I hear it every time. When I mention a day-long writing retreat, the first response from women is often a sigh and a dreamy look, like wouldn’t that be heaven. Then reality takes hold and the excuses begin. They don’t have time. They really aren’t “writers.” It sounds intimidating.
And I always smile, knowing that when they arrive… and they will… these doubts will dissolve.
There is something sacred about retreats. Women arrive fatigued, frazzled from their daily lives, not connecting to their muse or themselves. We start in a circle and they look at me expectantly, not sure whether or not they should have taken a day off to do this crazy thing of taking time for themselves. They worry about what they might find once they start looking within. They wonder if there’s a creative muse to be found or if she’s checked out long ago, packing her bags of haikus and magic dust to head for more fertile grounds.
Yet each time the same thing happens. We create a safe space, begin to let go and something shifts. When we are given an opportunity to explore with abandon, pleasing no one but ourselves, we stumble upon treasures. A poetry line here, a memory fragment there, a piece of ourselves discovered in the moment.
Soon the mind is settling down. The negative voices are stepping aside to see what else is there. There’s ALWAYS something there for us (despite what we fear), and from this place expression is born.
Writer Natalie Goldberg aptly describes this process when it comes to writing. “The goal is to allow the written word to connect with your original mind, to write down the first thought you flash on, before the second and third thoughts come in,” she says. “That’s where the energy is. That’s where the alive, fresh vision is, before society, which we’ve internalized, takes over and teaches us to be polite and censor ourselves.”
So often when we are writing, we are thinking it all out, trying to get just the perfect word, structuring as we go. This writing is fraught with all those same recycled thoughts our culture has taught us, the ones that we rinse and repeat day in and day out. Our story about how busy we are, how we can or can’t do this, where the parameters of our life supposedly limit us.
But when we take time to pause – in retreat or our own backyards — and actually listen to the hum of life around us, something different appears. We open to everything — to the mockingbird’s call, to the leaf falling, to the creativity of the whole world moving through us. When we’re in this space, we don’t have to search around for ideas or to find inspiration. We simply stop and listen, and it rushes in to greet us.
One of the best parts is that we realize, on a very deep level, that creativity isn’t for some people and not others. It’s available to all of us… we just need to stop long enough to embrace it.
You may reprint the featured article, in its entirety, by including a byline and a link to Carolyn’s website. www.backyardpearls.com
I’d love to hear your comments on the article, what pearls you notice when you begin reflecting. Please share your thoughts below in the Reply box …