Creating a Personal Writing Retreat

Posted by on Apr 18, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

 What: A personalized, no cost, at-home writing retreat for aspiring writersApril writing retreat, Crescent Beach

When: Four days leading up to the new moon: a creative, reflective time of the cycle.

How: Choosing a writing project and creating an environment to accelerate it.

Why: Because I desire to give myself every opportunity to successfully complete this project.

Who: For me and my wild and windy brain.

 

A number of people have let me know they would like to do a personal writing retreat.  I’ve done exactly two now, so of course, I’m an expert and thought I’d share what I’ve learned.  Truthfully, writing this out is simply a way of capturing for myself what I’m learning since I don’t always know it as it’s happening (which is pretty much the reason I write anything). That, and convincing myself to share this seems to bully me into finishing the task.  Hopefully, in the end, everyone wins.

 

Here are some of my learnings from this personal writing retreat, in no particular order:

1.   Imagine the shock when I suddenly remember that I don’t have any reason not to do this. It was a total wide-eyed wake up call to realize that I have everything I need to create my own writing retreat – the space, the time, the commitment, the supportive tools, the freedom. The fact is, I have had all this for quite some time already but didn’t see it because I had become such a master at listing reasons why I couldn’t do things. This reminds me (swift kick to the butt type of reminder) how powerful those life-long patterns of thinking are and how important it is to keep checking them. I am re-committed to noticing how my excuses, like jangly keys to a baby, are a huge clue as to where to look for what I want. I wish I had allowed myself to create whatever shape and size of retreat would work for me much earlier so I could explore what squirts out when I give myself an intentional, uninterrupted space.

 2.  One over-riding excuse has been that I don’t seem to write well in my home. There are always tasks and errands creating distraction, so I find retreating has transformed my home into a ‘hovel for my novel’. The part of me that longs to support the artist in me does all the pre-work – I imagine a beloved, amazing writer coming to stay at my home and I clean and prepare for her. I shift furniture creating new spaces to give her creative options. I turn off the ringers, the clangers, and beepers. I strategically place things to draw on, read from, paint on, and write on.  I set a timeframe for the retreat so the creative brain knows how to pace the race that’s set before it. And then I light a candle and invite her in.

3.   I require fuel for the journey.  Yes, good food and a variation of refreshments (clink). But also inspiration that aligns with what I’m working on. I’m always amazed at how I stumble upon exactly what I need. This time it was Mario Martinez’s work, The Mind Body Code.  I got a sniff of it through a post by the delicious author, Liz Gilbert. I followed Mario’s trail and came across Sounds True – a website that hosts oodles of amazing people. I downloaded (for free) and listened to a number of audio recordings with Martinez and also tripped across Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ latest, The Dangerous Old Woman, on the site. This super-charged fuel greatly injected my writing mind with new insight and dare I say, verve.  (Last retreat it was Goldberg’s book, Writing down the Bones alongside, Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird). There are timely guides to assist us along the way when we are searching for them.

4.  No two retreats are the same. First off, the weather was gorgeous this time, so I made sure to get out in the sun for walks on most days. And my project is at a different place this retreat, so my goals were different as well. This difference pushes me to investigate more fully how the various monthly lunar paths can best match the energy I need for each stage along the way. Sometimes I crave a reflective space (new moon), sometimes I may need more umph (full moon, I think), some months I will require an editor’s mind. I desire to effortlessly glide with nature’s cycles. If you don’t fight the tides, you get the best rides! (pure poetry, eh? Who wants to pre-order that logo on a t-shirt!?  lol)  But seriously, a retreat schedule that weighs how the four seasons (and even moreso, the season of life we are in) will shape the experience is likely to be more effective. And even with that factored in, no two retreats will be the same. Go, expectantly, with the proverbial flow!

5.  Sometimes I read about a thing someone is doing and I, like so many, think – what a great idea, I should do that. And it rarely happens. This particular retreat concept was my idea, birthed in a deep place of desperation and inspiration, in almost equal measure. And it has legs because it suits me and my life so perfectly right now. I’m an introvert so it doesn’t feel like a stretch to allocate four days with little to no human contact. My girls are grown and I live alone. My guy is highly supportive and flexible (well, not so much in the hamstrings). I work from home. I am highly motivated to see this project through.  A really good idea works best when it matches the stripes and needs of its creator. Craft it from your bones and it will write you home.  (seriously, that’s t-shirt material, right?!)

 

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