Imagine yourself in a beautiful, serene setting, with a big work table, lots of light and uninterrupted time to create.

Doesn't it sound wonderful?

No phones to answer. No laundry. No cooking (because delicious meals are prepared for you!)

Just time and space and a congenial group of kindred spirits creating right alongside you in companionable silence.

Uninterrupted time to create.

Gremlin photobomb on the first night of Create & Incubate Retreat 2014

You'll leave at the end of the week with something accomplished, like these real examples from the last retreat:

  • new paintings painted
  • scenes written for your play
  • illustrations for your children's book drawn and colored
  • audiobook chapters edited
  • small quilts completed
  • business vision board drawn and painted

It's totally up to you!

More important, though, you will transform

It's not that you'll become a different person — you'll become more authentically YOU.

The gazebo at St. Francis Retreat - a lovely spot to sit and meditate in between creative sessions at Create & Incubate Retreat!How is this possible in just 5 days?

Personal transformation is the natural byproduct of creativity + community + safety, and creating containers for those three ingredients is my passion and one of my superpowers. 

To often we get creativity + community without safety: we are judged for our art, graded, criticized, found wanting.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Who can possibly let loose, play, and have fun in those kinds of circumstances??

Judgment and criticism only lead to those nastiest of gremlins, the Comparison Trap ("her work is better than mine, so I should quit...") and Perfectionist Paralysis ("my work will never be as good as I want, so why bother trying at all?")

The badass ladies of Create & Incubate Retreat 2017, with our gremlins!

Safety Is Paramount

At Creative Sandbox Retreat, everything starts with your emotional safety. As soon as you arrive, I'll welcome you with a big hug (if you're not the hugging type, it's probably not a good fit for you).

In our opening circle on Wednesday night, we use a tissue box as our "talking stick," in case any feelings and tears come up — because emotions run deep when it comes to creativity; everyone has creativity scars, and we are all the walking wounded in a society that treats our top musicians and actors like royalty, but cuts funding for the arts to schools. Talk about mixed messages!

Creative Catalyzing

Then every morning after breakfast I lead a half-hour Creative Catalyzing session, to get all of us out of our heads and into our bodies — because when we are in our bodies, our gremlins can't drive the bus! WE are in charge.

What's a Creative Catalyzing session?

It's pure silliness. We play games drawn from the world of theater and improv, designed to scramble our brains and make us laugh and laugh and laugh.

Kimberly (2016, 2017, and coming back in 2018, and bringing her sister this year!) called it "the luxury of adoping confusion."

And in 2017 we started referring to it as the Creative Sandbox Retreat Abs Workout, because our bellies ached from laughing so much!

Then we're ready to get down to work, which we do in silence.

Silent Incubator

Why is our Incubator (our workroom) set to silence -- no talking?

One word: freedom.

Freedom from temptation and distractions. Because believe me, you will fall in love with the other people at the retreat, and even if you're an introvert, it's likely you won't want to stop talking to them!

So we set our Incubator to silence so none of us has to worry about hurting anyone's feelings, or feeling pulled into the delicious temptation of conversation. (There are mealtimes for that, or step outside the Incubator anytime if you want to chat with someone.)

Inside the Incubator all you'll hear are the beautiful, inspiring sounds of people creating! 

Pens scratching. Paintbrushes swishing. Fingers tapping on keyboards (including on my mechanical typewriter, which I always cart along for everyone to play with). Last time there was even a sewing machine making the most beautiful tiny quilts!

And those sounds of creativity crank up YOUR creative juices like nobody's business. It's amazing.

So yes, the Incubator is silent... and yet it's filled with the sound of creativity. All feeding your creative transformation.

Check out what some of the 2017 retreatants had to say about their experience:

  • Amy Watson (2017, and signed up for 2018!)
    What has stuck with me is the amazing support and encouragement I felt while I was there.
    Amy Watson (2017, and signed up for 2018!)
  • Rebekah Nemethy (2016, 2017, and signed up for 2018!)
    What stuck with me? The laughter. The support. The kind words. The newfound passion I found for bringing my project to life after hearing everyone's thoughts and responses.
    Rebekah Nemethy (2016, 2017, and signed up for 2018!)

Creative Sandbox Retreat

Join me for 5 days and 4 nights

September 12-16, 2018

from 3:00pm on Wednesday until 3:00pm on Sunday

Where: St. Francis Retreat, San Juan Bautista, California

40 miles South of San Jose

Why Retreat?

Bring a ready spirit and open mind on retreat with me and here's what you can expect:

  • You'll get stuff done – go home with: pages written, artwork created, ideas and plans mapped out
  • You'll feel a deeper connection with your creative self and your authentic voice
  • You'll learn new tips and tools for maintaining your creative flow when you go home
  • You'll discover a new sense of belonging to a tribe of amazing, generous, open-hearted creatives – like you!
  • You'll have fun and laugh – a lot!
  • You will TRANSFORM into a more authentic version of YOU

Why Retreat with Me?

Melissa Dinwiddie - Dynamic Speaker, Author, Creative ConsultantThat's me, Melissa Dinwiddie, artist & creativity instigator, owner of the blog Living A Creative Life, author of The Creative Sandbox Way™, host of the Creative Sandbox Way podcast.

I've taught creative arts for groups and conferences across the US since 1997. I'm on a mission to empower people to feed (and find!) their creative hungers, and designing and building environments that are conducive to maximum creativity is one of my superpowers.

I wasn't always a creative goddess, though. For years I neglected my creative self. "If only I had time to create!" was my constant lament.

And once a year, I did -- at the annual retreat put on by my calligraphy guild.

Deer at St. Francis Retreat - the serene venue for Create & Incubate RetreatThose precious days once a year were the only time I created just for me.

That retreat became an island of time in which my starved creative spirit got refueled and rejuvenated.

Even now, when I make time to create almost every day, I still make time for sleep-away creative retreats!

I've learned that there's nothing like full immersion to fill my well. I've learned that I need it. We all do.

That's why, as I started growing my business empowering others to follow their own creative callings, it was so important to me to host my own retreats! I wanted to create the kind of retreat environment that I would want for myself: warm, nourishing, generous, safe, and FUN!

  • Suzanne Edminster (2013)
    If you've ever wanted to live a couple of days of your perfect dream life — beautiful place, great food and companions, and time and support for your creative work — come on down.

    It is a lovely, peaceful place to create and be in communion with other creative spirits, with a pond, hiking trails, and no cooking.

    Quietly inspiring and very real, unlike any other retreat I've done.
    Suzanne Edminster (2013)
  • Kimberly Michael (2016, 2017, and signed up for 2018!)
    I'm kinder to myself and less rushed. [Since Creative Sandbox Retreat,] I'm trying to adopt the thoughtful approach instead of barreling through.
    Kimberly Michael (2016, 2017, and signed up for 2018!)
  • Randi Casenza (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and signed up for 2018!)
    Laurie, a fellow retreat participant asked me as we were leaving, 'Was it what you expected?' My reply: 'It’s what I hoped for.'

    I was feeling psychically and creatively 'constipated' by life, and Melissa, you created the perfect container to rest, recreate, commune with like-minded creative souls, and get out of my already crowded head and into my body, making it possible for ideas to rise to the surface and re-ignite my creativity and curiosity.

    You magically brought the right time, right place and right people, together to create what I think is truly a great work of art.

    I’m so grateful.

    BIG warm hug!
    Randi Casenza (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and signed up for 2018!)

Logistical Stuff

This will be an intimate group: I will accept up to 11 people, max. (And 8 of those spots are already reserved by returning alums.)

The retreat includes:

  • Fountain in the courtyard at St. Francis Retreat, where we Create & Incubate at Create & Incubate Retreat!Lots of uninterrupted time to create and play on whatever project you want
  • Dedicated space at a work table in a bright, airy room, where you'll be free to paint, write, draw, collage, plan, or any other (quiet) creating you want!
  • Tons of painting & collage supplies, for those who just want to show up -- no pre-determined project or preparation required!
  • Lodging in cozy dorm-style rooms or cottages with shared bathrooms
  • Delicious meals (4 dinners, 4 lunches, 4 breakfasts -- gluten-free and vegetarian options available!)
  • Creative Catalyzing sessions with Melissa, to tame your gremlins and get your creative taps in the "on" position
  • After-dinner sharings, facilitated by Melissa.
  • Time and space to roam, hike, explore, or just enjoy the California sunshine

What to Bring

All bedding and towels are provided, so you'll only need to bring your clothes and personal effects, and any materials you want to work with in our workspace.

Don't have a project? Guess what: I've got you covered! I'll supply coloring books and lots of paint, paper, collage supplies, brushes and palettes for anyone who doesn't want to think, plan or prepare, and just wants to play with color all weekend!

In addition, I recommend:

Spanish architecture at St. Francis Retreat, where Create & Incubate Retreat happens!

  • writing tools (notebook/journal and pens, and/or a laptop computer, if you like)
  • material/supplies for any project you wish to work on
  • comfortable clothes for temperatures typically ranging from the high 70s and low 50s (check the weather before you leave!)
  • an apron or smock if you want to make a mess!
  • loose clothing for movement activities and optional yoga
  • comfortable, sturdy shoes if you wish to hike
  • a camera
  • earphones for your phone or iPod if you want to listen to music while you work
  • a book to read
  • a flashlight
  • any work or projects you wish to share
  • a generous spirit and a curious, open mind

The Schedule

Check in is between 3:00 and 5:00pm on Wednesday. We'll convene to enjoy a delicious dinner at 6:00pm, have an Opening Circle at 7:00pm, and then you'll create to your hearts' content as late as you wish. Thursday, Friday and Saturday will look something like this (subject to change):

8:00am – Buffet breakfast

9:00am – Creative Catalyzing Session (we'll get out of our heads and into our bodies to tame the gremlins and get the creative taps fully in the "on" position [and laugh a lot, of course! Retreaters call it the Creative Sandbox Retreat Ab Workout!])

9:30am – Create and Incubate time! Create in companionable silence in our large workroom or in solitude or collaboration with others in your room, roam the grounds, take a nap, read...

12:00pm – Buffet lunch

After lunch – Create and Incubate time! Create in companionable silence in our large workroom or in solitude or collaboration with others in your room, roam the grounds, take a nap, read...

6:00pm – Buffet dinner

7:00pm – Evening Sharing, a chance to share our creations and bear witness with each other, laugh, cry, vent, and honor the wisdom in our community

8:00pm till ? – Group Games Night or more Create and Incubate time!

Throughout the day there will also be mini-talks on ninja gremlin-training techniques, opening up to creative flow, and other secrets of living your biggest, boldest, most creative life. Plus there will be optional opportunities for participants to give demos, offer a mini-class, or otherwise share! Sunday will look something like this (subject to change):

8:00am – Buffet breakfast

9:00am – Creative Catalyzing Session

9:30am – Create and Incubate time!

12:00pm – Buffet lunch

After lunch – Cleanup and Closing Circle

3:00pm – Farewell till next time!

Getting There

St. Francis Retreat - where warm-hearted souls meet to Create & Incubate

St. Francis Retreat in San Juan Bautista is about an hour from San Jose International Airport (SJC) (90 minutes in traffic), and easily accessible by shuttle.

You may also wish to rent a car and take advantage of nearby destinations such as the beach communities of Monterey, Santa Cruz, Carmel by the Sea, or Big Sur -- all of which are within easy driving distance.

San Francisco is about 2 1/2 hours away, and the famous California Wine Country is also only about 3 hours away.

Cancellation Policy

Due to the fact that I'm on the hook to pay for the spots I've reserved, whether people show up or not, all sales are final, and refunds are only available if the retreat is full to capacity and I'm able to fill your spot from a waiting list at the time of your cancellation.

If you must cancel, and only if the retreat is filled to capacity from a waiting list, I'll send a refund of everything you paid, less a $50 processing fee.

Choose from one of the options below to reserve your spot now:

Book Your Spot at Creative Sandbox Retreat 2018

Single Payment Option

All sales are final.

  • Dorothy Heller (2013)
    Melissa has important lessons to teach to both professionals and beginners about maximizing creativity without crippling perfectionism and self-criticism–how to do our very best through combining skill and hard work with exploration and self-compassion.
    Dorothy Heller (2013)

Additional Info

Have questions? Use my contact form, shoot me an email at hello (at) melissadinwiddie (dot) com, or phone me at 866-538-8268 (yes, seriously -- I'd be happy to answer your questions over the phone!)

Let's make 2018 your year to get seriously playful. This retreat is going to be an amazing week. I look forward to having you there!

xo, Melissa


Melissa Dinwiddie - Hooray!!!