Revise, Retreat, Repeat
"Free time" is a tricky thing. When my last full-time position was taken away, I thought I'd find myself with endless hours to read, write my books, and maybe even take up a new hobby. Not only was that not the case, but I also started to wonder how I even had time to work on personal projects when I was working several jobs.
After months of putting my passions on hold, I decided to take back control. Of course, it's easier that some of what was holding me back before (moving, job hunting, etc.) is now taken care of. But I still needed help carving out time, eliminating distraction, and focusing. So here I am.
Living in a world that thrives on go-go-go, it takes some effort to stop-breath-reset. It's easier for some. But for me, it's taken a lot of practice and mindfulness. Now, it's taken booking a writing retreat surrounded by nature and removed from certain distractions.
As I'm typing this out on my phone while my laptop charges, it's obvious not all distractions have been eliminated. However, rocking in a chair on a patio listening to birds chirp, bees buzz, and wind blow through reeds and leaves is certainly an improvement.
Not only is this trip an investment in my writing, but it's also an investment in me. Taking a solo trip exercises personal mental capacity. All of this quiet is a surefire way to activate the mind. I could lie and say it's all positive, but that's not the point. It's embracing whatever thoughts come, evaluating their meaning without overthinking, and letting them go with the wind. Of course, I'll write down any thoughts worth saving.
Dis the Distractions
Like I mentioned before, ignoring any distractions is easier said than done. I was trying to find a nice place for my phone to take a retreat as well. Then my laptop died and won't charge while it's on. Sure, I could write this out with a trusty pen and paper, but I'm saving myself some time later by making it digital. Remember, this retreat is supposed to be helpful.
Yes, I'm a slave to digitally storing my thoughts now. Pen and paper still have their place, especially in the countless journals I've collected, but we are living in a digital world, and I'm a digital girl. But before I get too distracted with my thoughts on distraction, let's just say it's better to embrace than ignore.
Yes, I'm still on the grid. WiFi is operational and appreciated.
Yes, I've answered emails.
Yes, I've posted on social media.
No, I don't regret any of it.
Taking a retreat is about giving myself a break. I've come here to work, and I feel that I am. I'm doing what I set out to do. It's day two, and I've already revised a few manuscripts, watched a few writing-related workshop videos, and brainstormed new story ideas. All of these tasks have been on the list for a while but haven't been done because of one distraction or another.
Plus, I feel myself recharging. Like my defective-battery laptop, it comes in fits and starts, but it's happening nonetheless. One thing that's helping: catered meals. My chosen destination includes three meals a day that I don't have to make or clean up. This, my friends, makes a lot of difference for someone like me who loves to eat and hates to cook. There are also unlimited snacks. Nuff said.
Focus on Focusing
For all the believers in mindfulness and meditation, you know where I'm going with this. For nonbelievers, just know it takes practice. The first step for focusing is admitting you have a problem. Check. The next step is setting some time (doesn't have to be a lot) to practice. Then, just become aware of your surroundings. Hear the sounds, feel the feelings, take in the sights (even with your eyes closed). Then marvel at the impact it has on your mind and body.
Yes, this retreat was meant for writing. But what I'm realizing now, as I'm writing this, is that the simple act of retreating is doing wonders for my mental health. So while I may not end up checking all the things off the list of weekend goals, at least I'm gaining a form of wellness I was lacking before my three-hour journey to the woods.
There’s still a whole day left of retreating before I’m back to regularly scheduled programming, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take the retreat with me. Practicing the art of unplugging makes it easier to do it anywhere. I could recreate this retreat experience at home by:
Losing my phone for an hour or two
Sitting outside and listening, feeling, focusing on my surroundings
Schedule myself mini revision sessions
Invest in a decent rocking chair
Writing retreats are wonderful. But the point is to free yourself from constraints you would feel elsewhere. It would be counterproductive to punish yourself for something. I may not finish a manuscript, but I did wander through the word garden, which only inspired more manuscript ideas. Hopefully, this inspires you to take some time for yourself. Find your retreat (or look into the one I took, info here). Give yourself a break from all the have-to's and follow those want-tos.