Tag Archives: Writing Retreat

Writing Retreat Reflections and Advice- Day 3 (Part 1)

Summary of Approach so Far – Has it been Effective? Yes:

Well, day 3 of the retreat has arrived, and this is the final day. My approach to yesterday’s writing was not to set myself specific targets as to word count, as I did on day 1, but to focus on engaging more deeply and enjoying the creative process. Later that day I adapted my approach and set aside a time frame within which to write, but with a focus on the process and no set word count to aim for.

It turned out to be a freeing and productive approach and I have moved forwards in my writing. In case you are interested, total words written of my novel over days 1 and 2 is 6,142 words. This is something I have been working on over a number of years already, so I wasn’t starting from scratch and therefore already had a narrative and momentum in place. However, if you are approaching a retreat with the idea of producing something completely new, it is helpful to do some brainstorming before hand, to sketch out some rough ideas of what you want to focus on and write about so that you start your retreat with inspiration and not feeling at a loss as to what you are actually going to create.

As to where those words have taken me – I have been able to develop the narrative, the characterisation as well as introducing new characters. I’m happy with the quality of my writing, but I do think that I may come back to refine a few sentences at a later point. More deeply, the development of one of my protagonists, who is an expression of myself, has helped me to change the way I see myself and circumstances and potential for overcoming challenges in my own life, so that is definitely an aspect of the retreat that will stay in my heart and that I will take forwards into everyday life.

Morning of Day 3:

Taking time aside for a personal retreat, laying aside many of the usual daily distractions and everyday ‘noise’ to focus on a particular task can be very beneficial on a number of levels. However, it can also be a time when in a healing sense, difficult things can rise to the surface of our hearts, that we might be tempted to ‘stuff down’, especially during our usual busy routines. This can be challenging but also in the long term freeing if we allow ourselves to work through things to come out stronger on the other side, rather than running from them. 

Final day, anxiety, and tips for maintaining momentum once you re-enter the ‘real world’

Anxiety issues are bothering me again, but I can choose how to think and react to these unpleasant feelings. I have suffered for many years from anxiety, panic and PTSD, but I am overcoming them. That aside, in general, people may feel a sense of restlessness, anxiety and even panic when their retreat is drawing to a close. 

Suddenly you are more aware of the shortness of time, you may not have accomplished what you set out to do, you may have a mess around you to tidy and have to prepare for ‘going back’ to your everyday world and routine, and after having been safely tucked away in your own creative space without having to contend with other people’s problems, thoughts, demands or chatter, it can be a source of anxiety to conclude a retreat well.

I realise that I am partly in this state, but I have found breaking things down, and blogging the process has been entirely beneficial and productive for me, and hopefully interesting to you in considering your own retreat needs, approaches and expectations. 

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, I am just approaching each bit of the day as it comes. This morning I had breakfast, spent time in prayer, and listening to Psalm 119 online as it sometimes helps me to concentrate on the Word when hearing it audibly.

It is currently just after 10am, and I am blogging this update, while listening to calming instrumental background music to help manage the anxiety. This morning, I have new thoughts and developments that I’d like to write more about in my novel, so I may spend a little time doing that. However, I feel like I am also in a good place with it in terms of ‘next steps’ having had this concentrated writing time, as there are some details that I will need to research and this will enable me to have a task in mind for when I do go back into my day to day life and have less focussed writing time – I can leisurely look into researching certain things that I am including in some upcoming scenes for when I do get another chance to sit down and write.

It’s good to have something like that so that once you move into a busier routine when you have other commitments to balance, if that is also the case for you, then you won’t just be left feeling like your project has come to a halt. Maybe there are aspects of your book or project you can research, talk to people about, take notes, prepare ideas and so forth without actually having to write about them at that stage. That will help you keep the momentum going and allow yourself time to think and ‘mull over’ ideas for when the time comes around again for more focussed writing. 

It’s now 10.18am, and I will spend a modest amount of time writing and laying down some ideas, and points for future research, that I can explore in more depth at a later point.

Update at 11.37am: I wrote an additional 227 words of my novel this morning, and as the new concepts and scenes I have begun to introduce are a little bit ‘bigger than me’ at the moment, I will need to spend time in prayer, reading, researching, thinking and seeking wisdom as to how to develop them further. So, with those exciting challenges ahead, I am concluding the novel writing part of the retreat, having written a grand 3 day total of 6,369 words, and feeling Thankful to God.

body of water surrounded by trees
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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 6 (Finding Balance).

Quick tip: When absorbed in the creative process, don’t forget to save and back up your work – many a tearful moment will be spared if you do this. Don’t worry, I have been saving and backing up my work, but it’s always good to keep reminding ourselves of this as we go along.

As to a progress update, it is 11.35am on day 1 of this (at home) writing retreat. I have managed to complete my second stretch of writing time. My minimum is 15 minutes at a time (within an hour), and even if I write for more than this time I will still consider it as one segment of writing time. So for the second stretch, I managed to write for 30 minutes, and create some prose 446 words in length. 

As I said before, it’s not about word count, but consistency and using the time productively and being able to keep myself on track and accountable with my set aside writing time. So for interest, last night and this morning has me at 1,962 words, and an overall (10 + year) total of roughly 84, 000 words. This is because I have only been able to write sporadically over the years for short periods of time due to working full time and managing other commitments. So hopefully this set aside time will help me to progress with my novel, yet that being said, the progress of the characterisation and plot is directly linked to my own inner and outward psychological, emotional and healing journeys that are under the Sovereignty of God, so in a sense things are right on schedule! It all depends on how we look at things I suppose. 

To give myself an idea of what I should be aiming to accomplish during this three day period is quality of work, but in terms of something tangible and measurable, if I say roughly 500 words give or take for each 15 minute stretch, 7 times a day for 3 days would have me aiming towards 3,500 words per day, and 10,500 words over the total writing retreat. Perhaps this seems a little ambitious, but breaking it down into shorter more manageable ‘bursts of creativity’ and focus does help me see that it is in fact achievable, and also provides time to think, and really engage with the creative process.

So, am I on track for day 1 so far? I should be aiming towards writing at least another 1,538 words by the end of today, which does seem manageable. 

However, remember writers, as contradictory as it may at first appear, sitting down and writing for a long time can actually be quite tiring, especially if like me you have to manage health conditions such as anxiety, fatigue and low mood. Which means, a writing or any creative retreat should also be a time of ‘self care’, rest and reprocessing. Having creative time doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t at times find it challenging. The idealistic view is that you will feel rested, rejuvenated, relaxed, productive, in your creative ‘zone’ and overall it will be an amazing experience. It can be, but we need to manage our expectations and look after ourselves throughout the process. Creative writing, especially when it involves expressing a deep part of ourselves, can be challenging emotionally and mentally, as well as enriching and satisfying. 

Yet no matter how enriching the creative process is, it is worth bearing in mind that sitting at a desk or at a computer for hours at a time without a break isn’t good for anyone. So remember to stay hydrated, nourished, and take exercise and breaks so that you can enjoy your writing and creative time and not feel exhausted by it. 

As I’m reasonably ‘on track’ today, I think it is definitely time for a break – and please do give yourself permission to take breaks (but not to procrastinate or become distracted!), as this will refresh you and help you to produce a richer quality of work when you do sit down to write / create. Perhaps I shall return in a couple of hours, or maybe even later this afternoon. In the meantime, some self and home care is called for which includes exercise, a little bit of tidying up, maybe a walk in the park, some lunch, and some lighter creative activities, and a YouTube video or two and reading some of your lovely blogs for inspiration. 

Keep well on your creative journeys, as you find your own balance of inspiration and productivity. 

woman walking on fence
Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 5

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! 😉 

accuracy action active activity
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 4

It is 8.58am, and having committed my time into the Hands of my Creator, I am ready to create, to think, ponder, imagine and write. Hopefully as the morning progresses I will settle in and continue in a creative flow. However, first….breakfast, and caffeine! 🙂 Enjoy your day, and more to come later…

cafe caffeine cappuccino close up
Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on Pexels.com

Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 3

It is morning, 8.15 am, and I have been up for around 45 minutes. Last night at around 3.30am I was able to do some more writing, which has brought me a little further along and left me feeling excited as to how things will develop for my characters. I only wrote an additional paragraph, so my word count over the past evening and early morning is a bit over 1,000 words. Thank you for reading my earlier blog posts about preparing for this writing retreat, I am encouraged to share this journey. I have been working on this book on and off for just over ten years, and it is an expression of a deep place within my soul. 

I am blessed to have this time off from work, even ‘just’ three days, to savour the creative process and take my time with things. 

This morning, the sun is shining and there is a cool, gentle and crisp breeze in the air. It often rains here, so a day like this is a gift, and I am thankful. I can hear the chatter of birdsong through my open window, and I can also hear the rush of traffic over the motorway bridge as commuters make their way to work. I am both cocooned from the world, being on the 10th floor and with my windows laced with tulle to ‘keep the world out’ but also to allow me to observe it. My view overlooks the city, but in the distance I can see hills, trees, a few fluffy clouds, and a pastel blue sky. I awoke with thoughts running through my mind of things I wanted to write, which is lovely, to have that creative flow so early on. I am ‘half ready’ if that makes sense, having prepared myself for the day and got changed into some light and comfortable clothing, but I am not ready enough to go outside. After some refreshing water, I didn’t go straight to writing, but I spent the first 40 minutes or so in prayer and worship and committing my time to God.

Music helps me to quieten myself and be still before God and the lyrics help focus my thoughts and intentions and allow God to guide my heart and purpose. 

If you are interested, this has been my morning worship playlist today. The lyrics are beautiful if you take time to listen, and the final song is really a prayer and offering to God and a request for Him to establish the work of our hands, for His glory, for without Him we can do nothing.

I also came across in my ‘reader’ feed a beautiful blog post which inspired me to reflect and I will share a link to that post below. It talks about being humble in our attitudes and what we do, in response to Christ’s humility, and God’s view of those who seem ‘less’ in the eyes of the world. This links to a central theme in my book regarding the transformation of people who have been crushed and downtrodden, to be used mightily as part of a bigger purpose. I will not give too much away, but I was pleased to see this post and the connections that God is leading me to think about. 

I recommend that if you are embarking upon a focused time of creativity to begin in quietness and reflection and inspiration, remembering the purpose of what you are doing and the reason behind it. For me, I remind myself that all I do is because of the Love and Sacrifice of my Creator, so to Him I commit this writing retreat, and trust that He will glorify His Great Name and establish the work of my hands. 

This morning’s worship playlist: 

 

scenic view of mountains during dawn
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 2

Well, my friends, I have successfully traversed from Sunday night into the early hours of Monday morning. It is currently 12.07am, and as such my ‘official’ set aside retreat time has started. 

I was able to settle in on Sunday night and do a bit of re-reading of the last section of my novel. This was followed by distraction and procrastination by way of looking up vlogs on YouTube from other people who have been on writing retreats. I haven’t actually ‘gone’ anywhere, I’m being cosy and reclusive in my own home, but I have taken time out specifically to write. 

Procrastination was followed by cups of tea, a snack, cooking and eating pasta (with fried mushrooms, sweetcorn and red pesto) for dinner, and more re-reading. I finally got caught up with reading the last section of my book, and was able to settle down to write. 

I managed to write 528 words, and reach a significant point of development with one of my characters, introduce a new character and establish an unexpected and new part of the plot. 

It was a little emotional to read over some of what I had written, but these new developments see some positive changes, so I am excited to see where it all leads tomorrow (or, I should say ‘today’ as it is now technically the very early hours of Monday morning). 

I am pretty tired now, so this may be a bit incoherent, and apologies if so! 🙂 

I think I shall settle in, have a hot chocolate and wind down, and maybe watch something or do something creative before I go to sleep. 

Lesson from this note are if you are going to have a creative retreat, make sure you have snacks, caffeine, inspiration and focus – and most of all enjoy doing and creating what you love. 

Goodnight …thanks for reading. 🙂 

brown notebook in between of a type writer and gray and black camera
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Where your feet may tread…and the fine art of ‘Staycationing’

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Good Morning lovely people,

At least it is the morning on my side of the world! 🙂  It is a beautiful bank holiday Monday, which means I can have a relaxed start to the day, a welcome novelty from the usual ‘Manic Monday morning rush’!

Recently I decided to try something that I hadn’t done before. I realised that if I wanted to really pursue my dreams, then I would have to make a thoughtful and concerted effort to make time to do so.

Like many people, I work full time, and although I enjoy my job and make time in the evenings to relax and be creative, over time stress and the issues of other people can build up and creativity becomes a leisure activity that we indulge in ‘when we have the time’, and therefore that deep focussed immersion of ourselves into a creative ‘headspace’ as it were doesn’t truly happen amid the interruptions and myriad voices and commitments vying and calling for our attention.

So, I did it. I took a few days off work and rather than go on holiday (or ‘vacation’), I decided to create my very own ‘Staycation’ and creative retreat at home.

I can write more about the process of this and what it looked like and how it took shape and what I did, if there is interest. However, initially I had set aside the time for the purpose of a creative ‘Writing Retreat’.

Writing is a passion of mine, and I am working on a couple of novels – my first. One of which I have been working on for a good few  years now, and is dear to my heart, and is an expression of my life and faith journey in an allegorical form – if you like adventure, interesting characters, deep thinking, and profound expression of life’s deepest experiences, then this is a tale that I am perhaps telling for you, as well as for myself 🙂

My second work is more lighthearted, but I’ll save that for another post.

What I found happening, for this particular time set aside at least, was that the scope of the purpose of my creative retreat both broadened and deepened.

It became a time for me to be still, to commune with God, my Creator (I am a person of faith), and to hear my own thoughts.

The solitude and freedom from the usual demands of a ‘9-5’ routine gave me a beautiful opportunity to slow down, to take time, to walk at nature’s own pace, and to dwell deeply in a creative space.

The focus was not so much on ‘producing’, but on being. Even if the creative endeavour was the feeling or thought itself and the expression of the heart in just one line, that in itself was profound – a deepening connection, and a being present and unhurried.

I found a joy in the simplicity of taking time to be, to pray, to find droplets of healing and understanding through this time. I enjoyed unhurried walks by the riverside, knowing that I did not have to ‘clock watch’ or fit myself into the boxes of the world’s schedules – at least, not for this set aside time.

I wrote, I cooked, I sang, I took photographs, I drew and coloured, and enjoyed the time, in a childlike way, simply to be. I also limited my time and engagement with technology, and I found that this was a balm and a barrier against the modern syndrome that is ‘FOMO’ (the Fear Of Missing Out), and at last I could hear myself think, and that was enough in itself.

I feel that it is an important thing to take time to listen and to be, if and when we get the chance. We live in such a fast paced and hurried world that we are often drained of the vitality to be our best selves and to truly enjoy the gift of the life we’ve been given.

Going back to work I did feel refreshed, but just as soon as I got back, I was immersed in the noise of other people’s ‘stuff’, for want of a better word. And yet, I believe that taking time to take care of ourselves helps us ultimately to be more patient and kind and compassionate to other people.

I wandered through and out of my retreat with the thread of thought that on ‘re-entry’ into the world 😉 I would continue to make small and consistent life changes to ensure that although I generally do not have vast amounts of time to take to ‘retreat’ from the daily busy-ness of the world, I can make my daily life calmer, more peaceful, more creative and meaningful.

It is definitely a step worth taking.