Tag Archives: Creative

The First Day of Winter?

This morning, Monday 18th November 2019, I awoke to what feels like the first day of winter this year.  I have been enjoying the beauty of the autumn season, and anticipating winter, and it seems to have arrived on my doorstep all of a sudden!

Last night I was blessed to watch a glorious sunset over the city, as the sky exploded into a golden orange, a sight I rarely see most days, and the buildings across the skyline stood as stark black silhouettes against the backdrop of colour.

At 5pm, I remarked to my parents as I spoke to them on the phone how suddenly the evening had fallen into black, almost as if a switch had been turned off, and it was night.

This morning I awoke to a beautiful sun rising in the east over the city, on the opposite side of my view from last night. I very rarely see such vibrant sunrises and sunsets, perhaps because of my location, when I’m at work, or the timings that I am able to look out the window, but the evening and the morning brought me a vibrant treat.

I could see the hills and mountains in the far distance. I got my camera, opened my window slightly and took a picture of the sunrise. The air was colder, icy, and so fresh and clean. Perhaps you think that is unusual for a city, but I live quite high up where the air may be clearer.

I shut the window, as much as the air was fresh, it was very cold, and as I looked down through the glass I noticed the first real frost of the season. Not snow, but a drizzling of soft white powder upon the tops of cars, and dustings of it upon the grass, the roads had iced a little too and all of a sudden the once beautifully arrayed with golden autumn leaved trees had turned to sparse twigged statues.

Winter had arrived! There would be snow on the tops of the mountains in the far distance. You could see the air from people’s breath. The tops of fir trees looked like Christmas trees.

As I walked to work, I noticed the sudden chill. In the breath of a morning, winter had arrived, so suddenly, not unexpected, but without any doubt that autumn had passed and a new season begun.

I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I walked to work. The pavement was patterned by icy leaves, embedded onto its surface. Such simple beauty, but ordinarily spectacular! The trees around me were also twig like and as I walked, leaves fluttered continuously to the ground, drizzling themselves upon the golden heap of leaves that had fallen before them. Now the roads and pavements were more beautiful and mesmerising than the trees themselves!

As I arrived in my office room at work, encased with tall glass windows on two sides, I stepped into an ice-box. But what a beautiful ice box to step into! Sun shone gently in as I pulled up the blinds and the glass greeted me with an enchanting lacy picture of snowflake patterns that glinted in the sunlight. The tall fir trees across the road are dusted with white, which will soon melt in the snow, but they reach up in praise to their Creator, and already sing of Christmas as they stand tall, deep dark green and authoritative against a gentle pale blue winter sky.

Sun shines through gaps in the trees lower down, a smaller, pretty, more delicate little tree, and its golden leaves flutter and fall continuously like glitter to the ground.

I pray for those for whom the crisp, fresh, cold air and these beautiful wintery scenes are not so much of a delight to them as a threat to their survival. Those for whom the cold is painful, and those who may not make it through the night. I hope you will pray for and reach out to them too, for together we can do far more than any of us can do alone.

This is a beautiful, sensitive yet stark season, filled with contrasts, filled with wonder. The leaves are falling all around us, creating beautiful piles of gold dust on the ground, and yet for some the mid-winter will be bleak, as frosty wind makes moan.

Winter heralds in a greater Light, a Warmth, Comfort and Joy – the Promise Hope and Peace of the Saviour, the Messiah Jesus Christ – the One Who came to the poor, the homeless, the cold, hungry, needy, downtrodden, hopeless and downcast. He came to the rich, the self sufficient, the spiritually blind and proud as well. He came for us all, to bring Forgiveness and New Life to any and all who will turn to Him, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have or have not done. So no matter whether this winter is beautiful or bleak for you and yours, there is a certain Hope, for us all – if we would but humble our hearts and receive Him.

pine trees covered by snow
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Winter Survival Guide (15) ~Revisit Your Hobbies and Make Better Use of Your Time.

We all say it from time to time: “If only I had more time, then I could do more of the things I really enjoy.”

black and white photo of clocks
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If we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we probably all have a lot more time than we make proper use of, and especially so during the winter and holiday seasons when we have a ready excuse to stay indoors and relax.

clear glass with red sand grainer
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How many of us who go out to work during the day, come back in the evenings and have something to eat and then spend the rest of the time slumped in front of the TV, or some other electronic device? One click leads to another, and before you know it you’ve whiled away the hours and it’s time for bed again, and that’s another day in which you wished you had ‘more time’.

photo of cup near flat screen television
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Now, what if the solution wasn’t having ‘more time’, but making better use of the time that we do have?

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I have this little game I play that helps me to get things done and avoid feeling overwhelmed. I have these ‘daily challenges’ on my computer in the form of various card games, word games and mind puzzles of different degrees of difficulty. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by the things I need to do around the house, I’ll solve a puzzle and then do a bit of work (and within that I break things down further like I’ll put 5 things away, or do x amount of something, etc.) and then go onto the next puzzle, and go on alternating between doing the things I need to do and relaxing / brain training and for me this ‘system’ really does work and keeps me calm, focused on my tasks a little at a time, and efficient. Doing this frees up time for me to have more spare time as well when the environment and living space I’m in is conducive to relaxation, rest and creativity.

person playing mini fig
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Sometimes when we think of revisiting hobbies that we’ve maybe laid aside for awhile, we can feel similarly overwhelmed as when we have a lot of housework etc. to do. But we can make this manageable for ourselves too, and make better use of our time.

photo of man reading book
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Think of your indoor hobbies. What would you ideally do on a cold, cosy winter’s evening? Now think of the amount of time you spend with your devices not being particularly productive. By this I don’t mean blogging, because this is a creative outlet and I think can be a very good use of time in connecting with other like minded creative people, and sharing our encouragement and insights with the world to make the world a kinder, more loving and supportive place online. But instead think of the amount of scrolling you do, comparing your life with someone else’s, looking at the latest celebrity gossip, going from one funny cat or baby video on You Tube to another, or binging for hours on your favourite box sets. I’m guilty of all of the above just like most of us probably are, but the problem is if it becomes a habit that interferes with us living our real and best lives for ourselves. It’s fine to every now and then ‘switch off’ from the world and look at things online, but it really shouldn’t be what we spend most of our free time doing, and I know that I am making changes to make better use of my time as it’s all too easy to get lost and entangled in this inter-web isn’t it?

Winter time is the perfect time to reignite your enjoyment of your indoor hobbies. And you don’t need to spend hours at a time doing them if that isn’t practical. For example, I enjoy playing the violin, particularly using it as an instrument to worship God with. It brings me joy, but it can for a long time sit in its case, untouched in the corner of the room, because I think ‘I’ll get back to it someday.’ But shouldn’t every day of our lives be that someday in some way? What I mean to say is that everyday should be the day to do something meaningful and worthwhile. And so maybe I’ll play my violin for ten minutes one night, but that in itself is a beautiful gift to be able to do.

acoustic art blur bowed instrument
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I also love adult colouring in, and have taken this up as a hobby which I do not just for enjoyment but also to develop my skills in art and creativity, and there is a whole community out there of people who display their wonderful creations online, on forums, on YouTube videos, and whatever you may think of adult colouring in, believe me, there are some fantastic artists out there (‘colourists’) who create masterpieces of the highest quality, and this is something that I aspire to. And notwithstanding that, it is a beautiful way to relax. Instead of thinking that I need to spend hours pouring into this hobby, maybe I can spend 10 or 15 minutes working at it in the evenings before turning the TV (or in my case, ‘laptop’ as I don’t have a TV) on. Doing a little of what you enjoy everyday, over a life time all adds up, and it can bring joy to others as well as you share your gifts.

pencils in stainless steel bucket
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What about crafts? Isn’t this the perfect opportunity to put your talents to use and make some homemade cards or decorations or whatever craft you do, to give as gifts to the people you care about, as well as exploring the possibility of selling your home made items to raise money for charity? A few years ago I had my first ever craft stall at work around Christmas time. I decided to use the money raised to give to a homeless charity in the city. Last year I decided to try out a new hobby, making jewellery particularly beaded bracelets and necklaces with charms, and I spent the wintery nights preparing a good collection of these which I later sold to raise money for the same homeless charity as well as a children’s charity. Now, this wasn’t anything extravagant, or needing a great deal of skill, but it was a fun way to try something new, to use my time (even while watching my favourite programmes – don’t you just love hobbies that allow you to multitask?! 🙂 ) and to encourage other people and do something helpful at the same time.

Some of our hobbies can be just for the sheer joy they bring in and of themselves, of honing our skills, learning new techniques, connecting with other like minded people, or even passing on what we’ve learned to our friends, family and the younger generations.

My God-son and his dad enjoy spending time together doing wood-crafts. Some of them are quite simple, but turn out beautifully like little model rocking chairs crafted out of wooden clothes pegs glued together. Think of the wonderful memories you could make, as well as the wonderful gifts, from spending time connecting with people or even on your own giving yourself time to grow, learn, improve and contemplate.

black and white boy child childhood
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What are your favourite indoor hobbies that you’d like to pick up again? Could this wintertime be the chance for you to rediscover them? I’m curious to know what people enjoy doing – painting, music, reading, writing, arts and crafts, model making, jewellery making, pottery, embroidery, quilt-making, baking, making Christmas decorations, knitting, sewing, weaving, photography, scrapbooking, wood-carving…..? I’m sure there are so many more that I have overlooked, and many more that I may never even have heard of.

If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about what your favourite hobbies are, and I hope you have and create the time, even if just a little time at the moment, to get back into the things that make you feel that enjoyment and creativity! 🙂

 

person holding white sneakers
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person fixing green christmas tree
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Procrastination, or creative thinking?

Have you ever thought about the difference between procrastination and creative thinking in your life? Procrastination is when you know you need to do something but keep coming up with excuses to put it off. I’m sure we’ve all been there! Some of us may even spend most of our time there, which surely can’t be too good in the practical day to day things of life.

However, if you are a creative person, then maybe at some point in your life you’ve been labelled or have labelled yourself as ‘lazy’. But is this actually the case?

Think of a project you’ve been working on for a long time, something that requires thought, focus, commitment, insight. Maybe you’re a painter, a sculptor, a musician / composer, working on a photography project, or like me, a writer. Has there been something that you have had as an on-going creative venture, that is very important to you, but that somehow you keep ‘stop-starting’ and yet with no intention of giving up?

Maybe you are overly critical of yourself about this. In a world that is fast-paced, filled with deadlines, and timelines, it can be difficult to see the positives in letting things rest for a while. Obviously,  if you are working to external deadlines such as writing for a publisher / book deal, preparing for an exhibition with a set date, or working on a commissioned piece of art, then you may in fact be procrastinating if you are putting off what you know needs to be done.

But what if you are solely creating something with no other demands imposed other than it is something you feel you need to do and to express? I have been working on a novel for ten years, and it involves a lot of personal reflection, as well as progressing on my journey of processing and healing past experiences and present realities. I used to think, when I was younger, that I would have written my book by such and such an age. Is it failure that I haven’t? Or is it woven within the fabric of this ‘life’s work’ itself? Isn’t it the case that something coming from the deepest parts of me to find expression and life as I continue to learn and make sense of things needs and in fact deserves time?

When I am not working on my novel, which can be for months on end (I could look at this as because I am busy with other commitments, need longer focused periods of time, etc.) the creative process is still happening. It hasn’t stopped just because there is a pause in the writing, just as your creative process maybe continuing even when for a time you have put down your pen, pencil, paintbrush, composition notebook, camera, sculpting tools, musical instrument, or whatever it may be for you. During the ‘fallow’ periods of ‘not writing’ my novel, I still continue to write in other ways that require less focus and emotional and psychological investment which can actually be a relief from the difficulty and intensity of expressing in art personal pain and growth. My mind continues to process and ‘sift’ through experiences, gaining insight as I continue on my life path, and perhaps subconsciously working out ‘solutions’ to yet to be answered questions in my novel itself. I learn new things from my experiences, from people around me, from reading, and gain insight, inspiration and new ideas even when I am not working specifically on my creative project. And when I come back to it, I realise that I hadn’t actually ‘left’ it. Just as in music, those moments of silence, of pause, of reflection can be profound and imbued with power and meaning and emotion, so too can the times of rest in our creative journey.

Can you relate? Maybe if you are in a similar position and if it is the case that you are giving yourself a hard time over not investing time in something so important to you creatively, you could instead consider all of the many ways that the rest and silence is not in fact laziness or procrastination but a form of growth, insight, of learning, and exploring other people’s creativity, or reflecting upon and sifting through your own inner journey so that when you do once more give yourself to your creative work, things are more focused, have a greater depth, authenticity and sharpness to them.

It’s just a thought that I’ve come to realise gives me greater freedom from self-imposed expectations on my creative journey. What about you? Would love to hear your thoughts and insights into your own creative processes.

blue and purple color pencils
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The Final Edit … who will have the last say in your life?

When I was a little girl, and then as I grew into a teenager, I dreamed of what I would like to be when I grew up. My dreams in terms of my occupation were along the lines of wanting to be an artist, a cartoonist / animator, a writer and illustrator, a journalist, reporter, and an advocate for children’s rights, human rights, animal rights and social justice. For a long time in secondary school I saw myself as becoming a journalist, because of my love of writing, of discovering and sharing such discoveries with the world. My passion for writing never diminished, and I spent my teenage years writing short stories, and doing stints of work experience with a local newspaper, as well as volunteering for NGOs such as the British Red Cross, working on an international message and tracing scheme, race equality charities, Amnesty International and doing projects on the death penalty, Greenpeace and so forth. My mum always saw me as a future news reader, which I can’t quite understand why given that I was an incredibly shy teenager, and not really able to speak up for myself. But I could write! And I could analyse facts, and discover new angles and ways of seeing things. Creativity and analysis are two sides of the same picture that makes me who I am, but whereas I could live with a less analytical aspect to my life, I would probably shrivel up and wither away without being able to express myself creatively. At school we had ‘mock interviews’ with a guidance counsellor  / teacher. During my interview, the teacher / ‘interviewer’ asked me what I wanted to be and do in the future. Without hesitation I told her I wanted to be a writer and a journalist. She shot me down, which to be honest, is pretty awful given that she didn’t really know me. She said I could definitely be a writer, but there was no way I would be a journalist because my personality wasn’t bold or confident enough, or something to that effect. At the time it was a real desire for me to go into the field of journalism, and without a second thought the teacher brazenly dismissed my dreams for my future. I forgive her, I understand some people trying to provide youngsters with a good old fashioned dose of realism, but some people I think are in the teaching profession without really having the skills to help nurture young minds and lives. Suffice to say, I didn’t become a journalist. I guess I didn’t really want to in the end, but that was my choice. I went on to study English Literature and Politics in University, aged 17, and then proceeded to study Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Development. I’ve since dipped into online courses in psychology, children’s studies, and continue to pursue my passion for writing. I write fiction, I write blogs, I’ve written about human trafficking as part of my studies, and as part of my job, I’ve written about issues to do with violence against women, equality, racism, disability hate crime, and a variety of more ‘businessy’, corporate, legal and policy type matters, all the while, learning new things as I go. I have also had times in my job where I have had to write more ‘tedious’ and templated things, such as complaint responses and things that I have just had to do, because I was tasked to do it. I suppose in any and every career we face tasks that we like and dislike, things that make us feel more like our true selves, and other things that make us just want to pack up and go home for the day, or better still, leave the country altogether and go on holiday until we can come back to something better!

Yes, I’ve been there, I’m sure we all have. But today, as I sit and write, I think that the little girl I once was would be pleased with where I am today and what I am doing. I think this day may very well be part of her dream. To sit somewhere quiet, with the sun shining in through the windows, and a view of trees, and to be editing a company newsletter, and preparing the articles for the final version. I am working with my friend and colleague who is a designer, and I am doing the ‘wordy’ part of the editing, while he deals with the pictures and images. It is a new task for me at work, because previously we worked more in the confines of our own teams, which meant I was dealing with, at least for the past while, more corporate work, which is fine, but not exactly creatively stimulating. I have a new collaborative project coming up too, which I have been preparing for, I won’t write too much about it at this point, but think audio, internal communications, entertainment….and yes, perhaps something with a journalistic streak to it! This past week at work I have been collating information, writing reports, analysing, and also editing a newsletter, planning a creative project, which will involve interviewing, possibly audio presenting and taking forward with colleagues new internal communications strategies.  So, despite it all, despite my several health challenges and struggles over the years, despite this not being quite journalism (which was after all the dream of a teenage me, and not the adult me), I find myself in a happy day, doing things that I love, despite life’s ups and downs, and despite messages to the contrary.

On days like these, especially after times of trials, we really ought to reflect on and appreciate them.

And for all of you out there whose teachers, parents, peers, colleagues, bosses, relatives, or so called ‘friends’ told you that you could ‘never be’ what you dreamed of being, or that you didn’t have what it takes, or weren’t good enough or not being realistic, or whatever negative thing they said about you….by all means hear them out, take on any helpful advice, but take it with a pinch of salt, continue to be who you are born to be, and remember that they don’t have the final edit of your life. 🙂 Be blessed. x

creative smartphone desk notebook
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The racing doesn’t stop, even when you do! …

Most of us in society nowadays, live pretty ‘busy’ lives. Even when we are sedentary for hours at a time, we are still ‘wired up’, connected to our tech, and our minds are solving problems, figuring things out, and absorbing information. Busyness isn’t therefore simply in the form of rushing about, doing things, making appointments, getting to places by a certain time, meeting people, attending functions, and the endless list goes on and on. Busyness, nowadays also represents our state of mind.

The racing doesn’t stop, even when you do. Maybe you spend a significant amount of work time at a computer. By the time you get home, your mind most likely needs some time to process your thoughts, experiences and to assimilate these and make sense of the day. However, how many of us give ourselves the chance to do just that? I wonder if we overwork our minds by the amount of stimulus we allow into our experiences, in an unhealthy way similar to that of an overworked muscle that eventually loses some of its agility and function and ultimately its health?

I think because of the society we live in, we need to really be intentional about this aspect of our wellbeing. In years gone by, before instant photography, people used to have to develop their pictures from negatives, in a dark room….and it took time for the picture to form and appear. Now that we are so used to things being ‘at the touch of a button’, or at the sound of a voice, we have grown less patient, and have come to expect things to happen instantly. We no longer make much time to sit in stillness, and to replenish ourselves, to process and develop, and allow the pictures and the meanings to form; and this isn’t healthy, and I know I’m guilty of such bad habits too.

When we come home from work, what do we do? Do we really connect with ourselves and the people around us, or do we continue to absorb ourselves in an online world? Don’t get me wrong, as a blogger and a writer and a creative person, I think it is a wonderful outlet, but I also realise that there is a fine balance to be had between the digital and analogue worlds. How many of us, having been at the computer for several hours, continue to go online, or to sit in front of the TV, and take in more mental stimulus than our brains can handle? Is our relaxation, really relaxing? Do we actually give our minds a break?

I tend to feel it when things get out of balance for me. I need a lot of time on my own, and solitude, time to think and to be creative, but sometimes I do just get absorbed in the next drama or box set or article online, and I am almost compelled to keep watching, listening, reading. When what would be really good for me would actually be to sit in silence for a while, to observe nature, to read a book, to think, to process, to write and journal, and to create, draw, play my violin, pray, colour, paint, cook, experience. Yes, really experience. Our minds can’t be in a continuous state of rush, absorbing information, and never having a break or a chance to process these experiences and the multitude of data we feed ourselves with. Like ‘junk food’ we are drawn to the instant gratification of what is quick, easy, with a short term ‘feel good’ factor, but is in the long term detrimental to our health.

I find blogging a healthy way to engage with life online – it gives the chance to step away from the constant streams of information to actually begin to process my own thoughts and make sense of life as it happens to be. Yet, it is not enough. I know I for one need to be more intentional in stepping away from technology and spending real quiet time being present, being creative in an analogue way, and just allowing my mind the chance to slow down, take in one thing at a time, consider it, dwell upon it, and process.

The racing of our minds doesn’t stop just because we do, especially when we don’t give our minds the chance to be still, constantly bombarding ourselves with information until we are full, overloaded, and at the brink of malfunctioning. However, we can give ourselves the chance, to ‘hibernate’, sleep, reboot, restart. Surely if our computers need to, we do too!

Can you relate?

man riding bicycle on city street
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Retreat Reflections – Day 3 (Part 3) ~ Moving Forwards…

If you read part two of day three’s retreat reflections, you’ll know that after spending several hours over two +  days sitting on my couch and working on writing my book, I was creating space and time to get out of that creative (and mostly immobile) state of being, to doing some of my usual light exercise. However, I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ for some reason, and the easy exercises I usually do seemed like something I was just not going to (or too lazy to) manage at that moment. So I did some light stretching, and then found this on YouTube… it is a virtual treadmill walk in Palm Cove, North Queensland, Australia.

This for me personally was amazing! I don’t have a treadmill at home, but you can still do this while walking on the spot (yes, you’re not allowed to just watch it while still sitting on the couch! 🙂 ) and I have just walked the half hour, also using hand-weights and jogging a bit on the beach. It has given my body and mind a boost. Of course, actually going outside for a walk would be great, but if you have been indoors, being a recluse for a couple of days, and are perhaps still in your pyjamas 😉 or if you don’t have somewhere to walk outside, or the weather isn’t great, or you just. don’t. want. to. engage with actual human beings, and traffic and noise and outside stuff right now, then this is really great, or at least I found  it to be so. So thank you to whoever made the video, you have made the internet a little brighter. 

Also, it terms of creative head space if you have been intensely working on something, this is a good way of still getting moving and having the chance to mentally engage, explore, be curious about what’s around the next corner, and enjoy some beautiful and relaxing views somewhere you may never have been before. I feel refreshed and relaxed at the end of this and ready to do 5 or 10 minutes of cardio before a bit of a cleaning / tidying up session to get organised for a more relaxing evening. Another thing is with this particular walk, is it is so relaxed, and there are people passing by, but you are still in your own personal retreat space. If like me you experience anxiety and panic attacks in crowds or public spaces, this can be really helpful for your mind to prepare from going from relative (or total) solitude on your personal retreat, to actually beginning to prepare for re-joining community, and reminding yourself that you will have to engage with people shortly while still being relaxed and calm right now. Preparation is key if you have anxiety – and maybe also if you just happen to be a bit of a recluse. 

Psychologically I found it fascinating. Sometimes when we exercise, we struggle mentally to persevere and have to push ourselves. This of course is very light exercise and not really challenging for most reasonably healthy people I would assume, while recognising for others it is an accomplishment which is great. However, my mind was so engaged in the ‘story’ of where I / we / go-pro? was going next, of looking around, listening to the birds, the waves, seeing people of different walks of life, reading signs, enjoying the view and wondering about other people, that I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that I was walking, jogging and using hand-weights, because mentally I was engaged and it was an enjoyable experience. Also, probably quite helpfully, while ‘passing’ people during the virtual walk, my mind started making connections about the people I would have to engage with whether at work, or during my commute, and kind of preparing for that while still enjoying my ‘me time’ and without the stress of the contrast of a social situation after having my creative head buried in a personal writing project. If you don’t have these issues, then this may seem a bit strange, and that’s great if you don’t struggle, but it also might help provide a little bit of an insight into people you know who may have anxiety. 

Anyway, all in all I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it really has helped me to shift gears into the next part of day three of this three day writing / personal retreat. Daydreaming…maybe someday I will go there for real 😉 

If you could go for a (virtual or real) walk in any part of the world, where would it be? 🙂

Retreat Reflections – Day 2 (Part 4) ~ Lunch, Rest & Flexible Planning.

2.25pm

Lunchtime is a helpful divider within the day. Being creative and freely exploring our creativity is often, as contradictory as it may seem, benefited by having boundaries. Even if you don’t have an ‘itinerary’ as such for your personal retreat to begin with, you can develop flexible plans as you move through your days. 

As to lunch, food and sustenance in general during a personal retreat it helps to do a bit of preparation beforehand, or to cook something you can eat over two or three meals, have something you can easily make, or buy some sandwiches from a shop and to keep your fridge stocked with what you will need. It’s helpful to minimise the time spent having to run errands because we necessarily will be compelled to engage and interact with the world in a way that may interrupt what we hope to experience on our retreat. 

Not only that, but if you’re like me, when you get absorbed in a creative project you can ‘forget’ to eat, or if there’s nothing readily available you might just ‘power through’ and your creative work might actually suffer because you are low on energy, tired, ‘hangry’ or lack concentration. So keep things ready so that you can grab a bite and continue with your project uninterrupted. 

It is nice though, not to rush through lunch, but to use it as a time to rest, relax, maybe look at other sources for inspiration (I was listening to some music, and looking up retreat videos on YouTube – I didn’t quite find what I was looking for in terms of the retreat videos, but it was good just to move into a state of mind where I didn’t have to concentrate so much). 

Now that I’ve eaten, relaxed a bit, I find myself beginning to ponder my next steps. Yesterday I met my ‘writing goal’ of 3,500 words, and slightly exceeded it. This morning I was intentional to not set any writing goals, and focus more on slowing down and engaging more fully with myself and the process. I had some prayer time, and some quiet reflection.

Having had personal retreats before, I am aware that the final day, which in this case is tomorrow, requires a slight shift in gears. If you are on retreat somewhere away from home, then you will have to pack, tidy up and make your journey back home on the last day. If, like me, you are having your retreat in your own home by yourself, then you may find that you have a bit (or a lot!) of tidying up to do, and preparing for the day ahead if you happen to be going back to work, or ‘re-joining the world’ in some other way. 

I recommend valuing your purpose for your retreat and allowing yourself not to focus on tidying up unless you naturally keep everything neat and clean as you go along. It’s important to have a clean, neat retreat space, but if you’re like me you do have that, but you also have dishes piled up in the sink. Your focus is your time alone to reflect and work on your creative projects or self development, etc, and you will have to attend to the housework afterwards anyway, but don’t let it distract you or interrupt your creative flow, as quiet times can be hard to come by in our busy lives.

As to flexible planning, I’m aware that tomorrow I don’t want to use the whole day for tidying, so I want to set aside some time later today to do a bit of that. I also don’t want to do anything too ‘heavy’ in terms of writing, as what I am working on involves being engaged emotionally and mentally on a deep level. I like to keep the final stages of a personal retreat for something lighter, more care free, with times for prayer, thanksgiving, gratitude, reflecting on what I have learned and planning ways in which I can take forward some of these lessons into my day to day life where possible. As such, I have made a preliminary decision not to work on writing my novel tomorrow after morning time, so that I can ‘decompress’ and gently change gears.

Therefore, to avoid unfocused and unstructured time today, my plans are changing somewhat organically as day two progresses. I may not get time like this for a while, so I am reinstating my ‘goal setting’ with my novel writing this afternoon. This is what I love about a personal retreat in contrast with group activities which have their own unique positive aspects – when your time is your own you can work with the ebb and flow of your own creative processes, ongoing learning, and practical concerns, rather than having to adhere to a set timetable. 

So to make the most of the remaining time, and to have a lighter more carefree day tomorrow, I am going to work creatively within some parameters this afternoon, being flexible once again with those plans.

It’s 2.50pm now, and the sun is shining, but I have chosen to stay inside and focus, and set aside novel writing time from 3pm to 6.30pm. In that time I can take my time, linger over words and ideas, look up sources for inspiration, take short breaks, but that time is a gift that doesn’t come often. Knowing that, I will savour it, and whether I write much or little that is fine either way. 

At 7pm the coach will turn into a pumpkin! 🙂 Just kidding, by 7pm I will down tools with writing my novel for the rest of the retreat time, other than if I have anything I feel I want to do tomorrow morning, but that leaves me free the rest of the time to work on some less mentally and emotionally challenging projects and prepare for concluding the retreat time on a reflective and carefree note. 

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

 

Retreat Reflections ~ Day 2

I awoke naturally at around 5.30am, which is definitely not my usual time of day as I’m a night owl and not a morning person. I spent some time in a sort of ‘sleepy prayer’ state, committing my day to God, and listening to some gentle worship music. At 6.30am I started my early morning writing, and wrote for just under half an hour, and enjoyed a hot cup of tea and some breakfast snacks. I wrote again from around 7.30am to 8.30am, and after that I went back to sleep for a while. 

It’s now 10am, and I am writing my update here to avoid procrastination. I am curled up on my sofa, with a cosy blanket, and my laptop propped up on my armrest as I type. Day two has a gentler feel to it than yesterday. Yesterday I wrote quite a lot and I feel that I wrote well. Today, however, I decided not to set myself with a word count to ‘accomplish’ which has given me the freedom to linger and engage and connect more deeply with what I am sharing of myself, creatively, through the written word. 

The mind and heart have caverns that take a life time to explore, and healing comes not instantly for the most part, but over time, and with love. And we express much of ourselves through the characters we create, whether intentionally or not. For me, it is intentional, and therefore there is the opportunity for deep and genuine connection through writing this novel as well as it being an opportunity for me to learn more about myself.

I have spent an hour and a half this morning continuing on my journey through writing my novel, and have written 808 words. This may not seem much for the time spent, but there has been a richness in the connection, and quality of experience of slowing down, taking time to consider words, to experience the resonances with my heart, and understand a little better the tapestry of my mind. 

The world we live in is so rushed, and hurried. People ‘think faster’, but not necessarily deeper. Words are fired out over ‘Twitter’ ‘Instant messaging’ and text. We are being moulded to expect instant responses and constant information. And with all the interconnection, there lacks the depth of connection with our selves. 

So if you have the chance to write, to create, be intentional about it, and yes set yourself goals. However, enjoy the process. The world doesn’t give us time to savour the moments as deeply as our souls need to – we need to seek and find and carve out that time that God so freely gives. 

Slow down. Especially on retreat. The world of course will rush you once again, so take this time. Pause. Reflect. Connect. With your creativity, with yourself, with your Creator, and delve a bit deeper. 

When you travel to a new place, you may spend a day or two trying to accomplish as much as you can on your sight seeing ‘bucket list’. You want to make the most of your time and cover the most ground you can, especially if it’s unlikely that you will be travelling there again. Once you have seen all the sights, however, on day two or three or four, you will have gained a sense of what is most important and interesting to you, and also what is not as important. And so….you slow down, you linger, you stay a while. You don’t rush from one museum to the next, you don’t have to….you can pause and look….really look….at that one particular painting that catches your eye, stimulates your mind and captures your heart. Previously, you caught a glimpse of a variety of places you could perhaps eat at, but today….today you have chosen one place, and you slow, you enjoy the colour of food on your plate, the taste, the aroma, the textures and flavour. You listen, to the conversations around you in languages you don’t understand, and hear not just unfamiliar sounds but nuances that you hadn’t noticed before and similarities of words and phrases. You feel more connected, with yourself, with the company you are in, and the day you are inhabiting. Having taken a multitude of photos the previous day, you decide to put your camera away for a while, and soak in the experience of being present, being here, now. You know that tomorrow or quite soon you will have to attend to the business of tidying and packing up and leaving for home. So you pause, you linger, you soak it up. And maybe you don’t ‘tick as many boxes’, but that’s alright. You don’t cover as much ground, but the ground you do cover leaves an impression upon your soul, becomes part of you, and enriches your life….in this slow, authentic, savoured and connected moment of your life.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 7 (Choose to use the time to meet your goal).

When is the write time? How about now. 

Well, my friends, the first few hours of this 3 day writing retreat have been a learning curve already. In my last update I wrote about finding balance when absorbing oneself in a creative project. However, I also need to qualify that with ensuring that in seeking balance we don’t forget our purpose, especially when our ‘set aside time’ is for a short duration, such as three days like mine.

I took a short break – I am now fed, watered, and a little rested. The sun is shining (which is not the most common occurrence where I live), the thought of sitting in the park or taking photos is appealing to me. I have dishes needing done, tidying up to do, exercise that I wanted to do, and my other creative projects to dip into. 

I am more than half way towards meeting my goal of 3,500 words for today. And yet…

During my short ‘down time’ while looking up writing retreat vlogs on YouTube, I came across one in which a young woman and her writer friend were on a 4 day retreat, and she failed to meet her goals, partly because she took breaks and treated herself to a refreshing visit to the nearby beach when she had only made inroads towards meeting her writing goals. She regretted not focusing on accomplishing her daily goal before treating herself to a longer leisure time. 

It got me to thinking just how important writing is to me, and how I don’t get focused time to do it often, and one of my goals / dreams since childhood has been to be a novelist, and now it is at least to write the one novel that has been birthed in my soul through some deep, painful and inspiring experiences that if I don’t write it, part of my ‘life purpose’ would have remained unfulfilled. By the grace of God I will accomplish the dream put upon my heart.

So I need to remind myself that while it is good, healthy and desirable to take breaks and find balance, the sun will shine another day, I will definitely spend time in the park again, the dishes will be washed and the house tidied and other little creative projects done, and I will find and make time to exercise and keep well. 

But for now, I will choose to honour the gift of this time and the purpose I have chosen for this time and get back to writing, and enjoying doing what I love. 

Which leads me to ask you, is there something, some dream, goal or project, however modest you might think it seems, that you would like to accomplish? And if so, are you giving it the time, care and attention you feel it deserves? Or are other distractions, priorities or tasks that can wait for another moment or another day keeping you from accomplishing your goal? 

Well, that’s my ‘post-break’ update, and as it’s 1.33pm, I am going to get back to it. 

Let’s stay on course, and accomplish our goals! 🙂

P.S. Apologies that these notes are fairly ‘rushed’ updates, I spend more time crafting the prose in my novel while here I can just share as things come to mind, and I am appreciative of that. Thanks for reading 🙂

alarm clock lying on multicolored surface
Photo by Black ice on Pexels.com

Finding a place of calm…and planning a mini-retreat…

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It’s 12.57am, and I can’t sleep. It is not insomnia as such, but more of an underlying anxiety and restless or nervous fear. I know there is nothing to fear. My Great God shelters me under the shadow of His Wing, and covers me with His Almighty protection. However, I have had times over the years of quite troubled sleep, and perhaps these feelings of unease are remnants of that. And yet, my Beautiful God speaks through the darkness to say: “Peace. My Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you, do not let your hearts  be troubled and do not be afraid”. 

He calls us to “consider the birds of the air” who do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns” and yet, our “Heavenly Father feeds them”. I hope the picture above brings you some feelings of calm, peace and joy. This afternoon a friend came over for a cup of tea and a chat, and we spoke about solitude, community and retreat. I told her about the walk in which I took these photographs and how it touched my heart to see that these beautiful birds, this little squirrel were so uniquely cared for by God. Having an interest in photography and a passion for capturing beautiful moments of beautiful things, I am able to hone in on the detail and marvel over the intricacy of a bird’s feathers, the ridges on its feet and tiny claws, and just how wonderfully designed the life around me is. 

In a world where there is so much noise, uncertainty and fear, it can be hard to find peace. There is so much that feels tumultuous, uncertain, frightening, terrifying even for those people living in war zones, areas of unrest, famine, drought, violence, and sadly the list goes on and on… We tend to think of peace as the absence of conflict, of calm and steady waters, of our circumstances all in alignment when all is well. However, this surface calm is not the true Peace that our souls long for. We need an anchor of Peace for our souls, for we are all at some point in our lives tossed upon restless waters. I searched long and hard for years to find peace, and just as a bubble on a stream, such peace was so fragile, and temporary, certain to burst and vanish with the slightest friction. Temporary peace or calm means that we are forever restless in the ongoing pursuit of calm. The same goes for happiness or joy, of love, of acceptance. However, I have found, or been found by, a Peace that Is enduring, and that is a tangible, real and experienced comfort to my soul at the deepest level. This Peace is the very Person of Jesus Christ Himself. He Is with us.

We are called to “seek peace and pursue it”, and I believe the only real way of doing this is in our pursuit of God, and in our resting in Him. However, there is something to be said about drawing aside from a busy world if and when we can, and to take time out, to pursue quiet surroundings, times of focused reflection and sharing, times for creativity, healing, letting go, rejuvenation, of solitude, and of companionship. 

My friend actually came over today as we are planning a spiritual and creative “staycation retreat”, perhaps for three or four days, as something we can pursue and encourage each other through, together. 

The process itself is quite special, as I have not found it a common thing to find people with whom these things can be shared with. 

And so, as we reach the mid-point of a somewhat wintry feeling April, I continue on with my monthly themes – this month’s being hospitality and planning a creative and spiritual retreat. 

I look forward to bringing you on this journey with me as we venture onwards together into quieter, more relaxing terrain. 

xx