I’m in Montana as you read this, unplugged from the Interwebs, playing in the snow with my not-quite-3 1/2-year-old nephew, Spencer (who has my hair!), and when I get back, I’m headed off to my annual spring retreat with my calligraphy guild. It seemed a perfect time to pull this article out of the archives.
So, for your enjoyment, I present to you an article first published on Feburary 26, 2012. -xom
Here’s the sad truth: there is no silver bullet.
I would love to tell you that if you follow my instructions, figure out your motivators, etc. etc. you’ll be blessed with unobstructed creative abundance for the rest of your days.
I’d love to tell you this, and I could, of course.
But it would be a big, fat lie.
That truth is, living a creative life — the creative life of your wildest dreams — requires ongoing effort. Resistance is the sneakiest adversary you will ever encounter, and fighting it off requires constant vigilance.
I’m sorry, my dear creative soul, to be the bearer of bad news, but there it is.
Here’s the good news:
Thankfully, we have lots of tools in our toolbox, lots of weapons in our arsenal (if you like militaristic metaphors, which I really don’t, but then, sometimes they’re useful).
One of the most powerful tools ever is the Retreat.
Ahhh, the Retreat! A bubble of creative space and time, where you’re beholden to nobody but yourself.
And that’s exactly where I’m going on Tuesday night, after my Creative Ignition Circle call — to my annual Spring Retreat (never mind that it’s not actually Spring yet..) with the Friends of Calligraphy.
For years it was the only place, the only island of time in my year, where I actually created to feed my soul.
Hard to believe, but true. And as a result, this retreat holds a very precious place in my heart. People have been going to the Friends of Calligraphy Spring Retreat for 30 years. This will be my tenth Retreat in eleven years. (Yes, I missed one — huge mistake, which I’m not anxious to repeat.)
Being at the Retreat affects your thinking. Everything feels possible. Dreams feel achievable.
The joy of unimpeded creating led me, every year at the Retreat, to create outrageous goals for myself (which never felt very outrageous at the time) for after I got home. Goals like “I will create a weekend staycation retreat for myself once a quarter!” and “I will create a full afternoon retreat for myself to play in the Creative Sandbox once a week!” They seemed so reasonable!
Yeah, right. Never happened.
Eventually (as in last year), I figured out that smaller, more bite-sized — hell, teeny tiny — goals were a lot more effective. As in 15 minutes a day. And now I live a more creative life than I ever imagined possible, filled with more creative doings than I ever imagined possible.
Yet I still make the time (and spend the money) to go to the FOC Retreat.
Why, if I’m creating on my own, in my own home, in my own studio, do I still spend the money (
$538 $548 this year) and take the time to go to the FOC Retreat?
Because it’s magical.
Because something truly special happens when you allow yourself to get away and focus, uninterrupted, on your creative desires.
Because the bubble of the retreat requires other creators, each of us working on our own creative thing, in order to stay afloat and keep all of us aloft.
Things happen at the Retreat that do not happen elsewhere
Two years ago the FOC Retreat was where I created my very first artwork in my Irresistible Woman line. (In fact, that was the only visual art I made that week. The rest of the Retreat I wrote like a woman possessed. I think that may have been where this very blog was conceived, as a matter of fact!)
The year before that I made an entire alphabet of illuminated letters, including the “S” just below right (for Spencer, of course!)
One year, after not making a new ketubah for three years, I made four new ketubah designs in the 4 1/2 days of the Retreat. Considering that my “fastest” ketubah design up until that point was about 20 hours, this was nothing short of miraculous.
That was the year I dropped out of the Retreat at the last minute, because money was so tight. My friend Jen called me up and told me “Honey, don’t worry about the money — it’s taken care of. You have to be there.” She and her father and two other dear Retreatants chipped in to pay for my stay. One of them even anonymously gave me a gift certificate for a massage from the masseuse who always sets up a table in a room upstairs for us. I’m getting teary just thinking about it. The fact that my presence wa
s so important to them — friends whom I only ever see at the Retreat — still chokes me up.
That was also the year I realized that, although I thought I couldn’t afford to go to the Retreat, in truth I can’t afford not to go to the Retreat.
Here’s the thing: yes, I live a more fully creative life now than I ever imagined I could. But it’s still a continual uphill battle to make sure my creative Bliss(es) get the attention they need. I fall off the wagon over and over and over again, and have to keep practicing at getting back on it.
There is no silver bullet.
But there are Golden Tools
Like the Retreat. And workshops. And creative communities that keep you focused on what’s important and validate that you keep doing it.
Then there are books, and blogs, and conferences, and pen pals, and creative challenges, and videos and podcasts…
If your creative spirit is important to you (and if you’re on this blog, the odds are pretty good that it is), you must — must — take advantage of every single tool you can get your hot little hands on to help you keep your toe in the Creative Stream and your mind and body in the Creative Sandbox as much as you possibly can.
Do you know of anyone who said on their death bed “I regret following my Bliss”?
Ha. It’s the NOT following, the NOT doing that leads to regret.
Arm yourself, dear creative. Your health and happiness depend on it.
If you’re looking for some golden tools for yourself, join me at one of the retreats and workshops I have coming up — Canada and California in May, Istanbul and the Turquoise Coast along the Mediterranean in September/October. Get the full skinny here.
Have you ever been on a retreat that filled your creative well? What other favorite “golden tools” have you used for pushing past Resistance and getting to your creative thing?
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!