The world is a noisy, busy place. With daily distractions competing for our attention, it becomes almost impossible to truly listen to the voices inside of us. When we clear space in our lives and in our heads – when we remove the ambient noise – we can often be surprised by what we hear.
A retreat is about giving time and attention to a part of ourselves that may otherwise get pushed aside. If you dream of being a writer, that can mean many things. It means finding the time to complete a project on your ‘bucket list’, but it can also mean learning to listen to the creative voice inside your head. Ideas need time to gestate. We have to nurture them, be mindful of them, if they are to grow.
When you find the courage to take the leap and try a creative writing retreat, you will probably be looking for inspiration. A time to learn more about writing, and about yourself as a writer. A time to write. But in all likelihood, you will find much more. During my first retreat at Finca Luna Nueva, I climbed up to the lodge’s lookout tower, where there is a colourful hammock swinging high above the rainforest, and I watched dawn slowly colour the sky pink. I thought, in all my time on this planet, have I ever actually watched the world come alive like this? On a different morning, I woke to a toucan, sitting on the balcony outside my room, eyeing me curiously. I recall thinking: could a poem ever capture a moment like this? Some things can only be lived. I remember intriguing and heart-felt conversations with fellow writers over dinner each night – including one, in particular, about whether there are such things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ books, and whether literature has the capacity to change lives. I watched a fellow writer come alive with excitement when the novel she had always wanted to write finally took shape in her mind. I walked through the biodynamic farm at Luna Nueva, and as I watched a sloth munch leaves above me, I finally found the climax of my own novel – something that had been eluding me for quite some time. Eating the local, organic and delicious foods in the lodge’s restaurant, breathing the fresh air, swimming each afternoon, shredding daily stresses – I felt healthier than I had in months.
So how to sum up the experience of a writing retreat? I came away feeling a little more like myself. Like the writer, the artist, the healthy, thoughtful and inspired person I always want to be.
The final day of our first Costa Rica retreat was perhaps the most powerful, as writers discussed ways to hold onto the creative power, stillness and mindfulness of the past seven days, as they moved back into their lives. We read for each other, an intensely moving experience, as we shared our greatest achievements and celebrated one another. There’s no doubt that each of us returned home deeply enriched – not only as writers but as creative artists… and as people.