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Retreats – Getting Away to Find Your Story

May 4, 2012

Recently, Carolyn Flynn and I hosted the Magic Time Writers Retreat in Ashland City, Tennessee. It was a great experience for all of us, facilitators and writers and we all came away energized and refreshed. Oh, and well fed I might add.

Now I am working on at least five more with the next one in August in New Harmony, Indiana. But more on that at the end.

Why a retreat?

A retreat is akin to a vacation for your creativity. Why do we take vacations? Because we need to remove ourselves from our daily schedules, tasks, and routines. We need to still all of those thoughts that race throughout our minds during our waking hours, thoughts that sometime don’t leave us alone when we try to sleep.

It is the same when we get away in order to reengage with our creative selves. Although the word “retreat” is associated with running away or giving up your position to advancing forces, I prefer to think of it, in this context, as a “running toward” something. In this case, your creativity.

An ideal retreat puts you in the atmosphere you need at that moment. There are many different types of retreats and conferences so the first order of business is to determine what it is you need from your retreat. Do you need community and socialization, to be in an atmosphere where you can visit and talk writing? Or do you need to be sequestered, alone with plenty of time to write? There are retreats with different balances of each and it is important to choose one that caters to your needs.

Do you need to renew a mind-body-spirit connection to fuel your writing or do you wish to just write? There are retreats with yoga sessions and opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities.

Do you need to stay close in case of an emergency or maybe you need a close retreat because you only have a couple of days? Maybe your creative soul has yearned for something exotic and foreign, maybe you need to totally get away to have your senses fully engaged to fuel your writing. You will easily find retreats within a few hours drive for a few days as well as half a world away by the Mediterranean or in a Tuscan villa.

Or you might just find your retreat in your home.

There is no right or wrong. There is only the need for you to be in a position to be fully engaged in your passion, to be immersed in your writing with a minimum of unwanted distractions.

And although it sounds contradictory, for me it helps to be alone with other writers. There is energy in such groups. There are creative and spiritual connections between creatives that do not exist in our daily lives. We “get it” when others talk about their successes and roadblocks with their writing. The isolation of writing is lifted. The doubts about whether we ought to be spending our time doing this are removed. The obstacles of work, phones, bills, obligations and worries are alleviated at least for a few days. And in the best of retreats, there are sessions on how to carry the benefits of retreat back into your every day writing life.

Once you have a sense of what kind of retreat you need, the next step is to find one. And with the advent of the internet and search engines, you will find no shortage from which to choose. Do your research carefully. Ask questions. If they offer free phone or Skype sessions, take advantage of them. By engaging a facilitator in conversation you will get a feel for their style and their approach to a retreat. Ask for references from past registrants.

Now that you’ve determined your needs, completed your research and chosen your retreat, get ready for it.

What are your goals for the retreat. In the retreats I lead, I work with registrants ahead of time to help them understand what it is they wish to come away with. I have a good friend and mentor who goes away on retreat with friends each year with the sole purpose of finishing some work during the retreat. The other fifty-one weeks are spent writing on projects but that one week they come together to read each other’s work and to try to finish at least one project during the retreat. Now that’s a goal. Your goal might be to rest and refresh and there’s nothing wrong with that. In my recent retreat, one writer’s primary goal was to just get some words down on the page, to prime her writing pump so to speak. And in just three days she completed a memoir piece and the first draft of a short story. Amazing.

This is a special time that you’re getting away to work on your writing. Know what it is you want to do with that valuable, wonderful time. Even if you know that you just need to rest and recharge. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you want to do some writing, make your notes, do your research, meditate, get your material organized so you can hit the ground running when you get to the retreat. And if you don’t know what you need or want, then work with the facilitators to help you find out. This will remove a great deal of stress coming into the retreat and will make the experience a much better, much more productive time for you.

The next retreat that I’m facilitating will be August 13th through 17th – The It’s Not Just Creative Writing, It’s Creative Living, Come Play With Us Writer’s Retreat at the New Harmony Inn in Historic New Harmony, Indiana with Dave DeGolyer and Cathy Shap. For more information click here.

And for all other retreats, domestic and foreign, this year and next that I will be a part of, click here.


Keep in touch and let me know how I can support and encourage you as a creative.

Best, Terry

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2012 6:18 pm

    I love the clarity that your writing brings Terry. And anyone who is able to co-lead a retreat with you would be gifted indeed by the synergy and support .

  2. May 6, 2012 7:18 pm

    Many kind thanks Lynn! I do appreciate the kind comments. I’m hoping that we can lead a retreat together some day! Keep me posted on how you are doing.

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