Of Writer’s Block and Planning My Writing Retreat

I couldn’t even count the number of times somebody asked me:


“When will you release your next book?”

80% of the time, I would give them a quick smile and say “Soon,” or “I’m working on it,” or something to that effect. And 80% of the time, these people would be satisfied. They would nod and then forget all about it the following day–which works in my favor, if I may say so myself.

The truth is, I’m getting tired of being asked the same thing over and over again. I’m tired of pretending to work on something, when I actually am not. It was getting difficult to keep up with everyone’s expectation. Especially after my debut novel, 3 (Tiga), which was released in August 2015.

While 80% of the time I would be able to make up some answers to the question, 20% of the time, people would have to be satisfied with a crankier version of me. The side of me whom I only show my closest friends to.

“When will you release your next book?” They would ask.

And I would answer:

“I don’t know. Why should you care? You didn’t even read my first book.”


“When will you stop asking me?”

Or anything even saltier than those two perfect examples.

Now you see why I have been avoiding giving an honest answer to the big question. The truth is, I am getting annoyed. Of course, I would be overjoyed to hear the question when I actually have a next book to release, mind you. But asking it over and over again while I don’t have any is like rubbing coarse salt to the wound. And please don’t get me started on hearing people’s comments like how I should spend more of my time writing, to get all my mojo back.


I tried, okay? And it didn’t work.

Otherwise you wouldn’t be asking for my second book; you would be asking for my third.

I have to admit, this is a very sore topic for me, and I had been avoiding it altogether the past few months. Especially when a certain editor and a certain fellow author kept on asking me about it. But it got me thinking at times, you know. Why wouldn’t I be able to write my next book? I had done it once. They said it comes easier with practice. So why has it been nothing but difficulties for me to write a new novel, when I could write shorts, poems, and prose just fine?

It was during this “dark period” when I had stumbled upon a nice article on The Write Life by Kristen Pope. It talks about planning your own DIY writing retreat–something very foreign to me at the time. It didn’t stop me from doing my own research, though. I may be facing the biggest writer’s block of my lifetime, but it doesn’t mean I have forgotten my love for reading. So that’s what I did. I read a bunch of stuff to understand what is this “writing retreat” Kristen wrote about. Also why did it compelled her so much she created a whole article about planning your own.

A writing retreat, as the name suggests, is a retreat intended so the writers can focus on their writings. It is a very loose term, but a writing retreat can help you in your plotting, drafting, or even revision process. You take your writing instruments with you and go on a undisrupted retreat. During it, you write/plot/revise the heck out of your project until the end of the retreat.

This came across to me as a brilliant idea.

I thought, maybe this is what I needed in the first place. An allocated time for my writing rituals, without families and friends getting in the way. You can love your family and BFFs to death, but writing itself is a very personal experience. Most of the time, you would pick spending time with your loved ones over writing, just because it makes getting through the day less miserable. Don’t worry, I won’t judge you for admitting it. I do it too.

I do it so much, in fact, that I have allocated more than 70% of my free time with my friends & family during the weekends. With my very demanding day job, it became hard to squeeze in some writings during the weekdays. And whatever free time left I have on the weekends (the measly 30%) will be for the much deserved sleep time.

So where is the writing part of my life, you might ask?


A writing retreat might be the very thing I need to save me form this writer’s block now. At least, I’m betting the last strand of my hope on this one. I have no solid ideas yet, I am also very bad at coming up with a story premise as always. I can imagine the characters I will be writing. But they haven’t talked to me the way Nakamura and Hashimoto did for my debut novel.

Still, it is worth the try.

I have yet to decide on the location of my writing retreat, but I have decided on what to bring with me in this sacred pilgrimage:

  1. My iPad Mini 2nd Generation with Retina Display Wi-Fi Only 32GB
    For those of you who haven’t known about it, I bid my mid 2012 Macbook Pro a very warm RIP in the middle of last year. It had served me well, but it could not withstand the flow of time, like everything else in this universe.Since I am still saving up for other, more pressing, things in my life, I would have to make do with the only personal computing device I have with a large enough screen so I can write a few chapters without squinting my eyes: my iPad Mini 2nd Generation.
    wp-image-107237170jpg.jpgIt is not a new device by any means, and the OS is showing its age. But between the portability, battery life, and more-than-reliable iCloud-synced Note app, I’m ready to write anything that crosses my mind! I had wanted to upgrade to an iPad Air 2, but I thought the money is better off for buying a new laptop altogether.With that being said, I would also need….
  2. Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

    I am one of those people who just can’t buy the whole “typing on a glorified slab of glass” experience. For me, tactile feedback is the best. I would really prefer a mechanical keyboard over the chiclet style keyboard found on this bluetooth keyboard, but it’s not like I can fit one into my bag.whatsapp-image-2017-01-31-at-14-50-47
    In any case, the keyboard had been my go-to typing device for whenever I’m on the iPad Mini to write on the go. It has a very long battery life, and even though it’s not rechargeable, the ubiquitous AA batteries aren’t that hard to find. You can basically find them in any convenience store.
  3. My Cellphone: the Oneplus X + MicroSD expansion 64GB

    You might be asking why am I including this on the list. The reason is simple: because aside from my daily driver phone, I’m also using it as my wifi hotspot for the iPad Mini to connect to the web. The 64GB expansion storage is mostly to store my humongous music library, also a few TV series, just in case I find myself wanting to procrastinate a bit. (Anything in moderation is definitely okay!)
    Did I tell you that I absolutely love the OLED screen? Much love.
  4. My Hobonichi Techo 2017 Journal

    Aside from fiction writing, I also started journaling. The idea occurred to me when my friend got me this beautiful pocket journal from TOA Graphic Books facebook page (they were having this on sale at the time).
    This is my first journaling experience ever, so let me know if you have some tips on making the journal even neater! Also this will double as my physical notebook for the writing project, since it has a lot of empty pages for scribbling my thoughts!
  5. Collection of Stationery
    Did I tell you how much I love stationery? Roller ball pens, ball point pens, mechanical pencils, traditional pencils in all shade of grey available, pencil sharpener, eraser, highlighters, fountain pens, glass dip pens–about every imaginable writing instruments that exist on the planet–I have them all. I have too much of them, in fact, that I had to store them in three different places.
  6. Post-its, Index Cards, etc.
Self explanatory. These are especially useful for plotting and revising. I wouldn’t go into details on how my writing process looks like, but let me know if you’re interested in it!

I will also bring the essentials: power adapter, power brick, and my tea collection. (I’m currently in love with my latest creation: mango tea with maple syrup and lemon zest). Will be spending the next few weeks planning out my writing retreat, so please let me know if you have any place you would like to recommend for me to go! (It has to be in Java Island, Indonesia. Otherwise the plane ticket would kill my savings).

I am thinking of Bandung. But since I live in Jakarta, I suppose even Bogor is a good enough place for a short getaway.

Let me know what you think!


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