I am headed for 6 weeks this summer to Spain for a writing retreat. It plopped into my lap, a gift from the cosmos. I received a beautiful artist’s loft for the charge of “pay it forward.” And I stumbled upon a $780 roundtrip plane ticket to get me there. These both are miracles.
When I say these miracles plopped into my lap, without any of my own agency, that is only partially true.
Here’s how I narrated my life to my mother at the time of the double miracles’ manifestations:
“I went to bed last night asking the Universe for a BIG gift today. I’ve been waiting for it all day. But I’ve also been really sad today because….”
[I am here deleting the particular reason why I was sad…though my mother knew. I was feeling sad to the point of despondent because a significant dream in my life, which I had been laboring toward for 7 years, seemed to be flopping, once again, in a way that utterly defied all my diligence.]
Anyways, continuing now what I said in the email to my mother:
“I told myself the Universe could still work it’s magic even with me feeling sad. When I went to get my coffee beans today from this wonderful man from Mexico who owns a beautiful shop with Mexican art and coffee beans, well, as I turned around to leave…he came after me and gave me a beautiful flower hand made vase from Guatemala. He told me to put one flower in it every morning as a symbol.
So, I loved my vase and thought that was my gift from the Universe!”
But as I went on to explain to my mother, that night I received an offer to inhabit this place in Spain for 6-weeks for a writing retreat and I suddenly realized that, all along, had been the BIG gift I had gone to bed asking for the previous evening.
And I really had asked, to the point of tremendous expectation, feeling a bit as I used to feel as a kid on Christmas Eve. And I had spent my day looking for my present under the Christmas tree. Call me entitled if you like, but when I am struggling in life, I ask for grace. Again and again, the grace comes.
If it had only been that lovely gift of a vase, that would have been more than enough to remind me that the world is yet full of kindness. Sometimes the grace we receive is as small as a 1-minute vibrant interaction with a stranger on the corner. And that small moment can be quite enough to change our whole perspective, to lead us back to hope.
But, this particular time, the grace was longer than a minute or 5 on the corner with a kindred spirit. The grace this time happened to be 6-weeks in Spain to lead me back to the importance of my writing.
I have been taking writing retreats for 9 years, and they always, always feel like something I “can’t afford.” They feel indulgent. They feel “spoiled.” They feel as though they lack all capitalist forms of productivity and sound economics.
However, without exaggeration I will say that every writing retreat I have ever been on changes my life in some way. Often large ways.
Up until this point, the most “indulgent” one I risked on was 3 weeks in Boston several years ago. I had always wanted to visit Boston, and I had searched my brain and my networks for weeks for a place to stay, until a dear friend landed me a scrumptious apartment-sitting gig. I found a $300 ticket from Seattle, and proceeded to lie in the fetal position with anxiety buying it, wondering how I was going to afford the ticket & take 3 weeks off all money-making forms of work.
And you know what I got out of that writing retreat? Well, I arrived home and starting applying to grad schools on the East coast (an idea prompted from someone I had met briefly in Boston, as I had never pictured myself with the gumption to do this). A few months later I received what amounted to a $45,000 scholarship to do my MA at Yale.
So, as you can tell, I believe in writing retreats and how they open up our world and our journey. They are always investments.
Writers have such a hard time believing that we can invest in ourselves.
The thing is, that moment of lying in the fetal position on the floor, agonizing as to whether I can invest in myself, is just as real and just as agonizing today as it was 7 years ago.
I have this amazing opportunity handed to me this summer, and I was still up for most of last night, trying to figure out how to invest in myself and my creative process and trust that there will be enough.
One of my newest ideas about writing retreats is that writers should swap spaces, at low cost to on another, and this would help us all go on writing retreats. I am picturing something like a cross between couch surfing and Air B & B. So, I am trying that this summer. I am opening up my own Vancouver, BC apartment to friends/family/trustworthy kindred spirits for $300 a week who need a week of creative work in June and July. This will help me enter 6 weeks of writing in Spain and trust that there will be enough. And this will hopefully help a few writers who need a creative space and the prompting to invest in themselves.
My own home is a gorgeous writing space, if I do say so myself, as I have set it up to inspire the creative process. It is a smallish corner view studio: I feel swaddled even as my soul expands to the sweeping views of beach, mountains, water, and city, all of which I can see from my writing desk. (With my views and beach access, my apartment would rent for $130/night on Air B & B, but the point is to create a price-point that is do-able for a writer or an artist needing to nurture themselves, while still helping me make my writing retreat possible. We all want to create a community feel, caring for one another’s spaces and making them ready for the next writer to come after us.)
Do you need to invest in yourself?
Can you trust that there is enough?
Do you want to be part of one another’s writing retreats like this?
Do you want to pay your own space forward in some way to another writer? (Let’s make ripple effects of creativity in this world.)
Reach out to me if you do….