I had been looking forward to this writing retreat for months, so I was indignant to be feeling sick. Was it food poisoning, or a virus? I lay there trying to take some deep breaths, anxious that Leah was working diligently downstairs without me.
We had planned this retreat as a way to spend a few days focusing solely on pounding out some pages. Away from home, uninterrupted by our daily obligations, we were certain we could get closer to finishing our books. Since it wasn’t an option for us to go weeks at a time without seeing anyone, as Dickens had frequently done, a few days would have to do. When we mentioned our plans to a dear friend, she generously offered us her condo in Vermont.
I picked up Leah in the morning and we headed north. The conversation along the winding roads revealed that we had both had a rough week leading up to the retreat. Turns out, a glimpse of the finish line was causing some interesting and unexpected disturbances in our creativity.
We pulled up to the quiet spot and admired the view before settling in and getting some writing done before dinner. We were eager to get a good night’s rest to face the next day of marathon writing. I went to bed with a minor stomach ache, and woke up with full-blown gastrointestinal upset. It was nearly impossible for me to sit at my keyboard and ignore the discomfort.
Lying there in the loft, I examined my thoughts. I looked at them without judgement, which wasn’t easy. Resistance, tension and many excuses were floating around in there, probably settling into the rest of my body. I put on my headphones and listened to some relaxing music, and focused on how grateful I felt to have this time and place to write. I fell asleep for a bit and woke up refreshed. Not only was my mind clear, but my stomach pain was gone.
I returned to the dining table where Leah was writing, absorbed in her work, and joined her quiet progress. We got a lot done that day. Over dinner we talked about how this effort and commitment to get away and focus completely on our books had affected us and our writing. We were amazed by the breakthroughs that seemed to present themselves, one after another. I realized that perhaps Dickens had figured something out: removing all the distractions and obligations leaves little to get in the way. It becomes obvious then, that one’s own bellyaching is the only obstacle to moving forward.
Carolyn and Leah
Writing Exercise: Take a moment before writing to do a body scan: With eyes closed, take a few deep breaths. Starting with the crown of your head, release any tension with your exhale. Move on to your neck, shoulders, arms, etc… All the way to your toes. Tune in to any discomfort and acknowledge it. Opening your eyes, write one sentence about a visible thing you are grateful for, and another sentence about an invisible thing you are grateful for, like a relationship or opportunity you appreciate.