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The Importance of Creative Retreats

Do you feel like an artist? How important is your art to you? Do you feel guilty for spending time on what others may consider your hobby that you consider a soul-feeding part of your life? Are you feeling blocked in your creative pursuits? I have a remedy! Perhaps not a cure-all, but a start to finding your way back on the path to producing music and lyrics, paintings, photographs, words on the page – whatever you endeavor to create and share with the world. Sounds like an infomercial, doesn’t it? Like I’m trying to sell you something expensive and unattainable. Well, let me assure you that unblocking and ridding yourself of guilt and feeding your soul is possible. And, you can have it all for the price of a little planning and a few conversations.

The first thing you need to do is to see yourself as an artistic person and recognize the need within you to create. Creative people need a way to channel their artistic energies into something that produces for them a way to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Once you understand this about yourself, you need to estimate its importance in your daily life. Do you just doodle to have something to do while watching television or are you a closet cartoonist? Are you good enough with a camera to take photos for family gatherings, or do you dream of working at your art to create something that will last through generations? Have you always wanted to learn to play an instrument, or write and sing a song, or design your own clothes, or enter a bake-off? Whatever your form of expression may be, it’s meant to be enjoyed. If it’s important to you, allow yourself the time to pursue it. Don’t worry that it seems silly to someone else. Don’t let yourself get sucked into the idea that you’re not good enough or that you don’t have the time. Give yourself permission to make time for your creativity.

I can already hear the excuses. You work long hours, you have children at home, there are too many things to do in the house and around the yard. You’re tired, you’re busy, the sun is in your eyes. Whatever! Listen, life is good and lovely and sometimes hard and often wonderful --- and short. Live it every day by filling your soul with what nurtures it! Speech over.

Now, once you decide that you are indeed an artist, and that you’re worthy of the time it will take to pursue your creativity, what is your next step? Might I suggest that you explain this need to those most important in your life – those for whom this revelation may have an impact? It’s important that partners and parents and children all understand that you need to carve out some time to “do your thing”. This may mean that you rearrange your personal schedule to include an early morning walk to consider the flowers and listen to birdsong. It may mean that you choose one night of the week to hole up in your room or at Starbucks or in the library to read about Renoir, or make a trip to the fabric store to get swatches for that new dress you want to make for that party in a few months. Start small and be consistent. When you begin a new routine, make a commitment to stick with it. This plan is for the day, the week and the month.

After mastering the living-as-an-artist routine, consider a plan to step outside of the day-to-day and intentionally go away alone. How about making an annual or semi-annual plan to take yourself away on a personal retreat? Go somewhere you love and just be. Let the time dictate itself. Take what you need to “do” your art, in case The Muse shows up (which it generally does), and GO! Live with the expectation of the adventure! I call this time “filling the well”, a term I’m sure I copped from some famous artist or another. It’s such a fine and freeing thing to anticipate this journey and then to experience it. And remember – dreaming and scheming about the work is just as valid during this time as actually producing it. I go every Spring to a small, coastal town before the rush of the vacation season, and stay in a bed and breakfast. It’s a luxury, I admit, but I save my pennies all year to afford it. I consider it a mental health necessity.

Such a trip doesn’t have to be expensive. My husband, Phil, heads north with the trailer in mid-Autumn, and stays at a campground just after the end of the season. Maybe you have a friend with some space you can borrow for a few days. The point is to go. Away. Alone. It can be done! Timing is everything. We find it more restful to take our trips off-season. This lends itself to fewer distractions and gives more time for the creative juices to flow. Of course, we still have our vacations together. We choose to attend folk festivals, but together creative time and alone creative time are two separate animals. Both are worthy of consideration. One allows the mind to expand and the spirit to breathe and the other lends itself to mutual encouragement and collaboration.

Calculate the costs of not doing this, then reconsider, and make a start! Just remember, if you get to take some time away alone, the other artists in your household get the same opportunity. Fair is fair! Live your creative life, Friends!

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