Sometimes you have to ‘close a few tabs’ in your life in order to truly focus and enjoy the one thing right in front of you now.
Following on from my recent series (which is awaiting a final concluding blog post) on my personal / writing retreat, I have a few words that will hopefully encourage you that even if you don’t feel you have the time to take a retreat, even if that is in your own home, and even if it is a mini retreat over a weekend, you can plan what I’d like to call ‘mini mini-retreats’…or maybe micro retreats if you prefer 🙂
This is something you can achievably plan to incorporate into your week, your weekend or even your daily life. What do I mean by a micro retreat? It’s simply time that you have set aside to focus on an aspect of your life that is important to you, giving it the care and attention you long to. You may, like myself, only have rare occasions where you can deeply delve into creative projects you are involved in where over a space of a few days or even a week you are immersed in that creative experience and set aside time without having to worry about other commitments. However, on a regular basis, you can still ‘go on retreat’ in a focused and meaningful way, even if the breadth and depth of your experience differs from a longer time spent in this way. In some ways, because it is shorter and more focused time, you may reap unexpected benefits and glean new insights into your self and life.
So, think about what you’d like to focus on. Like me, you may have many different aspects of life that are important to you that you’d like to give time care and attention to. Perhaps self care, meditative time in nature, prayer, reading the Bible, reading generally, blog writing, spending time alone, painting, writing, photography, journaling, model making, music, or simply just getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can be flexible with how you fit such times into your daily and weekly life. All you need to do is set aside, protect and honour that time. In business speak, ‘ring fence’ that time for a specific purpose. Whether it is 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, or half a day, you can modify and change things to suit your own life. But once you’re in that time, treat it as you would a retreat – no distractions, find a place by yourself, undisturbed, make a warm cosy drink and spend that time giving attention to that one specific thing that matters to you. You can have many ‘mini mini retreats’ or micro retreats in a month, week or even a day. Let it be a time you make special for yourself, and give your full attention to that purpose, with gratitude, intent and a deep focus. And most of all enjoy the time, and seek to be refreshed, as you seek to live a life that you don’t want to ‘get away from’, and learn to live fully right where you are.
It’s 10.05am of day 1 of my writing retreat, and so far the morning has been reasonably productive. I have written 355 words of my novel since 9.40am, and although this may not seem much I am pleased with it, and have felt content inhabiting the time to think and to focus. So far, cumulatively since last night I have written 1,485 words.
For me, progressing with writing my novel is not about word-count. However, that being said, I do realise the need to hold myself accountable and make sure that I use my time productively. Having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work is another additional reason for me to be disciplined with my time, and especially as focussed writing and creative time is a rare opportunity for me, other than blogging and business writing for work. I am finding that blogging in little ‘snippets’ about my retreat experience also helps me to stay focused, productive and accountable.
I have set myself a minimum ‘target’ of writing for at least 15 minutes at a stretch within one hour, and to do this at least 7 times each day for the three days. Personally, this really is helping me as when I sit down to write, I feel a lot more focused, I am not overwhelmed by the thought that I *have* to write for an hour or several hours, and therefore, I am finding the creative process enjoyable, satisfying and productive, which really should be a central component to creativity, rather than any pressures we or others impose upon ourselves. We need to linger in our creative space and explore the internal dynamics of what it is to be human, and somehow to translate that into what we create. These relatively small targets feel very manageable at the moment, and it also frees me up to stay within the creative space while affording myself the opportunity to do other things, the variety of which I feel will help maintain the creative ‘flow’ and interest.
As such, I know that I can intersperse writing my novel which is the focus of this creative time, with other ‘lighter’ creative projects that I have going on, including some adult colouring in and working on a photography project. Personally the variety keeps me from feeling ‘stifled’, stuck or overwhelmed.
I wonder if you have gained insights you can share about your creative process? What works for you? What doesn’t? Does this change with circumstances and opportunities, or have you established a set pattern that helps you with both your creativity and productivity?
For now, I will aim to write for another stretch of 15 minutes, and then take a break and do some exercise, so that my body and brain will be in ‘tip top’ condition and keeping those ‘creative juices’ flowing! 😉
Can you start your day with the same kind of determination as this dog (which, seems to me thinks he’s a lion! 😉 ) waiting for the waters to be still enough for him to pounce and seize this ball??! Carpe Diem….have a great day….pursue excellence with intent and determination! 🙂 x
Life as it happens to be today has included getting in a couple of workout routines.
Now, let me clarify…amongst my friends and people I know, there are a lot of very sporty, healthy and fit people. Their pursuits range from swimming, skiing, snowboarding, long distance running, rock-climbing, weight training, hillwalking, playing football (‘soccer’), canoeing, assault courses, working out at the gym and cycling! They do sponsored events….for fun! The point I wish to clarify, is that I am not one of these people. I like walking. I like cycling, but in a leisurely way, and it would help if I had a bike, which I haven’t had for years. I also very much like the idea of being a cool pole vaulting, rock climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding chic – but as much as I like the idea of it, my body doesn’t seem quite to have a natural inclination towards sports and fitness in the competitive sense. Ok, I hated gym class in school – not so much because I didn’t like the exercise – I loved the hurdles, because I could do that well, and I felt as if I was flying. But because my fitness and stamina was pretty average, and with sports in school there is quite a competitive edge, or there can be, and average doesn’t really stand for much. There are also all of the ‘cliques’ that go along with that kind of world. Well, my school days are long behind me now, but I do wonder if perhaps my inclinations towards sport and exercise as an adult have been influenced by the certain dread felt in those younger days?!
Now that I have the freedom to be my own person in the adult world, I find that fitness is a very personal thing, and a personal journey. And it really doesn’t matter where you are starting from. What matters is that you have decided to take better care of your body and physical health, which in turn has a positive impact upon your mental health. I went to the gym for a while several years ago, but I don’t go now. Growing up I’ve always been quite ‘petite’ in my frame, but as the years progress I find that I can no longer take that for granted, and I will have to work at it to keep in shape and stay as healthy as I want to be.
For me, one of the things that keeps me motivated is breaking big goals down into smaller more manageable pieces, and making lists! I’m a big ‘list-maker’, me. I find that that helps me to focus. And while I don’t go to the gym, as perhaps I have the ‘self-conscious bug’, I have set myself tasks and goals that I try to keep a track of.
I do walk a lot, however, and I have also started skipping (‘jump rope’) and keeping a track of how many I can manage over time. I love being able to exercise at home without all of the social fears and anxieties that go along with being in a gym environment and the natural self consciousness and comparison traps that result. I love the fact that there are so many health and fitness videos on YouTube and I have started to do some simple weight training and cardio amongst other things. I am not well versed in the world of fitness, but I’m making a start and keeping going.
Of course, there are days and weeks when I don’t actually manage to get anything in. And I think that’s ok. What works for me is to have a goal, write it down, break it up into smaller steps, have a way of encouraging myself and tracking my progress. So the fact that I might metaphorically slip off the treadmill from time to time isn’t such a big deal, the main thing is I got on to start with and will keep going and if I slip up here and there, I’ll simply get back on and aim to keep going, without external pressure.
I know we all work differently, and some people find the external pressure a driving force and a catalyst for change. I don’t think I’m one of those people, but I’m sure there is still so much more for me to learn about myself and maybe if I stepped further out of my comfort zone I would find that that actually helps.
I know someone who wasn’t particularly fit, but took up running and participating in marathons and now does them with alarming regularity! 🙂 Initially he trained on a treadmill in the gym but thought that he didn’t like running outside or with other people (the marathons being the exception), but later joined a running group and is loving the mutual encouragement and meeting people at his own stage and fitness level when previously his mind had been closed off to the idea. So …who knows…we learn and we change and new opportunities can take us to new places.
I believe that the process of habit formation, for me at least, is most effective by incremental gains. Small and consistent changes building up over time. Some people like to throw themselves into things, and take on big challenges, and find that they do great that way.
You might be a ‘super fit’ person, someone somewhere in the middle like me, or someone who feels very unfit and wants to make a change. I think an important thing is to be kind to yourself. To know that who you are right now is wonderful and although there are changes you want to make in your life, you are no more or less deserving than the next person of having a healthy life. Start from where you are, find out what works best for you, and encourage yourself and other people.
And don’t worry if you’ve slipped off that treadmill….you can always get back up on it again, or leave the gym and take a walk in the park. Whatever works for you…find it, start it and keep going. You can do it! 🙂
And if you’d like to share, I’d love to hear what works for you, so please feel free to comment below! 🙂