Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mini-Retreats: Writing Blissfully During Busy Times

I began my summer with a fabulous writing retreat with 21 other women in Bali. During that week of bliss, we woke up each morning, had a healthy and delicious breakfast, meditated, and then wrote until lunch. In the afternoons, we shared work with the brilliant participants, and then went on a little adventure.

My goal with that retreat, which I organized with my amazing colleague, Ayu Saraswati, is to show people how it really is possible to be amazingly productive and enjoy life at the same time. This all seemed quite possible while we were in Bali. I am usually able to maintain a similar schedule in the summer when I have few responsibilities. But, how can this practice translate into the semester?

Writing in Bali with an amazing view!
Is it possible to maintain this level of peacefulness, focus, and productivity when the demands of the semester ramp up? The answer to this depends in part on your schedule during the academic year, and in part on your perspective.

Being calm, focused, and productive is very important to me. So, this semester, in addition to all of the practices that I usually incorporate, I plan to have a one-day mini-retreat of my own at least twice a month. I'd like to say that I will do it every week, but I know that is not feasible. So, I will aim for twice a month.

I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays, and usually have meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so Fridays seem like a logical day to carve out for my mini-retreats. I put "mini-retreat" in my calendar for every Friday, and then went through and deleted the ones I know will not happen due to travel and other commitments.

So, what will I do on my mini-retreat days?

First of all, I will not check email or social media on the morning of my mini-retreat days. This is hard for me, but experience tells me it is the best way to be productive and peaceful.

My house is fairly busy in the mornings with my husband and three kids getting ready for their day. So, I will exercise in the morning while they are still in the house. This may include a jog or a yoga class, depending on the weather and the gym schedule. I will then enjoy breakfast with my husband and remind him that today is a mini-retreat day.

I will begin my writing day at 9am with ten minutes of meditation. I will then use the pomodoro technique and get in at least 5 25-minute writing sessions. Then, I will pause to make and enjoy a delicious healthy lunch. I will then spend the afternoon doing something I enjoy either alone or with someone I enjoy spending time with. There are several beautiful hiking spots within an hour's driving distance from me, so I may go to one of those. I also could go for a swim, to a yoga class, or get a pedicure. The point is to do something I enjoy doing in the afternoon.

I will have to plan some of my afternoon activities in advance so I need to make sure to make plans ahead of time. I may even plan some of these mini-retreat days out of town with some of my lovely friends who live in beautiful places.

What about you: do you think you can work a mini-retreat into your semester schedule? I am sure you can pull off at least one well-timed mini-retreat - especially if you put it into your calendar now. Most of you can likely make once a month happen. And, if you are on sabbatical, this could be your everyday routine!

Finally, if you are interested in the weeklong retreats that Ayu and I host, the next one will be in Peru! My husband is Peruvian and I did my dissertation research in Peru. It is one of my favorite countries, and we are going to one of my favorite spots in Peru - the Sacred Valley of the Incas. You can find out more about our academic writers retreat for women on this website. And you can sign up for the June 2018 trip here.

Attending the writing retreat each year is a great way to renew my commitment to these practices, to nurture my creativity, and to remind myself of the joys of the life of the mind. I hope to see you there!


  1. A writing retreat sounds wonderful. I used to go to write-a-thons at StoryStudio when I lived in Chicago; it really was easier (and more fun) to be productive in the company of other writers. I wish I could go to Peru, especially because I've never been there. Maybe someday, when I save up enough money...

    1. In the meantime, hopefully you can at least schedule a mini-retreat into your calendar!

  2. How I would love a writing retreat! I'll have to keep my eyes open for opportunities to take a trip like this!

    I found your blog through a link posted on Clarissa's blog. Then, I found your posts on submitting articles and book proposals. I'm so grateful, as I'm going through the process of writing my book proposal now. Plus it helps hearing other perspectives about submitting articles. Thanks for your good advice!

    1. You are most welcome! Best of luck on your book proposal!

  3. Sounds great! I work at home one day a week so that seems like a good day to try it from time to time.