I returned home yesterday in pouring rain from a self-imposed writer’s retreat two hours south of where I live. Perhaps rain was the symbolic gift to seal my time spent away; a renewal and a washing that makes things alive again.
The weekend, cozied up at the Hillcrest House Bed and Breakfast in San Diego’s Hillcrest district, was bliss. It wasn’t the kind of bliss that comes with non-stop pampering and feel-good ahs, but the kind of bliss that comes when you spend time doing something you love and doing it well.
Here are four things I learned from my weekend away:
1) I could rest in the knowledge that I had already produced good work. I had set out this weekend with a goal of revising for one final time my manuscript that will be published as a book of essays this coming fall. Having a full blown manuscript in hand was a reminder that I had already done the hard work. I was not dealing with a rough draft, or even a work in progress. This was already a solid manuscript. I allowed myself to feel good about that.
2) It was okay to not work too hard. It’s no use fixing something that’s not broke, as they say. So rather than going into the weekend with an ambition to change and overhaul, I went in with the mindset of simply seeing my words in a fresh light. Rather than the hard, nitty gritty work of re-writing and re-vising, I took the weekend as an opportunity to play, to see what more I could do with my pieces to make the words dance – knowing that the words were in place and, to a good degree, dancing already. Know what? I kind of had fun.
3) I would benefit most from having no concrete expectations. Sound lazy? It was perhaps the most beneficial insight I had all weekend. I knew that by imposing some strict deadline on myself or expecting to, say, cover the entire manuscript in the course of 48 hours (16 of which I would hopefully be sleeping) would cause nothing but stress. Stress was not welcome this weekend. End of story. What’s more, having no expectations meant that whatever I accomplished would be, well, an accomplishment. I accomplished a lot. Guess how that made me feel?
4) It is okay to be a little pampered and live it up a bit. In my house these days, it seems like we are living on generic macaroni and cheese and hotdogs, whatever laundry soap is on sale, and very few opportunities to eat out. On this retreat, I sprang for 5,000-thread-count sheets, gourmet coffee and fresh food from local markets. I put bean sprouts on my salad, munched on blood oranges, paid $5 for half a loaded baked potato. It was a splurge, yes, but not an all-out splurge. I still opted for an economical bed and breakfast. Most of my meals came from the Whole Foods Market down the street, rather than trendy cafes. But allowing for a few extras was a simple way of reminding myself that I and my work were worth it, a way I could say to myself, “I love you.” You work so much better when your head and heart are in a happy mindset.
I returned home with a renewed vision of my book, a fresh excitement about it, and even a new fan from the UK who promises she’ll buy it when it comes out. The only thing that was missing? A good glass of wine at the end of the day. But that’s only because I’m pregnant. I’ll treat myself to that glass of wine, as soon as the second little mister decides to make his entrance into the world.
*If you could design a getaway for yourself, what would it look like? What is holding you back?