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5 Steps to Organizing A DIY Creative Retreat of Your Very Own

by Eva Recinos

Between working, taking care of others, paying the bills, trying to exercise, having a life, and all the other tasks that fill up our days, most of us rarely get uninterrupted time to follow our creative passions. But it’s so important, whatever your craft may be—writing, visual art, design, filmmaking. Many folks turn to organized retreats and residencies for dedicated bouts of creativity, but even if those getaways aren’t expensive, the application process can be time-consuming and competitive. So why not create your own, tailored exactly to your needs? Read on for some tips.

Change Your Scene

Your retreat can take place locally or in another city; just make sure it’s somewhere totally new to you. I’ve found the key to sparking creativity is choosing a locale completely different from my one-bedroom apartment in a large building near a busy Los Angeles intersection. For my recent “retreat,” I booked an Airbnb tucked into a hilly part of town. There were deer-crossing signs, chirpy birds, and lemon trees—a huge shift from my typical scenery. 

Find the Funds

If your cash flow is more like a trickle, sites like Call for Entry and Application Management for the Arts (, Submittable (, and the National Endowment for the Arts ( often list grant opportunities. I received a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund to create my own self-guided retreat—my budget included the total price for an L.A. Airbnb for a few nights, plus food for those days. 

Narrow Your Focus

Most traditional retreats ask applicants to submit a project proposal or a specific idea they’ll be working on. Set up similar parameters for your creative getaway. Write the screenplay, research the novel, or simply follow the breadcrumbs of that one idea that’s been floating around in your head. I focused on revisions for my manuscript, something I’d only been able to do for an hour or two here and there. 

Plan Your Time

Whether you choose to travel or to stay at home, block out the space to really focus on your project. I finished pending freelance assignments before arriving, and even though I was still in my own city, I put a pause on social plans. Ordering food (or eating my leftovers from the day before) freed up a lot of time, since I didn’t need to worry about cooking. If you’re the kind of person who loves a schedule, write one out so your hours of productivity and brainstorming are accounted for.

Get Creative

Even with a grant, a multiday getaway might not work for everyone, but you can shape your “retreat” any way you want. Reach out to a friend with a nice backyard or grab a picnic blanket and head to your nearest park. If you want to stay inside, join (or organize!) a Zoom creative group or FaceTime with a friend who’s also working on a project. You can exchange feedback and ideas or just work silently together. No matter the actual location, the important thing is to be intentional—put your phone away and limit distractions. –Eva Recinos

Photo: Illustration by Kailey Whitman

This article originally appeared in BUST’s Winter 2022-2023 print edition. Subscribe today!


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