If you’ve been following along with me as I reflect upon my personal retreat as it happens, then you will most likely have noticed a change to the ‘series’ title from ‘Notes from a Writer on Retreat’ to ‘Retreat Reflections’.
I suppose that part of the beauty of time set aside to be creative like this is that it often organically moves beyond definition. I have had personal retreats before, and as in my blog post from a few days ago about preparing your own personal retreat, these at times have varied in their central focus or purpose. Previously, I had a ‘staycation’ which was really about rest, relaxation, exploring my surroundings, taking care of myself, general creativity, and most importantly to me, my relationship with God.
I also once had 9 days in total, including weekends, set aside specifically for writing my novel and I was able to make progress and inhabit that creative time and space for writing. I have taken time to be still in nature, and connect with God and to seek healing and meaning to certain life experiences, as well as for the purpose of rest and relaxation. Last year, I encouraged a friend to join me on retreat as we are both very creative people, both fairly quiet and reflective in nature, and also both sisters in Christ, so we had a lot of fun exploring a variety of arts, crafts, inspiring readings, picnics in the park, a musical event all of which was underpinned by the focus of exploring and strengthening our identity in Christ and as Christian women.
For this retreat, I really wanted to set aside time specifically to write, to work on my novel, to work on a photography project I have started, and to have the chance to reflect, work through some things, rest, relax, be strengthened and more connected with what is important to me in life, so that when the time comes to ‘re-join the world’ in a couple of days, I will feel refreshed, satisfied creatively and with a better perspective going forwards.
I am so pleased and thankful that I set a goal to write at least 3,500 words in the first day, and I feel that this discipline really enabled me to re-engage with my novel, press through to discover certain thought processes and meanings to me, and to gain some forward momentum. As I said previously, I exceeded this target and wrote 3,720 words today. And despite a bit of struggle mid-way through, I am so glad I did.
There was a real sense of satisfaction and rest afterwards, and I was able to put the novel writing away for the evening, and enjoy a pleasant stroll by the riverside near my home. I felt reconnected by being in the gentle sun, and feeling a fresh breeze around me, and gaining a sense of God’s unfolding purpose in my life, which also came through the writing process in discovering new ways of looking at things. I enjoyed watching the sun glisten on the water, feeling the breeze upon my skin, and taking some photos, as well as admiring a swan that was nesting, in a bundle of twigs, awaiting the time for her ‘babies’ to come. A lovely older lady came to chat with me having noticed that I was admiring the swan, as she had come to feed it, and a male swan nearby, with some bread. We chatted, enjoyed the life before us, and then moved on and went our separate ways, and the gentle ebb and flow of life continued on.
I have a sense of rest this evening, having worked hard earlier and accomplished what I set out to do for that day. I am growing in the sense of awareness of myself in this time, and the importance of letting me settle in and simply ‘be’ and inhabit the creative space as well as take time to process certain thoughts and emotions and to grow stronger and to heal. There is a line from Max Ehrman’s prose poem, ‘Desiderata’ that advises us to ‘enjoy our achievements as well as our plans’. This also reminds me of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, where we are told that ‘to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven’. Writing helps us to realise this, but so too does rest.
As satisfied as I am to have given myself writing goals today, I think I am in the process of deciding not to apply the same approach tomorrow, for there is a time and a season to each day, and while today’s purpose was to work, to re-engage, to accomplish, to create, I think moving forwards, the ‘purpose’ is to slow down, to savour, to inhabit the creative moments organically as they happen and as I engage with my solitude, in the Presence of my Creator, to find them, and to really truly enjoy the process. I can tend to lose focus, so I will need some sort of accountability with myself, but I think that probably won’t be in terms of word count or time spent writing as much as to just sit and write, and to connect deeply with the process and the unfolding lessons I too am learning through the developing narrative, which are life lessons that have been forming within me for some time, that I am slowly beginning to reflect upon.
When I think of going back to work, I am aware that there are different seasons, even between and within our days and short spans of time. Knowing that this time and space is sacred and limited before returning to my usual work schedule, which has many benefits to it in and of itself, just not so much creatively, gives me a desire to really inhabit this creative space, even if that means thinking and resting rather than producing something, for creativity is of the heart and soul and mind, and often our stories are being written within us as we journey through our lives, before we even write a word.
So tonight and tomorrow I will slow down, enjoy the solitude, and allow myself to connect, with God and with myself, within this quiet space and time, which in itself is a rare and precious gift and blessing, and will let tomorrow unfold organically and uniquely just as it should. I do want to accomplish certain things, so I will keep in mind a looser ‘goal’ simply to do and to engage with writing and with my photography project, but without any pressure, or particular expectations, and allow myself to live authentically and grow through it.
One last thing I have reflected upon that I’d like to mention before I conclude this post is the beauty of time and space that we so often seem to have ‘snatched’ from us in the busy-ness of every day life, of other people’s expectations and demands, and of even simply being around people so much, whether that be from work, friends, family, or strangers. I have tried to work into my daily life ‘mini retreats’ whether that be a walk in the park at lunchtime, slowly enjoying a hot cup of tea, or reading one of your blog posts during my lunchbreak at work. Unfortunately, however, I am only afforded ‘snippets’ of time to do such things in the ordinary busy day to day of my life, ‘as it happens to be’. Tonight, however, I am going to take my time, to savour one or more of your blog posts, to listen and hear from the person writing, who I have never met, but for some reason who I have come in contact with through this medium, and have been granted the privilege of a glimpse and an insight into your unique world, mind and life. I apologise that I rarely have the time and space to truly savour and engage my mind and heart with from other people’s blog posts – probably like a lot of us, I am able to ponder things for a few moments before having to ‘snap back’ into the real world, most likely the office work I have to do, or the tasks I have to do at home after a day at work. Perhaps today, it will be one of your blog posts I will read…and if so, I’d like to thank you for it. I will take the time to honour and engage with the insights you have allowed to traverse through space and time and come into my world. Goodnight for now, I hope that you find stillness to enjoy the space and moments you are living in right now.