Writing Retreats: A Gift Of Creative Magic

writing retreat

A writing retreat can be a gift to yourself that injects confidence and focus into your writing. You just need to determine the where, when, and curriculum that’s ideal for you.

If I could give every writer a magic potion to banish the creativity intruders of self-judgment, expectation, and fear, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Along with a magic potion, I’d offer comfort for vulnerable hearts. I’d extend guided support for overwhelmed minds. I’d provide natural beauty to awaken spirits and ensure your writing has space to develop meaning. These are just a few magic ingredients writing retreats offer.

My life’s mission is to bestow this magic formula — one similar to what I’d provided myself as a struggling first-time author. Through Land of Enchantment Writing, in stunning Santa Fe, New Mexico, I create individual and seasonal retreats for hopeful authors along all the struggles and triumphs of a book-writing sojourn. Here, I’ve witnessed how an incredible alchemy of breathtaking landscape, rich culture, and guided support converge to spark word-flow magic.

writing retreat Land Of EnchantmentAs a writing guide, as well as an author who once struggled, I’m constantly awed and humbled by what can result from a focused, transformative process. Outcomes from investing trust, time, and finances into a writing retreat are vast, including productivity, clearer direction, deeper connection to your work, increased efficiency, and most substantially, a profound new level of writing freedom beyond limitations of fear, doubt, and self-judgment. This newly discovered expressive freedom — beyond what you might ever imagine — is what lights my service fire!

My self-induced writing retreat

For years, I’d ineffectively wrestled with writing Me, My Selfie & Eye, my creative memoir about midlife identity loss and grief. I was mired in procrastination, doubt, and expectation. I so badly wanted to complete a book but was far far away from connecting to my words. This disconnect made the ability to write an impossibility. Those days sucked.

I was also a realist. I wanted to engage in a writing conversation with myself, yet as an analogy, have you ever tried having a deep conversation in a noisy coffee shop during breakfast rush? Intrusive writing doubts already obstructed the way, let alone external obligations — a spouse, teenage kids, pets, and daily responsibilities. The depression became overwhelming from the inner conflict between a need to write my book — I’m talking a burning, emotional, spiritual need — and the cluster of mental disparagement and external distractions.

So I took drastic measures. I structured my own writing retreat. From my home in Portland, Oregon, I stretched my credit card limit and booked a two-week stay at a casita in Santa Fe. I’d never before done something so intentional and me-centric related to writing. I was terrified.

During my time in my “retreat” state, I wrote nearly 50,000 words. But word count was not the epiphany: it was the word quality — not only for my book (which I successfully self-published through BookBaby only months later), but for the rest of my writing life. For the first time, I experienced what writing magic felt like.

What is writing magic?

My definition of writing magic is when words flow with depth, creativity, and belonging. When things are really flowing, the words speak to us; there’s a reciprocal allowance. Writing becomes inspired and productive.

Catalog Hana BannerA writing retreat, if it’s the right one, creates optimum conditions for both. Engaging with words is like any meaningful relationship: mutual trust takes time, and words, like people, need confidence you’ll be there and fully present to hear them. This is where a writing retreat makes sense.

How do you assess a writing retreat for you? Getting super clear about your writing dreams, struggles, and what you want writing to be/do/provide for you is vital. Maybe you need refinement on which book themes to develop; perhaps you’ve reached a manuscript roadblock where characters stopped speaking to you. If you’re looking for content organization, perhaps you need a logistical writing blueprint. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of writing a book and are simply overwhelmed about how to begin. These are some issues people seek to overcome through a retreat. Although each retreat is unique, here are a few variables to consider.

Dedicated time

Given family and/or professional obligations, how much time can you realistically allocate? Whether you retreat alone somewhere or in a guided setting, truly giving you and your writing undisturbed time makes a substantial difference. If you’re checking your phone or emails because you’re trying to work too, that disrupts the word attention or flow waiting to manifest.

Location and setting

If you’re someone who’s inspired by the ocean, consider holing up in a casita by a bay or finding a structured retreat located on the coast. What you view as a beautiful environment is paramount to igniting creativity. Santa Fe is steeped in pinion, juniper, and adobe. Guests love the pristine mountain setting and are inspired by the silence and dramatically changing sky. Santa Fe awakened my spirit and writing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. (That’s why I’m now here!) Setting is everything. What you look at and absorb through the outside is THE secret ingredient to unlocking the writing magic on the inside.

Guidance

When it comes to writing, sometimes we need our own muse. Other times we need guidance. If you choose to solo retreat, have props around that inspire: books, music, writing worksheets to follow. If you go a structured route, closely check out the teacher. Do you relate to his or her creative philosophy? For instance, I don’t ascribe to the “finish a book in 30-days” philosophy. The quick-fix writing prescription is the antithesis of my teaching approach. I view writing as a continuing conversation — imposing unrealistic deadlines and expectations kills creative motivation (in my opinion). Some people want and do well with pressure. Relating to a facilitator’s creative guidance is essential to your own inspiration.

writing retreat

Amount of people attending

Do you need a lot of people or fewer around for creative spark? Some writers need a lot of external input for flow, others need solitude. To be organic and adapt to guests’ shifting emotional, creative, or psychological processes that accompany deeply engaged writing, I offer individual retreats, just for you, or small groups of no more than 10 people. In my experience, vulnerability in baring one’s writing soul takes trust, and fewer people around provides that framework.

Curriculum

Review a retreat’s topics, approaches, agenda, exercises, and promised results. Do you prefer prescribed writing or open-ended opportunities? Some need free-form, others need every minute mapped out. I offer a mix in that there’s an outlined agenda — for individual retreats it’s co-crafted with the guest, for seasonal small group retreats, exercises are pre-designated — yet I stay open to where guests’ creative processes takes them. There are specific writing outcomes I’m committed you leave with, how we get you there is where creative magic happens.

I understand the layers of emotional and logistical impediments that make us struggle with writing. I too have felt that weight of writing’s expectations pressed on my heart and mind — the shoulds of my expression. And, like I said, those days sucked. Be grace-full with your Self, wherever you are in your writing journey. There are enough mental burdens we place on ourselves about who and what we are to be. Writing shouldn’t be the expectation that leaves you feeling bad about yourself.

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