Last month, I gifted myself a writing retreat.
For seven days, I enjoyed the sounds of nature, ate healthy food, and wrote my damn heart out.
In fact, I wrote over 10,000 words: 2 short stories, new web copy for my entire website, 12 finished poems and 10 more draft poems, plus I journaled at least twice each day, adding up to over 20 hours of writing.
The rewards were much more expansive than the words I wrote.
I thought the activities I planned would certainly enhance my writing, but I had no idea I would uncover the emotional, spiritual, physical barriers that blocked my ability to express myself and live fully in each day.
1. Making Time to Write
Whether on my laptop, in my journal or on scraps of paper, I wrote for over 20 hours. An intentional move, I planned six hours a day for writing (otherwise, I probably would have slept through the entire week of solitude). In the mornings and afternoons, I scheduled between two and three hours of uninterrupted writing, plus an hour in the evening to read what I wrote with fresh eyes. During the writing blocks, I let the ideas flow naturally. The snippets of stories lingering in my mind were finally were pulled out and given life. I worked through the moments of self-criticism. When I felt restless, I walked over to table where I laid magazine clippings, scissors and glue, and collaged to get my mind out of a funk. I walked around. I lit incense. When I was ready, I went right back into writing. Creating the space to write is sometimes all it takes.
2. Connecting with my Voice
When I lose sight of myself, I can’t write. I can’t get anything on paper that truly satisfies me because I question every word. Without a doubt, the most profound experience from this writing retreat was the connection to my own voice. Assisted by the absence of external pressure, limiting beliefs, and noise, I settled into myself and finally wrote with ease—by pausing, by refocusing, by intentionally focusing on me, I reconnected with my voice.
3. Setting Creative Intentions
At the beginning of the retreat, I nested. I put my belongings away, cleared the energy, lit a candle, poured a glass of wine, and opened my journal. Sitting in peace, I envisioned the types of writing that would make me feel fulfilled and productive, then listed them in my journal. The goals were not cemented, but being aware of what I wanted to accomplish made it easier to get started.
4. Unattaching from Results
Having vision is necessary, but sometimes we unfold in ways unforeseen. I learned to allow the space to evolve. For example, I started out wanting to write 3,000 words each day. When I only made it to 1,500 words the first day, I was disappointed. I realized, however, that 3,000 was, first of all, an ambitiously arbitrary number. It also meant nothing when I recognized how much I was able to accomplish by allowing myself the room to adapt, and giving myself permission to be proud.
5. Establishing a Routine
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get lost in the flow of life. Although I consciously scheduled this writing retreat, I did so in the name of creativity, focusing on actions and activities that would open my ability to express myself. What I didn’t realize is that I was creating a foundation on which to build my life beyond the writing retreat. I am notoriously a “no talkie before coffee” type of person. During the writing retreat, within the first hour of being awake, I stretched, exercised, ate breakfast, meditated, wrote in my journal—I even forgave myself for missing the alarm clock. Coffee became an afterthought, a luxury, not a necessity. And my attitude, that groggy, cranky, I’d-rather-be-sleeping feeling completely left my body. These are not actions that can only happen within the confines of a secluded cabin. These are things I can do every single day. I just needed a jumpstart.
I actually took breaks to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, allowing my mind to rest. Before this, I usually skipped breakfast and lunch, shoving food into my face at 3:00 in the afternoon as fast as I could, with whatever was around (usually potato chips). This writing retreat gave me a chance to reinvigorate my appetite and replenish my energy. Doing so, I experienced a deep paradigm shift. In a cabin, far away from resources, each meal needed to be planned. Before arriving, I bought and prepped all of the foods that make me feel full and happy. Even though I enjoyed what I prepared, there were two occasions when I really, really did not want to cook. To me, this was something I needed to process, and I was centered enough to do it. I asked myself why I felt lazy, why I didn’t feel like cooking. Deep down, I don’t want to cook because I don’t want to pause anything I’m doing to focus on myself. I didn’t feel worthy enough to take time for myself. Once I got to the root of this feeling, making healthier choices during the retreat, and every day since, has been so much easier because… hell yes, I am worth it.
7. Needing Support
Nothing surprised me more than the final shift I experienced. Each day, after dinner and during the time I set to review and refine my work, I craved a conversation. In truth, I really needed input and ideas on my writing to help break through areas in which I was stuck. This shocked me, because I LOVE being alone. Still, the importance of surrounding myself with different perspectives was just as high as the importance of stillness.
I am forever changed by the experiences of this writing retreat.
✨I lived with focused, but flexible, intentions.
✨I learned a lot about myself and my limiting beliefs.
✨I *finally* wrote down the ideas that floated in my mind for months.
✨I enjoyed my own company.
✨I established positive habits.
✨I felt nourished and nurtured.
When I gave myself permission, I finally became the person I dream of being.
I am the most grounded, secure, fulfilled and confident I have been in a long time. From a writing perspective, a path was paved, to make writing a daily practice, to stay connected with myself, and to set my sights on a goal, but to be open to how I get there. As a person, it showed me the vital need to take care of myself, and how achievable daily self-care truly is. It was in these moments that I realized I wanted to share this experience with others, so we could help each other on our writing journeys.
If an experience like this sounds meaningful or interesting to you, I invite you to join a writing retreat I’m hosting this fall. November 9-12 in Hocking Hills, this women’s writing retreat will mimic many of the practices I developed in my own endeavors. Transitioning to the role of facilitator, however, I’ll also incorporate elements of tarot, reiki adjustments and meditation, of which I am practiced and/or certified. I hope to see you there 💜