The Benefits of Retreat by Ann Byle
Last summer my writing group visited my parents’ cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We scattered around inside and out in the mornings to work on our writing projects; in the afternoon we went on an adventure. In the evenings we talked and laughed.
What a wonderful time away in a place that demands relaxation and retooling thanks to no television and limited cell service. And how fun to spend that time with dear friends.
Recently I was on a retreat in Florida, far from Michigan’s gloomy skies. Far from the obligations of house and pets and family.
Here’s what I’m discovering about retreat.
- Day 1: It takes time to unwind. My first day here I’m still thinking about answering emails and texts and sending pictures and deadlines. A story I covered several years ago for a major magazine is breaking news at home and around the publishing world, but I’m not writing the first stories. It’s OK. I’ll do stories when I get home, but now I’m on retreat and beginning to wind down.
- Day 2: Take some down time. Today was a slow start and that’s OK. It’s OK to read and stare at the ocean. I worked—this is a writing retreat after all—but I also went out to dinner at a lovely seafood restaurant.
- Day 3: Face the future. I could live like this for another two weeks, but it’s my last day and I’m starting to miss my family a little. I need to address the huge writing project that looms. Remember that line in “The Devil Wears Prada” when Miranda is on her way up to her office and Stanley Tucci’s character yells, “Gird your loins!” That’s how I feel about the next three months.
- Home: Reenter slowly. I was gone Wednesday to Sunday. I don’t count Wednesday and Sunday as part of the retreat because of travel. Taking time to rest, relax and prepare for the days ahead is necessary. No need to rush back in immediately! Take it slow and easy for a day or two, then get back into the crazy, hectic days of deadlines, writing and caring for those around you.
I’m posting this from home and remembering the warm and sunny days, the ocean breeze, the little community I entered for three days at my 1950s-era motel. What a wonderful time away and what a fine collection of memories.
Please consider a retreat of your own. The time away is relaxing, the unstructured time is remarkable, the mind space is revealing. Enjoy!
Your turn! Have you ever had the chance to get away on a writing retreat? Even if only for a day or afternoon? How did it spur you on in creativity and productivity? Did you find yourself connecting with others in a positive and fulfilling way? We love hearing from you. Join the conversation in the comments.