, Natalie of She Takes on Money shared that she not only takes her own business retreats, but she actually takes one every.single.month.
Um, can you say living the dream?
I may think of taking a monthly writing retreat as something completely out of my reach, but when you really think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense for your business. Taking intentional time out to brainstorm, to plan, and to actually get work done without any distractions or needs from the outside world can offer great returns for your business.
But can you make your own writer’s retreat happen? And can it be tax write-off for your business? Here’s what you need to know and some tips to creating your own relaxing mini writer’s retreat:
Keep it simple
What exactly do you need to make a writing retreat? Well, honestly, not a lot. The best type of retreat is a getaway that can help inspire you to really get down to work. That might mean driving a few hours away, that might mean keeping it local if you have young kids and are worried, or it might even mean staying home and kicking everyone else out.
The key is to focus on minimizing any other distractions, so make sure your meals are provided for, or at least super simple, and that you’re not tempted by any house chores or other to-do’s. One of the easiest way is to find a nice hotel or bed and breakfast and check in for a night or two to buckle down and focus on your writing.
Consider an AirBnB
If the idea of a boring hotel room doesn’t exactly sound inspirational to you, consider seeing what’s available from local AirBnB. They are often a lot more affordable than a hotel and may come with some pretty cool perks, like a pool or a calming and inspirational environment.
Hop on a train
In the book, DIY Writing Retreat: A Guide to Getting Away, author Alicia de los Reyes suggests booking a cheap train ticket and making the train your moving office for the day. You can get off on stops when you need a break, want to grab lunch, or just walk around. Then, when you’re ready to close out your writing, head back home and sleep in your own bed. You might be surprised by what a change of scenery and endless people watching inspiration can do for your writing.
Want to create your own writing retreat but short of funds? Ask around if someone has an empty house or apartment for the weekend you could use. You might ask a friend if you could use their empty beach cabin in the winter, for example, or offer to a housesit for a family member taking a vacation.
Build in some downtime
Look, we all know how easy it is to squander an entire day doing absolutely nothing. And if you very rarely get time to yourself, the concept of such freedom might suddenly turn you into a kid into a candy store, except instead of chocolate you’re devouring hotel TV and a bubble bath.
Your writing retreat should be productive, but part of productivity is also giving your brain and body literal and physical time to rest and be refreshed. Studies have proven that downtime is actually beneficial to productivity, so don’t feel bad about indulging in some mindless distraction, but just be sure to schedule it in, so that your downtime doesn’t suddenly become all of your time.
Is it a tax write-off?
So, here’s the question of the day. Can you write off your own mini writing retreat? By all means, you should be able to because you’re absolutely working and investing in your business, but the rules for freelancers can get awfully tricky. Say writers decided they needed a “writing retreat” every weekend? What if they tried to claim they needed to a “retreat” for 10 days in Hawaii and also bring their family around? You can see why the IRS might frown about that.
Here’s my best advice: first of all, get an accountant who knows the freelance life and ask him or her, because I’m not a tax professional. Secondly, you might be able to persuade said accountant that this is a real business expense if you keep it reasonable (no champagne and lobster dinners to your room) and a rarity, such a once-a-year business retreat. You might also be able to categorize the expenses under professional development.
It may also be helpful if you schedule a legitimate business meeting or two over your retreat, say meeting up with a writing partner or having coffee with your editor. The website 99 deductions has a great, comprehensive list of what writers can and can’t write off with concrete examples, so be sure to browse that and get familiar with tax rules for writers.
Tell us: what do you think? What do you do to help you shake ideas loose and kick writer’s block to the curb?
Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer. She lives in Michigan with her husband, four young kids, and a flock of chickens. Find her at chauniebrusie.com.