In the past few years I've come to see creating as essential to who I am and the more I create the more creative I feel.
My life is full, as I'm sure that yours is, and ample time to create does not just happen; I have to be intentionally about creating time to create. Three years ago I had the idea to write an ecourse for working moms that would be the resource I wish I had had when I went back to work after having Dashiell. I worked with Andrea to develop the concept of the course and then during the summer of 2013 outlined the material and started writing.
And then life happened: working full time, caring for a baby, producing a podcast and later a second podcast and then later growing and caring for a second baby. But I still believe in my ecourse and bringing it to life and I'm recommitting to finishing it.
Working in fits and starts post-bedtime (yaaawn) or on the weekends works okay for blog posts or podcast editing but not so well for the material for my course, when I feel that I need time to relax into the content. And so recently I planned two days off work for a creative retreat at home with the specific goal of working on my ecourse.
This was at least the second creative retreat that I've completed; last year I took three days off to update my blog design and make it mobile friendly. Creative retreats not only give me uninterrupted time to work but it also gives me a taste of what working on writing projects full time would feel like, which is what I hope to be able to do in a few years when we accomplish our big financial goal. I would highly recommend a creative retreat if you are trying to make progress on a project or considering going full time with a creative side project and you don't have to go to a cabin in the woods to make them happen!
I'd love to share a few tips for creative retreats that I've learned:
Plan for at least four hours. One or more full days is ideal for a creative retreat but if that is not possible try to get at least four hours. This is enough time to relax into a project and to have time when you aren't distracted by how little time is left.
Find a quiet place. I can't focus for long if my boys are in the house, even if I'm holed up in our office. Taking vacation days from work is an ideal situation because I can work at home while my boys are at daycare. But I've also been able to carve out weekend work time by working at our local public library where private rooms are even available (this is where Erica and I had our recent podcast retreat!). Coffee shops are hit or miss for me. I hate taking up a table for hours plus if the music is slightly too loud or someone is having a lively conversation next to me I'll be distracted.
Make use of vacation days from work. I'm astounded when I read statistics that say most Americans don't use their vacation time each year. If you work and have vacation time it's your time to take and it doesn't have to be for going out of town. I understand how precious vacation days can be but if you are passionate about something I would argue it is certainly deserving of a precious 8 hours of time off work.
Plan ahead and decide what your focus will be. Here's a problem I have with my creative retreats: I realize I have two! whole! days! to do all! the! things! I want to work on my ecourse, catch up on my blog, plan for social media, organize my email inbox, and oh! maybe I can also clean out my closet and also make our family photo book I've been meaning to get to...and should I try that new pie recipe I bookmarked last month? Which is when I have to say, "Shut it down, Kelsey." Having open time when your life is full is hard because there are so many thins you could fill it with. During a creative retreat I have to decide on ONE focus.
Stick to your focus, ignore everything else. Once I have my creative retreat focus I have to guard it ferociously. I have to actively ignore my inbox, the blog posts I want to write and the pile of dirty dishes.
Celebrate all progress. Creative work can be slow going and after two days of working I had written two new days of content for my course - of a five week course. It felt like a very small dent but instead of seeing how far I still have to go I celebrated the fact that I had the time to work and the writing that came from it.
Plan how to continue the work. Towards the end of a creative retreat, if there is still work to be done on a project, I like to think about how I can keep working in smaller chunks of time in the coming weeks so I can keep the momentum going.