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What I did (kind of) on my personal retreat vacation

Well, I promised that I would report back after this weekend’s personal retreat to let you know how it went.

The short answer? Not as planned.

After one day, my retreat was cut short due to an emergency. It’s all perfectly fine now — don’t worry — but I didn’t have the uninterrupted days of relaxation, planning, and work that I’d hoped for.

That’s disappointing, of course, but it’s also life. It doesn’t matter how much you plan — in the end you still have to roll with the punches.

I’ll admit, I started writing this post with a bad attitude. Why bother? I thought. It’s not like I got anything done. And probably no one will notice if I don’t deliver the promised reflection post.

But as I started writing, it became clear that I’d actually accomplished quite a bit — and learned some good lessons.

What happened in the woods….

My intention for the personal retreat was — besides relaxation — to knock out several big personal projects that I had been putting off because of busyness and client work.

Despite my abbreviated time, I got some periods of deep work in.

  • I outlined the draft of a lead magnet e-book I plan to write as part of my new marketing push to attract more ghostwriting clients.
  • I drafted a book proposal for nonfiction book I’ve been toying with for some time, and sent it off.
  • I started drafting a short story for an anthology submission.
  • Oh — and I also sewed some adorable gifts for my niece and nephew.

I also got some nature time in. I went on a gorgeous hike to see the second tallest waterfall in Oregon (Salt Creek Falls), and nearby Diamond Creek Falls (the top photo).

As I’m typing this, I’m actually pretty proud of myself. I had been pretty disappointed in the brevity of my retreat, but in retrospect I actually did get a lot done. Plus, just the amount of planning I did in the lead up gave me a ton of clarity.

What didn’t happen in the woods

I’m disappointed I didn’t get to outline the next novella in my Durga System series. (The same series as STARFALL.) I find that actual writing is easy to weave into my normal day-to-day routine, whereas outlining and other preliminary work is easier to do in a large chunk with fewer distractions.

I was hoping to return to regular life with a solid plan so I could dive into the writing — but I suppose I’ll just have to set aside time during my regular work week to get it done. It’s strange being in between writing projects, and I’m itching to get started on something new!

My mind on nature vs. my mind on social media

2016-09-29-12-48-52The other thing I don’t feel like I got done was resetting my mind. I’ve had a lot of different projects on a lot of different burners, and I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed for the past few months.

I’d hoped this retreat would clear my mind not only by knocking out some of these side projects (which I did), but also that it would help me get back in the practice distraction-free work. I also hoped that I’d get to spend a lot of solo time in nature to help re-center myself. That didn’t exactly happen.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been letting the stress and frenzy of the weekend color the quiet work that I should be doing. I’ve been letting myself get distracted with election coverage (*sigh*), or flipping over to social media when I should be working.

That way madness lies.

And also information overload.

Pulling the personal retreat off the pedestal

A while back, I read a post by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits about how unhappiness is a result of us clinging to our expectations instead of experiencing reality, and I think this past weekend was a perfect illustration of that.

I would have been thrilled with the amount of work and naturing I got done if I wasn’t still clinging to the unicorns-and-utopias dream of what I wanted my retreat to have been. I would have continued to enjoy my days even in the chaos of the emergency if I hadn’t constantly been thinking, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to go!”

I’ve let myself slip into distraction in part because I didn’t have the blissful experience I was expecting over the weekend, but it’s time for me to stop using that as an excuse, and just get back into my practice of quiet focus in work.

There’s no reason I can’t schedule myself better and outline this novella.

There’s no reason I can’t continue to build thoughtful planning into my regular schedule.

There’s no reason I can’t take a sabbatical from news coverage in my daily life.

And there’s really no reason I can’t just take off on a Tuesday morning and go on a hike. I live in Portland, for goodness sake — it’s criminal that I don’t take more advantage of nature!

It would have been nice to have a perfect weekend, but es la vida.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be off making the most of today.

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