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I’ve just finished my annual, in-home, writing retreat, and highly recommend the experience to all writers! While writing does happen, much else occurs that is very important to my creative process. Here are a few insights from this year’s retreat:
- It takes time to shift gears from having a whole family around, with its noise and belongings, to being solo, with its vast silence and spaciousness (no size 12 shoes scattered about, for instance). On the first night of retreat, I stack up a few movies I’ve jotted down during the year, and enjoy a nice meal in front of the a-musement (literally, non-thinking). I always hope to find a great story, a belly laugh, a movie I’ll enjoy discussing later, but, sadly, usually wind up flipping through them in disappointment. Sigh. It’s always worth a try, and it discharges all the interior ‘noise’.
- There are still animals to care for, meals to prepare, dishes to wash, and even a bit of laundry to deal with. These are constant reminders that my creativity is not detached from reality, in a separate, spacey, sphere of light and ideas, but is (and must stay) grounded in the realities of my life. I appreciate the earthiness and physicality of such things, and I think they give my work gravitas. At least, they give me a tremendous sense of solidity and rootedness as a person. (NB: Whatever you are paying for fresh goat milk is not enough!)
- I place all my files out all over the house. It becomes a physical representation of my mind – one I can walk through, move materials around in, and de-clutter. All during the year, scraps of thought get shoved into those files so as not to be lost, though I have no time to develop them. Each year, when I pull them out, I have real work to do sorting and spending more time with each little ‘seed’ ideas. For me, such physical representations of my own thoughts are very important. During the year, I sometimes do ‘mind maps’ to identify connections between writing projects, non-writing projects, and the direction God gives in various ways.
- I’m in various places with different writing projects. One needs its bones worked on – the interior, organizing structure is not clear, though I’ve accumulated lots of material to include. Another needs deeply contemplative, poetic time to be reconstituted within my being and worked on there. This one just needs to be typed, that one is ripe to be written quickly. I’ve found it’s a good thing to have lots of things going on at once, so that at any given time I can connect the mood I’m in, or the kind of time I have available with some project’s progress.
- This year, I realized how much I wanted to be done with all the projects ‘on deck’ just now. I wanted those files neatly combined into books, poems, posts, articles, and then gone – clearing space for next things. God helped me accept the fact that, like all those physical chores that give me gravitas, the tremendous collection of thoughts, quotes, notes, ideas, and diagrams will remain. It has become the ‘ground’ where many seeds are growing, and I simply won’t get it tidied up and move on. In that ground, the roots of things are, in fact, so jumbled they cannot now be sorted apart. In the files for one project are materials for many more, and there is no clear priority for one that needs to be finished first so the others can live. They seem to grow on their own, and to be being written in my life whether I work on them, or not. I have said many times that the Catholic artist must learn what it means to be an artist in community – in the Body of Christ – and during this retreat realized a bit better myself. My best work is that which has been called forth from me by the Body – friends need advice; people need spiritual counsel; someone needs a speaker; a mom needs help working on home-life or home-schooling; someone responds to a post and shows me what more is needed; an editor needs an article on a particular topic. The greatest helps are questions and responses that show what, in them, resonated to the ‘sound’ of my message. I wonder if the Body realizes its role in developing the artists in its midst??
So, there’s a few tidbits from my last two weeks. What’s happening in your world?