While many of us sigh longingly about wanting to go on a solo writing retreat, usually it ends there. Better to keep it a far-off fantasy than an up close reality, right? If we actually GO, who knows what might happen! It could be uncomfortable, the writing might be terrible, or we might stare into space and do nothing.
A solo retreat is always its own adventure, for better and for worse. But just because it may fall short of perfection doesn’t mean not to do it. Quite the opposite. Recently I took a long weekend near Lake Whitney and discovered this first-hand. I’m hoping my reflections not only motivate you, but also remind you to leave expectations at home and pack compassion, patience and a smidgen of surrender instead…
First Day: Drive for two hours, tired and grouchy, before going down a bumpy, ramshackle road to find the cabin. The owner’s FIVE dogs greet me barking loudly. Ends up their pen is right outside my bedroom window. Did I say they barked loudly?
Get inside and settled. Realize I forgot my pre-prepared dinners at home. Forgot my mosquito coil, and I’m on the lake. Forgot my mosquito zapper. Brought a suitcase full of cold weather clothes because when I looked up weather for Clifford, Texas, I accidently read temps in Clifford, Michigan. It is definitely not mid-40’s here…
While I’m committed to not surfing the internet or checking email, a text from a friend lets me know RBG died. Try to put that out of my head because this is an “inspired” retreat! It’s supposed to feel good! I try to turn on the TV anyway – thankfully, with three remotes, I can’t figure it out. However, I have Netflix on my iPad. Spend the evening binge watching to take my mind off my discomfort.
Second Day: Read that chiggers are really bad nearby. I hate chiggers. Douse myself with Deep Woods bug spray, tuck in pant legs, and venture out.
Get back and sit down for all that amazing writing I came here to do. Instead, I notice how crappy I feel. I reluctantly realize that I need to actually feel my feelings before anything else can happen. Sigh. I sit and start journaling it all out. RBG’s death. The pandemic. Political unrest. The chiggers. I cry for a while.
Then, I look up to find a squirrel on the balcony, and it seems to be in a praying position. It doesn’t move. Neither do I. I watch, riveted, and we sit and breathe together for what seems like hours as peace eventually finds us…
I continue to sit, watching the hummingbirds zooming up to the feeder and then hovering for sips of red nectar. The dogs fall asleep in the yard. Dragonflies couple and release midair. Presence is my balm and creative fueling.
Journal in hand, I continue to listen. Quietly. Then like a drain unclogging, words begin to come out in starts and stops, then more steadily. Waves lap on the shore of the lake as words gurgle. A robin on the feeder picks up a round seed, crunches it and the shell falls off to the side as she swallows the kernel. Another seed follows. And another. I crack through my ideas, letting what does not work fall away as I scratch my pen across the page.
Third Day: By the time I leave, I feel settled, satisfied and dare I say it, inspired. The pack of dogs who initially greeted me have become friends. I know the different crests of the cardinals who have visited along with the funny tuft on the darker squirrel’s tail. The warring sides inside and outside of me called a truce. In that space, I wrote. As Jan Phillips says, “To create is to make something whole from the pieces of our lives and, in the process, to become more whole ourselves.” Yes. Thank you.
I’d love to hear about your experience with solo retreats — please jot your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
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NEW: Monthly Inspired Women’s Mini-Writing Retreats
Next one is October 23 from 10 to 12 CST via Zoom
Want a chance to dip into a writing community with thoughtful, creative women and actually write? Even better, what about breathing in inspiration and ideas that last long after the retreat? Whether seasoned or a newbie, there’s safe space for you here. Don’t want to read aloud? No problem – nothing is required other than your presence and desire. I’ll lead you through a process to get out of the everyday crazy and into a space for words and clarity to start arising. I hope you make time for YOU and join us. Spots are limited. For all the details or to register, go HERE.
Spring Retreat in Taos: Greening the Creative Spirit
Mabel Dodge Luhan House
April 4 to 9, 2021
with Carolyn Scarborough and Sharon Zeugin
One can dream, right? Assuming it is safe to travel by then, our annual retreat is set for this spring. So put the dates on your vision board, mark it in your calendar, keep it on your wish list and stay tuned! For more details, go HERE.
I love hearing about your retreat experience! I have found it definitely takes time to settle into “vacation” mode. Then, once I do, the ah ha’s are amazing. I’m so glad you got some self-care time away. It certainly is a nice change from day-to-day routines!
I so enjoyed reading about your experience.
I love getting away to write, but have found that I can declare a retreat at home and structure my environment, time, and Internet bingeing to make it a special time. However, it is easier to wander back into “everyday life” at home than at a location where the chores don’t call to you and make you feel guilty!
Glad you have found a positive experience with home retreats as well Beth — good to add to the toolbox!