A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at a cozy farm in Canada for a 3-day Creativity retreat with my mastermind group. This trip had been on the books for months, and it was scheduled to coincide with the end of 3 big launches. My Creatives Leadership Academy, The start of the Bermuda Philharmonic season, and the beginning of the new chamber music program I’m starting here. I was looking forward to having the time and the brain space to dedicate to my book.
First, over the summer, there was a delay with my new work permit, and I couldn’t legally launch the chamber music program until I had that in hand. I finally had it in hand a week before the classes were supposed to start, which put me about a month behind schedule.
Then, there was a hurricane–a small one, but enough to shut things down for a couple of days here–everyone gets let out of work and school to prepare, then everyone is hunkered down, and THEN life goes back to normal unless you lose power…which we did. Right in the middle of my online workshop.
And then Queen Elizabeth II passed away, which meant that there was another day off on the day of her funeral. Bermudians take their holidays VERY seriously–Zero work gets done. They all have a DAY OFF. No one replies to your emails.
And then Hurricane Fiona hit, and she was going to be bad, so more time off to prepare, a day of weathering the storm, and then 5 days without power, internet, or running water.
And that’s where I found myself on September 26th. The day before I left for my trip. I still had about 10 people waiting to talk to me about CLA, the cat-herding of putting chamber groups together was still in progress, and I was still desperately trying to hunt down contact information for some of the potential Philharmonic players.
Far from having all of my boxes checked and tied up with string, it had become, quite possibly, the ABSOLUTE WORST time to be leaving town and locking myself away without access to my email and phone for several days.
But writing my book is important to me, and I had stalled out on it–the format and outline were eluding me, and I was eager to move through that block. This retreat itself was important to me too. It’s not like I could simply put it off until I was ready. It was happening that week. With or without me.
On the drive up, I listened to an audiobook that I found so inspiring, I listened to it again as soon as it finished. I was pumped to spend days at this farm with other brilliant creatives, sinking into my book-writing goals, and having time and space to work.
The reality was that I spent very little time working on my book. Like, maybe 90 minutes total. On Days 1 and 2 there were a lot of amazing Farm-to-Table (or would it be Table-at-a-Farm?) meals, and in between those meals, there were group sessions, writing prompts, a lot of sharing, and a lot of time spent riding on the hotel shuttle bus and bonding with the rest of the cohort.
I went to bed feeling conflicted. It had been a great day, but I also wondered if I had made a very big (and very expensive and time-consuming) mistake.
Day 3’s schedule consisted of various “surprise sessions.” The first thing we did was go for a long walk around the property, which was gorgeous. I was itching to work, but along the way, I had some beautiful conversations with people.
The door opened, and we were face to face with a fiddler doing his thing, beckoning us to follow him to another barn, where the rest of the musicians were set up. Square dancing? Are you KIDDING ME? I had only 3 rules of adulthood: 1) I didn’t date other cellists, 2) I didn’t go bowling, and 3) I didn’t square dance. But I didn’t want to be THAT person, so I went along with it. Was it fun? Yeah, kinda. But that nagging feeling of “are you seriously neglecting your responsibilities to SQUARE DANCE?” was hard to shake.
The rest of the day and evening went along the same lines. There was some crafting, some food stalls, some haunted hay-rides, and, of course, it wouldn’t be a creativity retreat without a few chainsaw-wielding zombies, right?
But something happened in the afternoon of that 3rd day. We had a few hours to just chill. Either continue to work on our crafting project, go back to the hotel to rest, or wander around on our own. I elected to stay, and had brought my laptop and “work” things with me on purpose. I found a picnic table in a sunny spot and logged into my email accounts. Bracing myself for mass carnage and a gazillion fires that needed to be put out, there were approximately 5 emails.
One from someone confirming their enrollment in CLA, one from a mom submitting her child’s availability for chamber music, and a few other non-urgent things.
And then? I shut my laptop and opened up my writing notebook and I started to write.
And a better format for my book suddenly became so clear.
And I started writing a basic outline to match.
And I wrote.
And it was different. It was my voice but changed in a way. More open. More…something. I don’t know, really, but I think it was the…square dancing?
1 Somehow, by doing activities that are so far out from my everyday experience, I got my brain out of its everyday thought patterns. It’s as if the square dancing shook things up, and the arts & crafts put them back in a different order.
2. The act of sharing my thoughts, goals, and plans out loud to the group solidified them in an important way. Several of the things that came out of my mouth shocked me. They sounded like someone else’s voice, but my gut, my intuition, and my soul claimed them as my truth in a very profound way.
3. The point is that we were ALL out of our comfort zones. I can pretty much guarantee these NYC creatives are not seasoned line dancers! The activities, meals, walks, shuttle bus rides, and session shares bonded us all and allowed us to get to know each other in a deeper and more meaningful way. Learning each other’s strengths and needs, desires, and fears, we could exchange resources, names, tips–whatever might be helpful. It was the creative equivalent of “Hey, I’m new in town, and I need the name of a great plumber” only insert “literary agent”, “producer”, or “amazing video editor.”
By getting outside of our usual routines, and by asking out loud for what we need, we can reach previously closed-off areas of our minds. Like the way you are overcome with new ideas while you’re soaking up the sun on a beach vacation, or the solution to a problem comes to you while you’re on a hike, or how you feel inspired and invigorated after meeting an interesting new-to-you person at a dinner party.
Can you step into a new store? Walk the dog in a new park? Rearrange the bedroom furniture? Even taking a different route to work can yield interesting new thoughts and ideas.
On the homefront, all is well. The chamber groups have started up, the Philharmonic had its first rehearsal last week, and CLA is set to start up next week with the most spectacular humans. Who knew that taking myself out of it, and surrounding myself with nature and these incredibly talented and accomplished creative humans, getting chased by mutant zombie pig-people with hatchets and chainsaws would be just the inspiration I needed to make it all happen?
P.S. This is your last week to get in on the amazing Creatives Leadership Academy. This 9-month group coaching/mastermind group won’t launch again until NEXT fall, so don’t miss your chance! You can schedule a quick and painless (I swear! lol) call with me by clicking THIS LINK, and we can discuss whether this is the right kind of program for you. More information about the program itself can be found HERE.