July 19, 2013

Like Southwest Airlines – When You Just Have to Get Away

By Cheri L. Thacker

My husband asked, “Did you pay the bills?”  My son yelled, “Where’s my resume?”  Sweet Pea inquired, “How about this costume?”  The booster president begged, “Can you sell Boston butts?”

Simultaneously, I had six other people trying to relay urgent information.  I couldn’t hear them over the chaotic din.  The difference between each group was that one was inside my head while the other was in my face.  I needed a break.

I’d turned my focus back to my novel.  Taking advice from my last writers meeting, I’d found pictorial representations of my characters and pinned them to a bulletin board.  I house-hunted online and found the perfect home for my protagonist, right down to the pictures on the dining room wall. I’d Googled the murder location and printed a satellite view.  It hung below the handcuffs my murder victim would be found wearing. I had a visual representation to draw me into my work, which opened the creative floodgates.

I wanted to spend hours with my characters, but the tug and pull of family made me feel like a twisty rope-toy yanked between the mouth of a terrier and his owner.

So I retreated.

Retreat, according to, has multiple meanings. The most familiar is “to withdraw.”  I needed to do that.  It also means “a place of seclusion.”  I needed to find that.  Retreat also refers to an “asylum, as for the insane.”  One of my characters spends a month in a mental facility, and I’d joked about doing a stay as research.  (I’m not as keen on that idea as I let on.)

If you feel like a chew toy, a self-made retreat may be your best option if your budget doesn’t allow for a customary retreat.  I took a week get-away but yours could be a day, or a weekend; whatever your time and budget allows.  Here are a few tips.

For lodging, check “out of season” tourist destinations within driving distance.  Try relaxing, scenic locations that inspire. I found a bargain in Branson, MO through—a site specializing in condominium rentals for $500 or less for a week’s stay.    

Minimize outside communication.  Avoid social media.  Designate a time to touch base with family and ask them to contact you otherwise only if it’s an emergency.  Put your phone away.  Keep the television off. ·        

Create an itinerary that focuses on creativity rather than word count.  Look around and write descriptions—settings, weather, people you observe, emotions—that can be used in later writings. Take a prompt book.·        

Read.  A lot. 

Make time each day for physical activity.  Take a walk, swim, or guided hike.  Avoid “touristy” events but don’t be afraid to check out local history, and landmarks.  Story ideas may lurk. 

When you return home designate daily “retreat time” and apply the same principles from your retreat.  I’m putting a sign on my office door—“On Retreat in Solitude, USA.”

Hey, I’m a writer.  I can go anywhere I want.  I just don’t want to go insane.   
Cheri Thacker is a humor columnist and freelance writer.  Her short story, “The Butterfly Wish”, appeared in Mused Literary Review (Fall 2012).  She regularly contributes articles to The Bartlett Weekly, a Commercial Appeal publication.  Her humorous blog, Crumbsnatcher Tales, follows the antics of Mama Bread Baker and her Crumbsnatchers, which in no way resembles her real life managing a family of six plus two dogs, one cat, and a fish.”

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