My Writing/Workout Retreat
Updated: Jul 26, 2021
Since I work 40 hours a week, and struggle to fit in more than 8 hours of writing and 3 hours of working out weekly, I decided to take two weeks off and focus on writing and working out.
So I mapped out my ideal schedule on a Trello board, using their helpful Calendar Power Up—my new favorite thing. (See my videos on how easy Trello and Toggl are to use.)
Week 1: Plan
Week 1: Actual
It looks great on virtual paper, right? But it ended up being a little different in reality. Here’s how it went, and what I learned along the way:
Day One, Savor Saturday
Since this was a weekend day, I didn’t pack it too heavy. I just did four hours of writing and one Pop Pilates class. I also went to lunch with my husband. The thing that was a little strange though, is that I didn’t work on the time travel novel that I’ve been working on for 28 years and took this very staycation to finish. Instead, I added 2,000 words to my non-fiction time management book. I knew that wasn’t ideal, but since it was a weekend day and it was what I felt passionate about at the moment, I let myself off the hook. Plus, it was a really good 2,000 words.
Lesson: Write what you feel passionate about. Passion leads to good writing.
4 hours writing, 2,000 words, 1 hour working out
Day Two, Sunday Funday
Since I knew I was about to embark on a tough schedule Monday, I took it mostly easy this day. After an intense Body Combat class, I didn’t end up writing at all. I spent the majority of the day marathoning past seasons of Veronica Mars. My husband pointed out that I hadn’t gotten any writing done yet, and he was right, but as I told him, “I’m going to spend the next 14 days working on my novel.”
But he was right. I should’ve written at least a little, especially since I planned on working out every day without fail, and I’ve already seen every episode of Veronica Mars.
Lesson: Write every day of a writing retreat.
O hours writing, no words, 1 hour working out
Day Three, (Motivation) Marathon Monday
This day was tough. Since my husband had to go to work while I stayed home for two weeks, I decided to do all the chores we usually do together on weekends, all in one day. A great idea and I somehow pulled it off, but not without rushing around frantically for half a day.
It turns out I underestimated how long certain things would take and overscheduled in general. It was great that I wrote for three hours before my 10:30 a.m. Pilates class, but after that, everything I did took longer than expected. For instance, though grocery shopping has always taken an hour, for some reason it suddenly took two and 30 whole minutes to put groceries away. The whole day went like this. I blinked, and it was 3:30 p.m. already.
Then I rushed around, trying to do an amount of cleaning in an hour and a half that usually takes my husband and I four hours to do together.
Then I was out of time for the cleaning and started dinner. (I don’t actually cook much at all, so I decided I would cook every weekday of this staycation to be healthier.)
After dinner, I put away/in dishes and cleaned the kitchen. (I always and only clean the kitchen directly after cooking.) Then I still had laundry to put up and a whole other load to start, dry and put up.
Though I wasn’t done with the second load of laundry until 10 p.m., at least the rest of the evening was pretty relaxing. I mostly watched more Veronica Mars.
Lesson: Don’t overschedule yourself.
3 hours of writing, 2,000 words, 1 hour of working out, 2.5 hours grocery shopping, 3 hours cleaning
Day Four, Type Tuesday
This day felt much better. I wrote from 7 to 10:45 a.m. and then got dressed and headed to yoga. I had gotten the class time wrong and only got 30 minutes of stretching, but that’s probably what I needed after three days of hour-long workouts.
By the time I ate lunch, I was actually ahead of schedule and decided to clean out my makeup drawer before I started my afternoon writing session at 1 p.m.
But I didn’t work on my novel right away. Instead, I worked on this blog first. Originally, I told myself that I felt passionate about this blog post (which is true), but when I was really honest with myself, I realized I was putting off the novel-writing because I was about to start a difficult fight scene. So I turned back to the novel at 2:30 p.m., after losing an hour and half.
By 4:30 p.m., I was burned out on writing for the day. I figured 6.5 hours was good enough and let myself start Schitt’s Creek on Netflix.
My husband got home and wanted to go to the gym, so I worked out for a second time that day with 30 minutes of Zumba class and 20 minutes on the elliptical. The rest of the night I watched Veronica Mars.
Lesson: Don’t procrastinate by doing everything else before you start writing.
6.5 hours of writing, 3,000 words, 1.5 hours of working out
Day Five, Write Wednesday
I started strong at 7:30 a.m., then struggled to get to 10:15 a.m., before I changed and headed to Pilates.
After Pilates, I hit Target like usual to pick up salads, then found myself wandering the store looking at clothes. I didn’t see any must-haves, but it felt like a luxury just look. It made me wonder if I’d planned enough fun into my staycation. I couldn’t seem to stop myself from taking too long on things this week, but maybe I should worry less about taking too long and more about savoring.
I took a nice lunch break and watched Schitt’s Creek with the plan to start writing again at 1 p.m., but something work-related came up that had to be dealt with and this delayed my writing until 2:45 p.m. At least I made it to 5 p.m. easily.
That night I went to Body Pump, since my husband was in a gym mood again. That was the second day in a row I did two different one-long workout classes in one day. I decided to skip the gym the next day, so I could just go once with him. I didn’t want to overtrain.
Lesson: Plan some fun, or what’s the point?
5 hours of writing, 2,000 words, 2 hours of working out
Day Six, Think Thursday
I planned this day to be nothing but writing and self- and dog care. I had no trouble writing for three hours straight and finally realized a good climax to my book. But like the day before, something urgent popped up. This involved my student loan forgiveness program and it could not be ignored. I spent a lot of the day filing paperwork.
When I did get back to writing, I finally finished the climax scene, despite many interruptions, and felt peaked for the day.
I decided to do something fun, and laid in bed to decide what to do. Then I feel asleep for an hour. I clearly needed sleep more than fun.
I watched a little of Schitt’s Creek and hit the gym again with my husband after work. I did a Zumba class, then ate a salad. The rest of the night I laid in bed and watched TV.
Lesson: Stuff is gonna come up. That’s life.
5 hours of writing, 2,000 words, 1 hour of working out
Day Seven, (Focus) Free Friday
Pop Pilates, my favorite class, was at 8:30 that morning, so I decided to work out early and write after, to see how that worked for me. The short answer is that it didn’t. The long answer is, no plan was gonna work.
After Pop Pilates, walking Kanna and showering, I had a burst of energy. I wanted to do something, and it wasn’t writing.
I realized I had two things I hadn’t scheduled yet: a haircut and a pedicure. I’d been cutting my own bangs since April, and they really needed to be straightened, and my feet needed to not look like Jim Carrey’s in Dumb and Dumber. I needed to buy some Meal Simples from HEB to cook that night anyway, and there were hair and nail places in the same parking lot.
So I left at about 10:30 for the haircut, which didn’t take long (and looked good) then had the most relaxing pedicure ever. I was sore from working out, so the massage chair was welcome instead painful. I hadn’t drank since I started this whole experiment, so the free glass of wine felt decadent, and the deluxe pedicure included a 12-minute foot massage, which made me feel pampered. As I sat there, fully relaxed, I thought, “Now this feels like a vacation.”
It was the first time I had thought this, now a week into my staycation. I realized this was sad, so I changed from Focus to Free Friday. The rest of the day, I did whatever I felt like, which included a leisurely grocery shop at H-E-B, sushi, laundry, more Veronica Mars and another hour-long nap. I only ended up writing for about 15 minutes.
Lesson: If you don’t plan leisure, it will happen anyway.
15 minutes writing, 200 words, 1 hour working out
Day Eight, Savor Saturday
I didn’t expect this day to be productive at all, since an out-of-town guest was staying for the weekend. But I still managed to write for two hours before Body Combat and three after. Then our AC broke. (I would say “unexpectedly,” but it’s an old unit and we’ve been hitting 100 degrees every day since July. #SighTexasSummers.) Thankfully, it was fixed well enough to run before our guest arrived, but would need additional work Monday. (Good thing I already had off work.) The rest of the day was spent hosting.
Lesson: Socializing is important, too.
5 hours writing, 2,000 words, 1 hour working out
Week 2: Plan
Week 2: Actual
Day Nine, Sunday Funday
I was certain this day wasn’t going to be productive. Aside from the houseguest, I had brunch planned with the girls at 10 a.m. But I still managed to write for two hours before that. But after that, the day went to hosting and then recuperating. I didn’t make it to the gym for the first time since the experiment started, but I’ve learned that working out after a mimosa is not ideal.
Lesson: Do what you can when you can and then let go.
2 hours writing, 1,000 words, 0 hours working out
Day Ten, (Motivation Monday) Things-Got-In-the-Way Day
Since the AC people were coming anywhere from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I had an eye doctor appointment for Kanna (since she hurt her eye an hour before the AC broke), and a dinner planned with an out-of-town couple, I knew this day was not going to amount to much of a word count. I also wasn’t sure how I was going to make it to the gym at all when I needed to wait around for the AC guy. (Just leaving to see the eye specialist was a risk.) I also needed to clean, and I wasn’t going to overschedule like I did last Monday. I decided it wasn’t my fault that Kanna cut her eye and the AC broke, so I wouldn’t blame myself for whatever I couldn’t get to. The day would turn out however it turned out. I’d say it actually broke even. Here’s my math:
- I didn’t make it to the gym.
+ I wrote for 3 hours before Kanna’s eye appointment.
- The scratch on Kanna’s eye had to be lasered off for a lot of money, and I’d have to medicate and watch her carefully for two weeks.
+ At least this happened while I was already off work.
- The AC cost a lot of money to fix.
+ It got fixed before it got hot in here.
Lesson: When major things go wrong, don’t blame yourself for what you can’t do. You have no choice but to divert time to emergencies.
3 hours writing, 1,000 words, 1 hour working out (because handling my blind, rambunctious dog on a leash counts)
Day Eleven, (Type) Tuesday
My husband had this day off too, so I knew I wouldn’t get much writing done. I was right, but I still managed to write for an hour.
Lesson: Some unproductive days are okay.
1 hour writing, 500 words, 0 hours working out
Day Twelve, Write/Water Wednesday
I woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I watered the front and back yard in the dark since it’s our water day. This mostly consisted of me lying in bed listening to the sprinkler and moving it from the back to the front at one point. Then I wrote from 7 to 8 a.m., hit 50,000 words easily and went back to sleep until Pop Pilates. After the gym, I spent too much at the Charming Charlie’s going-out-of-business sale. (With prices that are still unreasonable after 25% off, I get why they filed for bankruptcy.)
I didn’t get back to writing until 2 p.m. and felt done at 3 p.m., because, with 50,000 words, I felt like the novel was probably done. I decided editing was a different part of the brain and could wait until Think Thursday. I rewarded myself by watching the movie Netflix sent me a week ago (The Book Thief) and reading the book that had just arrived from Amazon (Atomic Habits).
Lesson: Hitting 50,000 words is not the same as finishing.
2 hours writing, 1,000 words, 1 hour working out
Day 13, Think Thursday
I read as much of my novel as I could in one day and took notes of what didn’t work. I took an hour and a half nap and did make it to the gym for an hour and a half. I had hoped to have the whole novel edited and rearranged by the end of the day, but that did not happen.
Lesson: Editing a 50,000 word novel in one day is unlikely.
7 hours writing, 1,000 words, 1.5 hours working out
Day 14, Focus Friday
I finally did the thing I’d been avoiding: I wrote all the narrators, chapter names and years on cue cards and turned my bed into a giant Trello board. This helped me see all the chapters all at once so patterns could emerge. It also helped me make sure the points of view alternated correctly (I have 8 first-person characters!) and check all the years—very important in a time travel novel. (I caught one random year mistake that would’ve been embarrassing.)
It only took an hour to handwrite the cards, but it took 7.5 hours of staring at and moving cards to find the right order. It was more of a thinking day than a writing day, but it was a necessary step.
In the middle of the day, I did take a nap under all the cue cards. My dog also tried several times to sleep on the bed, but found the cards uncomfortable and untasty.
There's something wrong with the bed.
When my husband got home, we went to the gym, where I did a Zumba class and 30 minutes on the elliptical.
Lesson: If you know you need to write every chapter on a cue card and move it around to find your best order, just do it! Sooner is better than later.
7.5 hours staring at cue cards, 1 hour writing, 1,000 words, 1.5 hours working out
Day 15, Savor Saturday
I woke up at 7 a.m. and wrote/edited for two hours, then we went to the gym, where I did 30 minutes of Body Combat and an hour of Body Pump. Then I spent the day reordering the chapters, cutting fluff and plugging holes. By the end of the day, I was 1,000 words down but the chapters were in order, and there wasn’t much more to do. I felt like finishing the whole novel the next day, including editing, was possible.
Lesson: Reordering chapters can take all day.
6 hours writing, cut 5,000 words, 1.5 hours working out
Day 16, Sunday Funday
I wrote/edited for three hours before my brunch, where I took a 30-minute walk at the Domain, and three hours after. By the end of the day, I felt like the novel was truly done. Well, after I add just one more scene...
Lesson: You’re not done until you feel done. I am unsure if that day will ever come, but I have hope.
6 hours writing, cut 2,000 words, 30 minutes working out