You may know that I have just come back from a writing retreat. Retreats weren’t really my bag before. I thought it was rather indulgent to take time off and retreat from the world, but I have now realised that it is so important to take time where and when we can to focus on our own practice.
I wanted to share some of the things that I learnt by giving my creativity a retreat, and why I think it is something that you should build into your career plan.
What I found most useful was the fact that I was sharing the experience with others who thought or felt the same way as me. We were all going through the experience together, but at our own pace and building something ourselves. This was a powerful thing.
Most of the time as creative freelancers we spend time alone making or creating. On top of that we have to sort out our books, do a tax return and find new audiences and clients. We need to know that taking time to be creative- (totally creative), is not only a gift to ourselves but it can also help us to reflect on our own career and see what is and isn’t working.
Taking time to retreat from the electronic, rushing and commitment heavy world that we live in, is something we need to make time to do.
Now, I totally understand that not everyone can drop everything and lock themselves away for a week to focus on their creative practice. But what you might be able to do is carve out 24 or 48 hours once a year to have a retreat. You don’t even need to leave your home to do it.
Having 48 hours without the internet, telephones or other distractions gives you time to experiment, to reflect, to take a moment to see how far you have already come and to celebrate that.
When we are running around and trying to build or keep our career on track we can forget how much brain space is taken up from just being!
Ask yourself when was the last time you didn’t check your emails for 48 hours or left your mobile phone at home?
Technology has seeped into everything we do. You can see this from the craze of Pokemon Go that has exploded everywhere- People taking a walk with their phones held out in front of them trying to catch a small animated creature to earn points.
Retreats are a moment in time that is purely yours to do what ever you want with. I talk about how you can create mini retreats in your life, whether you have children or other commitments to work around.
If you fancy going off on a writing retreat, this is where I went for a tutored retreat ARVON.
When you take a retreat or a mini retreat, there are some things that you need to think about before you begin.
- Make sure that you let other people know that you are going to do it. Let your nearest and dearest know that you are not going to be available (do create an emergency contact that they can reach you on if they need to). Then let your email list know that you will be unavailable by setting an out of office reply on your email and mobile phone.
- Unplug all of the technology and put it away- all of the tablets, phones, and internet. If you don’t trust yourself give a friend the key and ask them to bring it back to you in 48 hours.
- Focus on one thing. Trying to cram all of your dreams, plans and ideas into one retreat isn’t only exhausting, it is unproductive as well. You end up making lots of starts, as like love, they are more fun in the beginning. But what you want to have is a bit of a break thorough or time to create one thing- or at least start it.
- Start early (unless you are a night owl- in which case start late and work late). You only have a retreat for a period of time, so treat it as precious. You can have lie ins other times when it is over.
- Make time for exercise. Taking a walk or a run round the block when you are retreating helps you to clear your head, come up with new ideas and take a breather from the intensity of creating all day.
- Prepare all of your food in advance so you don’t have to cook, shop or even think about those chores. (On my retreat this was the most relaxing part of it. I didn’t have to plan meals or do the shopping, it was all catered for).
- If you want to do the retreat with others you could all hire a place to come together or share the day time work with each other. Working alone but coming together for meals works well.
This is the most important point:-
- You may not create the best work while you are on a retreat. It might be that you discover a new way of doing something or a way or writing that you hadn’t explored before. Don’t be disheartened if at the end you have a few bits of work in a folder that you may or may not use. The benefits will come later when you look back on it.
So now I have a challenge for you!
Over the next month try to block out 24-48 hours that you use to create your own retreat. Make sure that all technology is banished and locked away. If you usually work with computers as a designer etc. try to take this time to use paper and pens instead. Literally go back to the drawing board.
In the comments below let me know how you get on and what break throughs you made.