Friday, July 27, 2012

Five Things I Learned From My Personal Writing Retreat

I posted this on my personal blog several weeks ago. Since then I've talked to several people I know in the writing world and in the work world that are so burnt out and looking for more margin, more time with family. Even Michael Hyatt blogged this week about How I Unplugged and Lived to Tell About It. Loved the picture in his post too. So I wanted to share this again here at Just The Write Charisma and hopefully catch the eye some blog followers who haven't seen this yet.

I also organize the column, The Well Writer, for the Christian Fiction Online Magazine. The month of July Pepper Basham covered the topics of fear and overload. I hope you'll visit this column every month as part of a writer wellness program of your own making. I encourage all of you to evaluate your current situations and decide where something has to give. We can't do everything all the time. Take stock and decide what you need to do to live smarter, healthier, happy lives.

I took my very first personal writing retreat near the end of May to finish the third book in my current series. I wasn't sure what to expect since I'd never been to this retreat center. I've never been to any retreat center to stay more than one day. A trusted friend suggested I try it. I stayed an entire week at Potter's Ranch.

The picture to your left is a road I walked up and down every evening thinking about very little after spending most of the day writing and knowing the evening would be spent writing as well. There were horses everywhere. I could actually stop and listen and hear nothing but crickets, geese, and birds.

My cabin was awesome and had two bedrooms and two baths, a full kitchen, and lovely living room. I brought snacks and breakfast food with me and joined the staff and other guests for lunch and dinner every day at the lodge. There was no television channels but I could watch DVDs. The only thing I brought with me was season one of Downton Abbey. I watched the entire season again but only after I'd met my necessary quota of words for the day. :)

Five things I learned from this experience.
  • FOCUS is a powerful tool. When I write at home it's so easy to be distracted. But when I scheduled my time to run away from home I didn't have to worry about the dishes or dinner, laundry or running to the store. I was able to stay in my story and that helped me get more done faster.
  • ACCOMPLISHMENT fuels me to want to accomplish more. After all, I was by myself. I didn't have anything else to concern myself with.I accomplished more than I thought myself capable of doing.
  • SELF MANAGEMENT is more than managing my time. I took breaks to keep my back from aching and keep my head clear. I used the timer on my cell phone to see how many words I could write in 15 minutes, in 30 minutes, and in an hour. 
  • PEACE is essential. I knew that, but I rarely experience it. To walk and not see anyone, to spend time with God and just let all my worries pour out. Great therapy by the way. To read my Bible looking out over fields and trees, was like living on another planet for me.
  • CONTENTMENT blooms from within when I allow it to happen. Life can be crazy, can't it? The days fly by me so fast and until I took this opportunity to go away, even though I had the specific purpose of finishing a book, I received so much more.
 I hope you will treat yourself well and think of doing something similar for yourself down the road. We can't always run away from home, but with some good planning you can find a way. Maybe you can't get away for a week but even a couple of days will bless you.

Now that I've had my retreat I'm looking for ways to keep retreat alive in my daily life. What about you? Have you enjoyed a personal retreat of some kind? What did you learn?


DRC said...

I love the thought of writing retreats. I haven't been on one though. The closest I got was a few years ago when we went on a 2 week cruise, and the last two days were spent sailing back home. We had seen and done most that the ship had to offer, so I quite happily stayed in the cabin and got loads of writing done. I actually finished my novel. A little difference in the writing system, even just a move from office to sofa with a laptop can make a difference...

Jillian Kent said...

A two week cruise sounds good to me! Sounds like you did have a writing retreat there when you finished your novel, DRC. And you are so right about moving from one spot to another. It does make a difference. I think a change of any kind where we can get away and just change the scenery is healthy too, whether we are writing or not our brains are soaking it all in and will reward us.

Bruce Hennigan said...

In three weeks, my wife and I are going to a condo by the beach on the Gulf. She will sun and swim. I will write where I can hear and see the waves. I love being at the beach, but not ON the beach and I'm looking forward to finishing book 4 of the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel.
Great post! I'd like to hear where other writers take a "retreat" now that we've talked about your retreat, a cruise, and the beach.

Jillian Kent said...

Bruce, I've never been to the Gulf. Sounds wonderful. There's just something so soothing about sea breezes and watching ocean waves and walking barefoot through the sand. Ahhhhhhhh.I'd like to hear what other folks are doing too.

Beth Shriver said...

I've added a few extra days to my annual trip to Colorado to spend writing. Your get-away looks wonderful!!

Jillian Kent said...

Sounds like you're thinking the same way, Beth. I'm seriously thinking about doing the same thing every year and if I can't afford the whole week like this last time then maybe a long weekend. Well worth it.