I’m up in the mountains this week on a writing retreat with a couple of friends. We hunker down and work during the day (emerging now and then for snacks or lunch) and stop in time for dinner. As writers, we are usually holed up in our home offices writing, researching, promoting, etc. But there’s a special kind of creative energy that permeates the condo when we are all producing at the same time.

I know musicians and actors get this when they rehearse together. And visual artists experience it if they have studio space outside their homes. But writers are solitary creatures. Even if we work in coffee shops, we are usually tucked away in a quiet corner. Many writers do belong to critique groups, providing us with valuable feedback and support, but most of the time, we are on our own.

What fun it is to gather at dinnertime and ask, “So what did you work on this afternoon?” We get to hear about each other’s progress or brainstorm someone’s stuck storyline or just commiserate over the struggles of writing. Eventually, when the wine starts flowing, our musings turn more personal, and we sink into those conversations that only fellow writers would understand.

I’m a big fan of retreats for any artist or professional. When you leave your familiar surroundings, your senses are heightened. When you walk away from the distractions of home or office, your mind is freed. When you set a goal and share it with your fellow retreaters, you feel determined to meet it. Best of all, the chatter of other artists drowns out the voices of our inner critics.

I sometimes do writing retreats on my own, and there are benefits to that too. I typically get even more focused writing and reading done. Other times, though, I crave the company of fellow artists. Either way, I go home with a smile on my face, and a few thousand new words in my manuscript.

If you’re serious about your art, try a retreat. Make time, find the money, overcome your hesitations, grab a friend and go!