Last week, five Thought Catalog staff writers met up in Venice Beach, CA for four days of writing, brainstorming, and fun in the sun. Most of our editorial staff works remotely, so retreats serve to bond relationships and create writing as a group we wouldn’t self-generate. Previously, we’ve done retreats at the floating farmhouse in upstate New York, and Toronto.
At TC, we give our writers an enormous amount of creative control over the work they produce. Each writer brings a completely different style and subject matter to the team and evokes a response from a different group of readers. Workshopping together, we got feedback about what makes other people entertained by what we write.
One idea we had on the trip was to experiment with creating more easter eggs for our die hard fans — articles that run on our homepage and feature niche content that will make them feel like they are part of an inside joke with our staff that casual readers aren’t in on. Our first efforts here were What Your Favorite Thought Catalog Writer Says About You and a zany post about the Michael Buble photo that took over the internet last Friday, authored by “Thought Catalog” versus an individual writer.
For inspiration, we visited the Rain Room at LACMA, an “immersive environment of perpetually falling water that pauses wherever a human body is detected.”
We also took walks down the beach while discussing more ethereal topics like “why do young writers prefer publishing with Thought Catalog, and how can make them feel more at home?”
Our staff writer Nicole described the importance of our creative retreat as “How wonderful it was to come together with creators who all understand your craft. We all have very distinct voices and different experiences, and that provokes not only inspiration, but thinking. That really resonates when you have 5 COMPLETELY different women (who are quite frankly all creative geniuses) who can appreciate and critique expression that is different from their own.”
Staff writer Marisa agreed: “I really enjoyed being around people who ‘get it’. Who make me feel like less of a weirdo and more like I’m home. What was incredibly powerful about this retreat is really feeling connected. It’s one thing to message with people everyday. You get to know them and it’s awesome… but it’s ENTIRELY different when you interact with people face-to-face. Not only do you really get to KNOW them, but you get sparked by their passion, you learn to step outside of what makes you comfortable, and you become more aware of the direction we’re going as individuals and as a company.”
Another staff writer, Kendra, needed the bonding aspect: “Being able to actually TALK and brainstorm ideas with my fellow co-workers/beach was so important. Yes — we work on the internet, and we’re good at dealing with the challenges that that brings. But to actually be able to communicate face to face and spitball ideas and work things out, it’s invaluable. In a weird way reminds us that we’re human and not robots. We need connection.”
Katie, a TC intern who goes to UCLA and joined us for one day, said the following: “This was my first retreat ever, and I now fully understand why these getaways are so important. I love getting to actually meet the writers whose articles I read regularly (because we all live in different cities) and workshop ideas with them. It’s my favorite kind of nerdy—sitting around a kitchen table, writing and editing, with a hilarious group of really great and unique ladies. Also they took me to a witch store and ordered frog legs at dinner, so I fucking loved it.”
Writer and TC exec Mélanie emphasized the importance of getting out of our routines by challenging ourselves with each activity we planned for the retreat. “Each of us pushed her personal boundaries. Between forcing ourselves to follow writing prompts chosen out of a cup, drafting a story collectively in an uber on the way to LACMA, and stepping outside our regular writing patterns for Freaky Friday, we all pushed ourselves creatively. That felt good to me.”
Personally, I loved sitting down with our writers and understanding how their processes work, and how we can improve them in our day to day. As our traffic lead, I’m obsessed with our audience. I care about them and want everything we serve to them to be the most engaging, entertaining, memorable creative work possible. Once I understand how people work, it’s easy to tweak our editorial workflow so that things like workshopping titles and brainstorming remarkable topics is part of our routine.
I also thought it was a cool experience for our biggest fans who would learn about the retreat through the tweets, Instagrams, and Snapchats our writers are naturally prolific in sharing when they’re excited. It was a totally unintended side-effect.
After returning home, I was moved by what Kendra wrote on her personal blog:
“I’ve learned so much about myself and who I want to be and what kind of creative I want to be. I have a tendency to procrastinate and there is something about being around people who I admire and want to emulate that makes me focus without even really trying. I don’t take Adderall anymore and was never a good student because my mind always wanders away and I have too many thoughts in my brain and sometimes they overwhelm me and so I just don’t do ANYTHING with them. But when I was in the sun with these women who make me feel inspired I never felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. And it was really great.
A year ago I was in a really terrible spot, a job I hated, fucking a guy who treated me like shit. And I am now in a job I’m falling for fast and hard like a lesbian who’s on a second date, in love with no one, and am actually excited about the future. It’s weird. And I’m really thankful and grateful and feeling gross and mushy and ooey and gooey and UGH. I found my people on the internet, and I think they saved my life.”
24 articles in three and a half days, our retreat catalog:
What Your Favorite Thought Catalog Writer Says About You
She’s Happy Now, He’s Still The Same Piece Of Shit
Where Those 10 People You Went To Middle School With Are Now
The Nastiest Thing You’ll Do In Bed, Based On Your Favorite Caffeinated Beverage
I’m Trying To Move On, But All I Can Think About Is Fucking Him
Judging Male Sexual Attractiveness Based On Their College Major
What Your Preferred Method Of Masturbation Says About You
16 Reasons Why Clingy Chicks Make The Best Girlfriends
I Never Thought That I Would Have To Ask Someone To Love Me While I Was Still So Unloveable
17 Signs You Have An Unhealthy Obsession With Your Best Friend
19 Men Reveal Exactly What They Think Makes A Woman Beautiful
I Don’t Want Our Love To Be Comfortable
23 Ways You Know She’s The Woman You’ll Spend The Rest Of Your Life With
10 Characteristics To Look For In A Man You Can Grow Old With
7 Fears People Have About Committing And Why The Right Person Will Make Them Disappear
50 One-Sentence Reminders Every Girl Who’s Tired Of Hookup Culture Needs To Hear Right Now
7 #RelationshipGoals Every Healthy Couple Can Admit Suck In Real Life
43 Moments That Make People Born Before 1995 Feel Extremely Old
15 Things You Can Only Understand If You Survived Private Christian School
16 Reasons Why Clingy Chicks Make The Best Girlfriends
36 Questions We Have For Michael Buble About This Insane Photo Of Him Eating Corn
13 Reasons Why Couples That Have Morning Sex Are The Happiest People To Be Around
Here’s What Kind Of Crazy Ex You Are, Based On Your Zodiac Sign
Just So You Know, It’s Okay To Feel Everything