Friday, October 26, 2012

5 Tips to Create a Writer's Retreat at Home

A typical item on every Writer's Bucket List is "Attend a Writer's Retreat." In a perfect world each one of us would be granted time away from jobs and household responsibilities for a couple days every year, where we'd gather with fellow creative souls in mountaintop chalets, seated in deep-cushioned chairs around roaring fires in stone masonry hearths, and we'd write. Since this idyllic scenario only applies to the fortunate few, the rest of us have to be creative about how we carve out special time for writing inspiration.

"Getting away," says Judy Reeves, author of The Writer's Retreat Kit, "is the wish and dream and fantasy of every writer I have ever known and, I expect, of nearly every writer I will ever meet, except for those rare and blessed souls who are lucky enough, or determined enough, or rich enough, to already be 'away'."  So the real question becomes, how do we "get away" without spending a dime or leaving our homes?

Here are Reeves' tips for creating the writer's retreat experience, right in the comfort of your home.

1. Consider the word 'retreat' as a concept, not a place. So what if you're still home? The place where you write becomes less important as long as you can release your ties with the outside world and enter a place that invites you to connect with the Self.  Let the heart, mind, imagination and body align so that you write with intention; that's the key. Allow fresh inspiration to flow, just as you would do if you were physically attending an out-of-town retreat.

2. Create a safe and nurturing space to write. When I close my eyes and think "retreat," I see sun-dappled Adirondack chairs on a leaf-strewn deck in the woods in fall. You might see a sandy beach in December, or a breezy villa in the Greek Isles. All we really need is a sheltered place where we can let go of our defenses and slip into our solitude. Find the best place for you, whether it's on a blanket under a tree in your backyard, or in a back bedroom with walls you've covered ceiling-to-floor in road maps, or at the dining room table where you've draped white gauzy fabric over the windows and lit a slew of scented candles.

3. Embrace rituals that signal it's time to write. Sometimes tuning out the drone of life's distractions is difficult, if not impossible. But as mentioned above, a retreat is not just a place, it's a state of mind. Developing a ritual that alerts the mind it is time to calm down will benefit the writer ready to "retreat." The best relax-your-mind rituals invoke the senses. Examples to try include lighting incense, sipping herbal tea, playing music, chanting, or taking a shower.

4. Plan your retreat. This seems like a no-brainer. But what strikes the difference between a regular writing session and a retreat is that the retreating writer completely removes herself from ordinary time and the demands of everyday life. Obviously, this takes planning. Ensure you will have time alone; arrange for food to be prepared or delivered; plan to do no housework or laundry chores; turn off the TV; and close the Internet browser. It is possible, through careful planning and intention, for retreats at home to be deep and rewarding experiences.

5. Establish and prepare a theme for your retreat. The whole idea behind a retreat is to reinvigorate your inspiration through writing in a relaxed and creative environment. Reeves shares some truly exciting ideas for retreat themes. Here are a couple to get your gears grinding:

  • Beginnings and Endings -- Begin writing at the front door of your home and move through the space, stopping to write as you go, until you arrive at the back door. 
  • Family Stories -- Drag out a box of mementos or old home movies. Touch objects. Smell the perfume of the past. Watch yourself in black and white, as a young child. Remember and write.
  • Snapshots -- Collect your photos from all over the house and surround yourself with them as you write. Get inside the images; write from the places inside their borders.
  • Write by the Moon -- Sleep outside during a full moon. Take a moon bath. Get slides of the moon and project them onto a blank wall of your retreat space. How 'far out' can your imagination go? 

You don't have to have a wallet full of disposable income to experience the magic of a writer's retreat. With some creativity and intention, anyone can create a writer's retreat in their own home or backyard. Invite a couple writing friends to join your adventure. For more great home retreat ideas, pick up a copy of Judy Reeves book The Writer's Retreat Kit, available HERE. 

Have you ever experienced a Home Writer's Retreat? What was it like?