Sometimes you have to take some time away from your creative projects so that you will be able to look at them with fresh eyes. However sometimes it’s more important to take time away from everything else and just focus on your art.
That’s what I did during the last weeks of the summer months. I let go of everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary and I finished writing a book that’s been a couple decades in the making.
A Writing Retreat
I would have loved to go away on a writing retreat—to have a lovely cottage on a silver lake gazing out over mountains and not having anything but nature’s beauty to distract me from my book. But that was not a possibility so I planned a stay at home writing retreat instead. This took some planning and called for a serious commitment.
Because I don’t live in a solitary bubble, the first thing I needed to do was talk to my family. I called a family meeting and said, “for the next month, I’m not here”. I explained how close I was to finishing my book and that I needed to give it all my time and attention in order to make my end of August deadline. Btw, that deadline had already been pushed from the end of April to the end of May to the end of June. Well you get the idea.
Support from Family
I offered to cook for my family on Saturdays, making enough food for several meals. Then I asked them to handle things the rest of the time—no 2 hour conversations about what to have for dinner and no questions about where I keep the salt or the pasta strainer. Just so you know, currently there is myself, my husband and my adult daughter living in the house. If would have been a lot more complicated if I had young kids at home. Hence the 2 decade long timeframe for finishing this book.
They were very understanding and supportive in intent. In actuality, there was an adjustment. But I expected there would be, so my feathers didn’t get ruffled. That was actually the easy part. The self discipline was where the true challenge lay.
Announcing my break
The hardest part for me was taking a holiday from hosting my book club and co-creation circles because I really enjoyed them. Plus there was a part of me that felt a little like I was letting people down. Any concerns were eased when my announcement to take time off was met will lots of loving support from my communities.
I also took a break from most of my social groups and minimized social media time for my business. Everything that didn’t absolutely need to be done was set aside.
Simplify and Minimalize
I stopped making any time consuming dishes and ate really simple meals. I used one dish and cup for meals. I did only the bare necessities when it came to housework. Clothes got cleaned but ended up in a laundry mountain.
What I didn’t give up was my morning meditation, my daily walk and qigong practice because those things strengthen me, give me energy and help me stay peaceful and present. I did not give up writing in community and I sure as (you know where) didn’t give up my raw dark chocolate.
Giving myself fully
There were days when I questioned the wisdom of this exercise, but because I went into it with a plan, a purpose and eyes wide open, for the most part, I really enjoyed the focussed intensive writing. I don’t know how much longer it would have taken to finish my book and whether it would have made a big difference in the big scheme of things had I not hyper-focused on my writing. However, giving myself so fully to my art was powerfully transformative and I’m grateful for the experience.