How Taking a Short Writing Retreat Boosted My Productivity

Disclaimer: this post will feature a lot of pictures, just so you know.

A stunning art exhibition I found. I believe it was showcased in the Esplanade building.

I have mentioned in one of my previous blog posts that I wanted to go on a creative writing retreat. Not the fancy residency kind, of course. What I’m talking about is but a short escape somewhere. It should be far enough from my usual daily routine, but it also should be within my budget—so it shouldn’t be too far, either.

Last October, I was offered a cheap flight ticket to spend the weekend in Singapore.

I took it without hesitation.

Admittedly, I imagined that my writing retreat would take place someplace in Bogor, or Bandung. And to be honest, my initial itinerary involved a lot of shopping and sightseeing—more than I would ever need to do in Singapore. Clearly, I was never prepared to turn this short escape into that of a writing retreat.

But because it happened in October, and I was in the middle of planning for my NaNoWriMo project, it occurred to me just hours away from taking off: I should use this short vacation to get some writing done.

Now that put me in quite a bind. I already packed everything into my cabin-sized luggage. And I didn’t think carrying a laptop around in a backpack would do any good to my back. Especially since I would definitely need some sightseeings to refresh in-between writing sessions.

Laptop, I couldn’t bring. But a writer’s notebook? That would fit perfectly in my messenger bag, and I wouldn’t need to carry an awkwardly huge backpack for my trip, I thought to myself. Fortunately, I already prepared my writer’s notebook setup, and within minutes, I was ready for my writing retreat in Singapore.

I instantly felt at home in Books Actually; one of Singapore’s most famous independent bookstore.

Singapore was, for the most part, hot and humid. Just like Jakarta.

But for adventurous minds who don’t mind some treasure-hunting, it is also a grove full of rare gems. My trip to Books Actually was one such case.

Books Actually is, actually (pun intended) an independent bookstore in Singapore. They sell not only Singaporean literature, but I noticed they also have some prominent Indonesian writers’ books on the shelves (Laksmi Pamuntjak was one of them).

Independent as they might be, I was surprised when I gave some of the books a quick read. Not only were they legit, quality writings, they also had either interesting concepts, or interesting premise. And I also noticed that they were not afraid to publish poem books, anthologies, and even novellas in paperbacks. I myself bought one of their anthologies, and was not disappointed by it.

It was much later when I realized that Books Actually has its own publishing imprint, under the name of Math Paper Press. Kudos to them for keeping this bibliophile soul of mine satisfied.

As for the actual “writing” of the writing retreat, I’m afraid it’s not all that exciting.

After getting my fuel in Books Actually, I returned to the hostel I was staying at, and jotted some more plotting ideas on my writer’s notebook. I found that after being exposed to an abundance of literary works in Books Actually, it got a little bit more exciting for me to plan for my own.

Unfortunately, like I mentioned, it wasn’t too exciting to put into words here. I might write another blog post explaining about how I do my outline, like I had promised on my Instagram, but that’s for another time.

Let’s just say that it involved a lot of sticky notes, a huge portion of my Muji Hexagonal Gel Ink Pen 0.25’s ink reservoir, and also some time until around dinner. The result? A whopping 5 pages of story concepts & character profiles. I also managed to finish the plot outline for my project; 50 scenes in total.

It was then when I decided I must reward myself by doing some sightseeing.

The breathtaking indoor waterfall in “Cloud Forest” Dome, Gardens by the Bay.

I decided to go to Gardens by the Bay, and I didn’t regret it.

Not one bit.

The flower dome was great and all, but it was the cloud forest dome that captivated me dearly. There was just something so magical about the giant waterfall, the cold air, and the foggy paths to the top level that intrigued my imagination. How I wished I could insert them in one of my writings one of these days—but that’s also for another day.

I mean, just look at the picture above. Isn’t it magnificent?

When I returned to my hostel that day, I did some checks on the outline I did the day before, and as I expected, found some errors. There were contradictory scenes and even plot holes I could already detect in forms of scene cards. These things would usually frustrates me to no end, but that day, I recall not being too bothered by it.

In fact, writing felt fun again, after quite some time. And did I owe that to the breathtaking view of the cloud forest I saw? Quite possibly so.

The view from a nature’s “window”, near the top-level of the cloud forest dome, Gardens by the Bay.

It was at this moment when I started to suspect that, perhaps, the things that keep our writing going, is not writing itself.

It could very well be everything aside from writing.

Like, you know, visiting a small bookstore in the neighborhood that sells some rare gems. Or going to a very beautiful place, and taking the time to enjoy the gorgeous views. Not only are they inspiring, but they are also very stress-relieving, especially for someone like me who felt like I was stuck in a boring daily routine prior to this short escape.

Taking this short writing retreat could be the best decision I made in 2017.

Although I went home immediately the following day, I had finished the outline for my novels, fixed some inconsistencies I could detect, and even wrote some scenes for the project while waiting for my return flight. Not only was this writing retreat inspiring, it turned out to be also very productive for me.

And the best part? I managed to fit a short trip to the Tintin Store before catching my flight. As a big fan of the serials, I take pride in being able to fetch some souvenirs for myself to commemorate this vacation.

Some souvenirs I bought for myself.

And there you have it.

My very first writing retreat. It was a very successful (and productive) one. As someone who has experienced this first-hand, I would definitely recommend planning out a short writing retreat if you’re feeling stuck with your current writing project.

Or, you know, if you feel like life sucks and you deserve some rest.

It was definitely a trip worth going for me. And I believe you don’t even need to go to Singapore to experience the same effect. The most important thing is for you to have fun. Creativity, and most of the time, productivity, goes along well with fun.

Have the most fun you could ever have, and you would be most creative and most productive you could ever be.

Of course, for you guys who have read my previous blog post, you would know that my NaNoWriMo project wasn’t exactly all rainbows and unicorns, but I stand by my point. Creative writing retreat works, period.

I encourage you guys to start planning your own, and I hope you will have tons of fun.

(…and tons of productive nights)

Speaking of being productive, I felt like I was productive enough in November that I managed to finish the preparation for my upcoming book, UNSPOKEN WORDS.

My upcoming novel, UNSPOKEN WORDS.

You can stay updated about the upcoming release of my second novel by following any of my social media, or just stay tuned in this website, as I would be posting new content every weekend—and also more updates along with it. Do let me know in the comment section below if you’re interested in learning more about this book!

Books Actually

9 Yong Siak Street
Singapore 168645

Opening Hours:  10AM – 6PM (Sunday & Monday), 10AM – 8PM (Tuesday – Saturday)
Phone: +65 6222 9195

Gardens by the Bay

18 Marina Gardens Dr,
Singapore 018953

Opening Hours:  5AM – 2AM
Phone: +65 6420 6848

Alicia Lidwina 2017


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