Creative Sandbox Retreat
with Melissa Dinwiddie
An encouraging & safe space to tell our stories and be heard.Kate Michael-Mattsey, @scattered_creative
Imagine yourself in a beautiful, serene setting, with space at a 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.
You'll leave at the end of the week with something accomplished, like these real examples:
- 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.
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.
Too 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?")
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!
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 came with her sister Kate in 2018!) called it "the luxury of adopting 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.
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). In 2017 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 past retreatants had to say about their experience:
What has stuck with me is the amazing support and encouragement I felt while I was there.Amy Watson (2017, 2018, ALL THREE 2019 retreats, and signed up for ALL THREE 2020 retreats!)
I love the amount of time there is to go through and overcome creative obstacles and the freedom to choose your own adventure. What keeps me coming back is the people and the chance to be away from routine.Josiah Polhemus (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, Winter & Fall 2019, and signed up for 2020!)
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, 2018, 2019, and signed up for Fall 2020!)
Great environment to get work done on my creative projects.Jonathan Powers (Winter & Fall 2019, and signed up for 2020!)
Creative Sandbox Retreat
Join me for 5 days and 4 nights
from 3:00pm on Wednesday
until 3:00pm on Sunday
Maximum 7 participants
Where: St. Francis Retreat, San Juan Bautista, California
40 miles South of San Jose
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?
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.
Those 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!
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.Suzanne Edminster (2013)
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.
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 brought her sister Kate in 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.'Randi Casenza (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and signed up for Fall 2020!)
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!
This will be an intimate group: I will accept up to 7 people, max. (And several of those spots are already reserved by returning alums.)
The retreat includes:
- 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 private bathrooms
- Delicious meals (4 dinners, 4 lunches, 4 breakfasts – gluten-free and vegetarian options available by request.)
- Creative Catalyzing sessions with Melissa, to tame your gremlins and get your creative taps in the "on" position (not to mention, laugh your BUTT off).
- After-dinner sharings, facilitated by Melissa.
- Time and space to roam, hike, explore, or just enjoy the California sunshine (though you never know, in Fall and Winter it could rain).
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:
- 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 low 60s during the day and high 30s/low 40s at night in January/February, low 60s to high 80s during the day and mid 40s to 50s at night in May/June, and high 60s during the day and low 40s at night in November (check the weather before you leave!)
- an apron or smock if you want to make a mess!
- loose clothing for movement activities
- comfortable, sturdy shoes if you wish to hike
- your own coffee/tea thermos, for regular refills throughout the day
- any snacks you'd like to share, or to have on hand
- a camera
- earphones for your phone or iPod if you want to listen to music while you work
- a book to read
- a flashlight
- a small fan (optional) for the Spring retreat
- any work or projects you wish to share
- a generous spirit and a curious, open mind
Although Creative Sandbox Retreat is a completely non-religious retreat, I've held the retreat at St. Francis Retreat Center since 2017. A ministry of the Franciscan Friars of the St. Barbara Province, St. Francis Retreat Center provides a peaceful and contemplative environment conducive for renewal of mind, body and soul.
What's most important for my purposes is that they warmly welcome artists, and we typically find ourselves in the company of a quilt guild and/or a bead society at meals during our stay.
From the St. Francis Retreat website:
"The grounds feature 73 acres of varied California wooded mountainside terrain, featuring a native plant central courtyard and two miles of wooded hiking trails. Views from the property include a patchwork quilt of the San Juan Bautista Valley and the Diablo Mountain Range in the distance. Native wildlife includes turkeys, deer, multiple species of birds, a family of small bobcats and the occasional skunk. Coyotes can often be heard at night, sharing the audible landscape with the cry of hawks and screech of owls.
Two miles of maintained hiking trails crisscross the hillside above the retreat center. Oak and buckeye trees shade much of the trail system. Native ferns share space with spring wild flowers and air moss in some of the trees. Yes, there is poison oak in the area, but we try to keep the trails clear of such hazards."
The pics below were all taken onsite by long-time Creative Sandbox Retreatant (and our "official photographer") Rebekah Nemethy:
And meet Morris, aka Shadow, the retreat cat, who is a complete lovebug. He roams the grounds and will delight you with his musical purrs while you pet him.
Guest rooms are simple and spare (this is NOT a 5-star vacation! Not even 3-star. More like 2-star or dorm-style accommodations. If you're a high-maintenance person, don't even bother signing up, as you won't be happy here!)
Rooms have their own (old-school) bathrooms, and a small writing desk. No air-conditioning, and WiFi is spotty and unreliable, at best. (You'll be happiest if you expect no WiFi at all–trust me!)
All linen is provided including towels and a small bar of soap. Your room will be made up before your arrival, but there is no in-room service during your stay. Additional linen is available upon request. Quiet Time is to be observed after 10PM
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.
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:
November 1-5, 2023
from 3:00pm on Wednesday until 3:00pm on Sunday
Maximum 7 participants
Where: St. Francis Retreat, San Juan Bautista, California
40 miles South of San Jose
Through 9/2 — Early-Early Bird pricing: $1300 semi-private / $1700 private
9/3-10/1 — Early Bird pricing: $1400 semi-private / $1800 private
10/2 — Regular pricing: $1500 semi-private / $1900 private
Early-Early Bird 3-Pay installment plan = $455 x3 semi-private / $595 x3 private
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)
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 this wacky year YOUR year to get seriously playful. This retreat is going to be an amazing week. I look forward to having you there!