I’m preparing to go on a month-long writing retreat to a familiar place in Idyllwild, a small community in the San Jacinto Mountains not quite three hours from my home in San Diego.
I’ve been to this cabin many times. Most often I go with my good friend Dian. We’ve been writing and retreating together for more than twenty years. But this time, I go alone. Or rather, just me and my Wild Women. While on retreat, I’ll be working on my next book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, which will be out next February and I’m on a sooner-than-later deadline.
As I made my lists and gathered up piles of books, files, writing accoutrements, my scant wardrobe (morning pajamas/evening pajamas), and other items I’ll need (popcorn, M&Ms), I thought about the “Guidelines for Writing Retreats” that were in A Writer’s Retreat Kit.
I’m posting them here as a way of remembering them, but also to share if you are planning a writing retreat, and I hope you are. You know, a retreat doesn’t have to be a month, or even a week; a retreat can be any length, even a mini-retreat where you don’t actually leave home but set aside the time and create the space.
Ten Guidelines for Writing Retreats
1) Set your intention. An intention brings together your body, mind and spirit into conscious awareness of the action you are about to take.
2) Make the time. No one will give you the time; you must claim it, take it, find it, carve it out, set it aside.
3) Plan your retreat. Make your lists; confirm reservations; arrange travel, childcare, plant-,pet-,or house-sitting. Gather your materials.
4) Create a safe, nurturing place. No matter where you go on retreat make certain you have a sense of feeling protected, both physically and psychically.
5) Enter into retreat. Enact a ceremony. Through mindful awareness and physical action you cross the threshold from ordinary time into time out of time.
6) While on retreat remember that writing isn’t your sole occupation; use this time to engage in other activities that support, broaden, and deepen your experience.
7) When returning to the world, just as you performed some small rite to enter into retreat, return to ordinary time and place through conscious ceremony.
8) When emerging from retreat, what will you bring with you? Your writing, of course. Maybe a talisman or memento. A full heart; gratitude. Carry it gently.
9) Acknowledge whomever helped you make your retreat possible. Perhaps a simple thank you will suffice, or maybe you’ll want to share your experience and your writing with them. Acknowledge yourself for honoring your writing in this manner, acknowledge your own self-nurturing.
10) Do it again. Soon.
I’ll be back in a month. Though I may post again while I’m gone. There’s a cafe in town where I can access the Internet. Here’s a picture of a poet who took requests, all set up on the steps outside the cafe.
Meantime, this quote by Burghild Nina Holtzer. “The creative process is a mystical path. It is not measured in miles or minutes. It is not linear. We do not enter it after we get everything else out of the way. We must know that we can enter at anytime, and anywhere. Knowing this bring an exhilarating sense of joy.”
What about you? Do you have plans for a writing retreat? Or have you just returned from one? Do you remember a favorite retreat you’ve taken and the work you did there?