It began innocently enough. I asked three writer friends of mine if they wanted to come away to our lakehouse in Northern California for a long weekend of resting, writing, eating, and exploring. Of course they said yes. Wouldn't you? We're all mothers and wives, and thankful for those blessings, but time to pull away and remember some of the special, uniquely woven parts of ourselves is like health to a creative woman's bones.
Artistry tends to get lost in the day-in-day-out reality of serving and loving all our people.
By the time the ladies' planes landed at the Sacramento airport my children were settled in with their grandparents, the lakehouse was stocked with good food, and the menu for our long weekend together was posted on the refrigerator door. From the airport we drove 2 hours north, up into Lake County, passing vineyards and orchards, deer and elk. The sun was sinking low by the time we arrived at our retreat. Walking the porch that wrapped from front to back, overlooking the lake from all sides, we laughed together, giddy from the inspiring views and the four days of freedom that stretched before us.
Over the next two days we worked quietly, breaking the silence for meals on the balcony and walks around the shore. Each evening we sat late into the night, sharing our stories and giving feedback when asked for it. Prayers bookended our times of fellowship and sleep came easily each night.
On the final full day of our retreat we planned an adventure. That first year we drove to a Lavender Festival on the far side of the lake. The strains of a jazz quartet, the scent of lavender, and the flavors of grilled meats, soft cheeses, sweet wines, and roasted vegetables worked together to make our hearts sing and our heads light. The breeze tied it all together like a celestial bow.
The bond of Sisterhood is one of the sweetest gifts given to Creatives...
Over the next couple of years we returned to the same location, adding photographers to our circle of creative fellowship. I set up special meetings with local artists and sent them packing with their camera gear early each day, leaving the house quiet for the writers. By dinnertime they returned "home" exhausted and revived - you Creatives know how those two can co-exist.
The third year, photographer-friend Tammy Labuda, challenged herself to develop a creative portrait session for each of the writers. Months of pinning pictures and collecting props and costumes culminated in photographic adventures around Northern California.
Changing venues for the Fourth Annual Creative Retreat, I invited my sweet friends down to our home in San Diego to enjoy some Southern California vistas. This time we gathered poolside rather than lakeside for our meals, but still we spent our days writing and our nights reading and laughing and eating.
This coming June we've decided to change the location yet again, allowing author, Kelli Stuart, to host us all in Florida. I'll still fly in early to help prep the meals and leave a welcome note on each soft pillow, but I'm relinquishing the reigns just a bit...
Maybe you're inspired to take the reigns into your own two hands; gathering friends for a couple of rich, refreshing days. Truly, if you understand the simplicity of a woman's core needs, the idea of hosting your own Creative Retreat shouldn't overwhelm you. Can you offer up a place to rest, a place to write, a hot shower, good food, and friends to share the journey? Can you provide those simple things? And have you a heart to encourage? Then you have what it takes!
Here's how to plan your own Creative Retreat.
1) Pray! God loves His girls. He had a wonderful reason for making you creative, and so this time celebrating that part of your design has the power to be a Holy time of fellowship. Ask God to lead you to just the right group of artists.
2) Talk with your Husband. Be clear about what you're asking. For example, do you want to get away to a hotel for a few days with a couple girlfriends, or have them there in your home? Tell him why this would be good for you, who you plan to invite, how it might be a blessing to them, and the days you are considering. Suggest where he could go for those days, if you're wanting to host it at your home.
3) Reach out to your Creatives. Start with one or two of your closest artist-friends, and see if they're interested - They will be! Decide if you want to keep it just the 2-3 of you, or if you'd like to invite a few more ladies.
4) Settle on your dates and location. I suggest Wednesday - Sunday, especially if people are flying in, that way you will have a solid three days to create and relax!
5) Send out a formal invitation to your guests. I'm using the term "formal invitation" very loosely. If you are a Calligrapher, please do create a piece of art to send out to your little crew. However, if you are more like me, then a group email will suffice! If guests are flying in from our of town, include which airport they need to fly into and give them a conceivable 2 hour window to try to arrive within. That way there won't be too many trips to the airport.
6) Plan your menu. I always try to keep breakfast and lunch simple and easy to prep ahead, so that I am not overwhelmed with cooking instead of writing. However, dinner is another story! Plan a menu that inspires creativity! That said, if you are not a chef, plan on driving to some fun local restaurants with great food and atmosphere. If you do want to cook, be clear with everyone what your expectations are. If you plan on doing all the kitchen work yourself, that's your choice, but if you'd like help then let them know how they can help. If someone offers to cook a meal, say YES! If someone says they want to do dishes after each meal, say YES. Also, know if you are paying for all the groceries, or if you would like to spilt the food bill.
One of my gang's favorite Creative Retreat meals is gorgonzola and bacon pancakes served beside a mixed green salad topped with a fried egg. The hair on the back of my neck is standing on end just thinking about those flavors. Oh the bliss! And sparkling blood orange juice is our traditional drink of choice.
7) Plan your Saturday Excursion. Throw out suggestions to the group ahead of time or save it as a surprise... but whatever you do, plan something special. A botanical garden, a tea house along the coast, a mountain hike, a day in some quaint nearby town...
8) Prepare for their arrival. I like to have a card and a little gift awaiting each woman in her room. Fresh flowers is another must in my book!
9) Create. Once your guests have a arrived, remember that this retreat is for you too. No one wants anything from you other than to breath the same fresh air and create in the same comfortable space with you.
10) Pray. Did I already mention this? Gathering together in community is a Holy sort of thing. Cover it in prayer and ask The Lord to bless each one of your guests!
Sweet, Creative Friends, consider the possibilities!
*** My sweet friend Kelli Stuart is partnering with me today to inspire y'all to do your own Creative Retreat. I shared HOW to Host a Creative Retreat, Kelli is sharing WHY You Should Host a Creative Retreat.