Wow, have I wanted to share with you all my ideas for this 3-day Creativity Kickstart Retreat! Today I found a little sweet spot of time to write all my ideas down and so I’m serving you up a little slice of something that I hope will inspire you to get out your calendar, write in the dates in RED INK, lock the door and JUST RETREAT IT!
Who Needs a 3-Day Creativity Kickstart?
A solo, three-day retreat focused specifically on a particular project or question is a great way to get into the swing of the creative vibe again, especially if you have a project that you started at one time but had to put down at some point.
Your project could be something like:
A nonfiction book
A chapbook of poetry
A series of paintings
A song, album or piece of music
A curriculum for a workshop or class
A dance choreography
A new earring design
An idea for a life change
Any creative idea that simply WON’T GO AWAY
I believe you CAN write a novel or paint a whole gallery of paintings with just a half an hour a day if you do so consistently and regularly. I am actually practicing this now, with surprising results. Admittedly, it is not the FASTEST thing ever, but it is progress─ one paragraph and line-edit at a time. I have been working in half-hour-a-day spurts for the last three months and I am now 50 pages in to a fairly solid story. That’s better than nothing! And when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I feel good because at least I wrote SOMETHING on that novel that will someday be finished and in a bookstore near you.
Here’s the thing, however. This rhythm didn’t start out that way from the get-go. After sitting in a box gathering mouse turds for about 8 years, how could I just take out that old manuscript and start writing? The thought was overwhelming.
Moreover, what was actually in that manuscript and the three boxes of research that accompanied it was a bit fuzzy to me. Only the “idea” of it remained.
I needed some time to get reconnected with that project again─ and so do you. Hence, the 3-Day Kickstart.
Kickstart means that by the end of three days, you are either going to “kickstart” a schedule to work on your project regularly or you are going to “kick” it to the curb and send it on its way.
Projects are kind of like relationships. If it is worth it, you don’t mind working it. If it is not, then don’t you have a lot of other (better) ways to spend your time?
Three Days. Just You and your muse. Are you ready?
PS If you haven’t downloaded the Gentle Traveler’s FREE RETREAT-PLANNING GUIDE that will help you with all the logistics and planning around your three-day retreat no matter what your budget or time constraints, go ahead and DO THAT NOW.
In this blog, I am just going to assume that you have the “where and when” of your retreat all figured out so we can get right to it!
THE THREE-DAY KICKSTART RETREAT SCHEDULE
#1 Gather yourself: This means succumbing to daydreaming without beating yourself up about it, taking long lunches, going window shopping, and basically allowing yourself to be the “quirky, creative whimsical type” your high school teachers warned you about. You are about to embark on a creative journey; I guarantee that the universe has already gotten wind of the news and wants to get in on the act NOW. Allow the magic in; make room for it in your life. Carry a notebook with you so you can jot down random inspirations.
#2 Gather Your Energy: Talk to those you have to talk to (including yourself) about the fact that you will be UNAVAILABLE in all cases except major natural disaster or extreme emergency (defined as: someone gets run over by a car, not someone can’t find the hot cocoa). Furthermore you will be unreachable from this date/time to this date/time.
Yes, you have to be that specific. Think of this time as a “make it or break it” vacation you are planning for yourself and your project. Your either going to break it off or ride into the sunset together. Take it seriously (while still being whimsical and creative…you can do this without being flaky).
#3 Gather Your Things. The specifics of what you will need will be as unique as your project is. Remember, however, that the point of any retreat is CONCENTRATED, FOCUSED TIME, so take care of all the little necessities (like sustenance) beforehand. Some things you may want to gather include:
Food (i.e. ice cream, just kidding )
Notepads, at least three
Files and Papers related the project
Markers (I like the big fat smelly ones )
Whiteboard and whiteboard pens
Specific supplies (if you are a painter, then paints and canvas. If you are a writer, then notepads or your computer, etc.)
Bath salts (if you have access to a bathtub)
Cuddly stuffed animals (cuz your sweetie can’t come with you)
What are some other physical items you can think of that you might want to bring with you (especially those items related to your particular project)?
DAY 1: “GETTING TO KNOW YOU AGAIN”
Look, it might take you half the day just to settle in to not hearing the rattle of the fax machine run at work or your kids fighting over the TV remote at home. That’s okay. Start this day by no later than 10 am and know that it is about not only getting to know your project again, but getting to know yourself again amidst the silence (or noise) of your own thoughts. Take a walk in nature. Take a bubble bath. Light a candle and stare into the flame. Make a delicious meal. Do some yoga. Dance. Doodle or pluck at your guitar.
Do whatever you need to do to relax your body and your mind; creativity can only come in a door that is open. When you are relaxed and calm, you open that door.
I would just suggest NOT binge-watching all 5 seasons of your favorite Netflix series. Remember that this is YOUR CREATIVE OUTPUT you are working on, not someone else’s. If a movie or book inspires you and you must indulge, read just a few pages or watch one or two episodes (and then turn the darn thing off).
Then, at any time that feels right for you and if you feel you are ready, you can gingerly open that dusty box of old doodles you did five years ago or the files of research you tucked away in the corner of your closet.
Open the box. Read the files. Look at those paints. Open the notebooks. See the composition.
Begin to look at whatever you have in front of you objectively and without judgment. Look at these things as if they were interesting pieces of art (they just might be) or some famous person’s archives. Look at one thing, and then another- one paper, then another. One doodle, then another.
If all you have is an idea, look at that too in your mind’s eye, again, objectively and without judgment. Have your notepad next to you to jot down ideas, emotions, little bit of survival-instinct amygdala-sourced non-wisdom (This is stupid! What are you DOING HERE?, blah, blah, blah…).
Consider all this input as if you were Spock on Star Trek.
Is what I am doing with this project here really stupid ? Interesting…
If it feels right, begin to organize what you have in front of you. Subject area. Date. Interest. Trash. Not trash. Whatever.
The point is to give each piece of your project, as it was before or as it has been percolating in your mind, it’s due. After all, your overall project is made up of its parts. Look at these parts. Consider them within the framework of your overall project.
Do these parts fit together? Does something new need to be born? Can you see a place where you might be able to start up again or start anew with the same theme? Is this past project inspiring something new? Is there still a spark in the old project?
If you decide to begin this “process of looking” on Day 1, don’t put a time frame on how long you will be at it unless you feel you really need to. In this space, it’s okay to fall asleep on the floor with papers scattered all around you. Be in the moment with it. I like to pretend that time does not pertain to me when I do a 3-Dayer. If the muse (or my stubborn intention to get over my fear of her) wants me to stay up until 3 am reading scenes and jotting down notes on my big white board and sleep until noon the next day, well then, by golly, that is just what I am going to do!
Then again, you might fall asleep at 7pm. All good.
DAY 2: “THE INTIMATE CONVERSATION”
Day 2 is a continuation of what you may have started on Day 2, with a little refocusing time thrown in for good measure. As you look, read, write and reflect, you get to know your project again on an intimate level. Some of it may be messy or surprising. Take it all in. Your day may look something like this:
8 am up, COFFEE!, stretch, etc. (brushing your teeth and wearing deodorant is optional…there is no one to impress today)
9 am – noon: Continue with the “investigative process” you may have started on Day 1. If you haven’t started, start now.
Noon-1 pm: Lunch. Eat. Don’t think about your project. Take a walk. Kick rocks. Stare at snails. It’s only an hour, after all.
1 pm- 2 pm: Reflective journaling.
Okay, so this morning you spent three hours mulling over your project or idea, looking at stuff, organizing, remembering, reminiscing, having regrets, getting your hopes up, letting them fall again. Maybe you have some ideas flowing. Maybe it is all just a big mushy muddle of confusion. Whatever is going on, it is okay.
Get out your notebook and one of those sturdy pens. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Write on the topic of “My project is….”
Keep your hand moving. As Natalie Goldberg says, “Go for the jugular and feel free to write the worst sh*t in the world (near explicative mine).”
This isn’t a Pulitzer winner you are writing here. It is just a handy way of dumping energy through words so that you can go back and read through it later.
Do it now.
If you want, you can repeat the process for another half hour segment.
2 pm-2:30 pm: Take a break. Take a bath. Eat something. Go for a walk. Try not to think about your project and what you just wrote.
2:30 pm-3 pm Get out a highlighter. Read what you just wrote. If anything makes you tingle or “zings” you, highlight it. I prefer bright orange, but that’s totally up to you.
Any Aha moments? Any poignant questions? Write THOSE on your whiteboard or big piece of paper or poster board.
3 pm – evening Go back to the culling, sorting, and note taking.
AND if you are done with that or you are really bored (already?), you might just try your hand at DOING SOME CREATIVE STUFF:
-take a scene that calls to you and start to rework it (or actually start the novel with the first sentence if it was just an idea before. What have you got to lose?)
-Choose a doodle and begin to paint it out
-Take that half-song that you wrote on a greasy napkin in college and try to finish it
-Get out another big piece of paper and start jotting ideas down for your business name
-Get out a map and decide where you want to live…
Remember, if you get on a creative roll, go for it, dinner be damned. That is what this retreat is all about! Feel free to structure your own time for some reflective journaling. letting off steam or breaks along the way if you need to, however.
DAY 3 “LETS MEET AGAIN (OR NOT)”
Day three is decision day. For this day, time is relevant because there is point on this day (usually late afternoon or evening) when the RETREAT WILL BE OVER. You will go back to grading papers or doing your taxes or making dinner or going shopping or whatever you usually do at 5 o clock in the evening.
Here is how you may want to structure your last retreat day:
8 am: Morning stuff (coffee!), etc. (You may want to brush your teeth and put on deodorant today)
9am – noon: Continue with looking, sorting, culling OR writing, drawing, brainstorming…depending on what phase of the “relationship” with your creative project you are in right now.
Noon- 1pm: Lunch. Eat. Walk. Kick rocks. Don’t skimp on a meal. Be in the present. Breathe. Daydream. Think about your project (maybe just a little)….
1 pm -2 pm: Reflective Journaling.
Reflective Journaling #1: This time focus on how you feel about the project at this point. Start your reflection with “When I think about my project now, I feel….” Write down all you are feeling now: good, bad and indifferent. Try to go for twenty minutes.
Reflective Journaling #2: This time, do some visualization. Start your journaling with ‘Six months from now, I….” Write down what you think your project may be like six months from now if you kept at it. Will it be a published novel? Will you have just completed chapter 2? Will you have 3 paintings ready to go? Will your business be making money? Try to be as specific as possible. Take more time if you need it. Give in to your imagination and write in description or “scene” of this visualizaton if you need to. For example: “I am sitting at my writing desk, typing away. My fingers are flying. I am down to the last chapter…I am so on fire I don’t even realize that my Earl Grey tea has gotten cold…” Try to go for twenty minutes this time too.
2 pm-2:30 pm Take a break.
2:30 pm Decision Time
Read through all the feelings you wrote about your project as well as your visualization. Take it all in. Jot down any “aha” moments on another piece of paper, whiteboard or notepad.
Then, ask yourself the following questions:
Is this project worth it to me (and no one else) to put some more time in to it? Why?
What will I personally “get” out of working on this? (It doesn’t have to be money or fame!)
Am I willing to put the consistent time and effort into this project until it’s completion (as I define it)?
Take your time with your answers.
Then, if it is clear that the time for this creative project has passed and you can’t see yourself working on it in the future, thank your muse and your project for being in your life up to this point and for your beautiful time together. No hard feelings.
Then LET IT GO.
If it is a “YES,” however, then try answering the following questions:
How much time per week or per day am I willing to put into this? (remember, it can be as little as 15 minutes a day as long as it is every day or three times a week or whatever you say. The muse appreciates honesty and consistency. Just show up when and for however long you say you will show up, and she will too)
MON: ___________ TIME: __________ to ________________
TUES: ___________ TIME: __________ to ________________
WED: ___________ TIME: __________ to ________________
THURS: ___________ TIME: __________ to ________________
FRI: ___________ TIME: __________ to ________________
SAT: ___________ TIME: __________ to ________________
SUN: ___________ TIME: __________ to ________________
What will I need to cut out or reduce in my life in order to make room for this project?
When do I want to see the next stage of the project completed?
When do I want to see the entire project completed?
Take as long as you need to answer these questions, but try to answer them before your retreat ends. Even if you are not 100% percent sure that continuing with the project is for you, I would say, give it a try for a week or two. Work out a schedule in order to spend some more time with your project and see how it goes. You can always adjust your time commitment or scrap the whole thing later. You won’t be letting anyone down if you do.
But if your unique, creative project or idea does some day see the light of day and manifest as something tangible out there in the world (a book, a service, a gallery showing, a song, a new life), you will know that it came about from a conscious decision-making process…and hopefully you had fun along the way!
Plus, what a creative gift you will have given to yourself and the the world by bringing it into being!
Here are some titles that have inspired my creativity. I hope that they will inspire yours!
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[amazon asin=B006H19H3M&template=iframe image]
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I would love to hear from you. Do you have any insights about this blog or 3-Day Retreats in general? Have you tried out the recommended schedule outlined in this blog? What was your experience?
Feel free to write your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below and/or write to me with any questions you may have. As a fellow creative person and as a Creativity Coach, I will try my best to answer them!