A month ago, I was feeling burned out with my businesses, and in particular my writing. I felt frustrated because my writing didn't seem to really grab my readers and get them to do something such as commenting, sharing etc., and yet I realized that the problem wasn't my audience. The problem was me and the writing I was doing. So I decided to take a 30 day spiritual retreat from my regular routine of writing for other people, and in some ways from my businesses. The resulting realizations that occurred in the last month were liberating. 1. It helps to have an accountability guide to make sure you stay on your retreat. In my case, my guide was Eligos, a Goetic Daimon of Time and Writing. Both of those aspects were appropriate for what I needed to stay on my retreat. There were a number of times, especially in the first week that Eligos would call me out and remind me that I needed to stay on retreat and not write for other people.
2. The first week is hard. So is the second week, but it gets easier after that. We live in a workaholic society and when your retreat involves you not working it can be hard to not work. I sometimes felt like my fingers and hands were itching to write and yet I could write because I'd made the commitment not to write. There were so many times I wanted to write and yet I just had to step back and honor my agreement not to write for other people during the month of November. It probably helped that I could still do some writing...
3. Always allow yourself some expression of what you are giving yourself a retreat from, but only for yourself. In some ways a retreat is really about being selfish, in a healthy way, for you and your relationship with what you are taking a retreat from. I could still write, but I couldn't write for other people and I realized I really needed that break from writing for other people. So I journaled about my experiences during the retreat instead and revised my website copy to reflect who I truly know myself to be.
4. A Retreat is a journey of self-discovery and identity. One of my complaints about my writing is that I didn't feel like my identity was really showing up. It felt really cerebral and granted I can be a cerebral guy, but people don't connect with writing like that...not in a way that moves them anyway, so this retreat was really about rediscovering my identity as a writer and allowing my identity to shine through in my writing. Whether that really moves someone to do something is anyone's guess, but I'll admit that I liked reinventing myself as a writer. Sometimes you have to challenge who you are in order to discover who you can be and a retreat from an activity can help you do that.
5. I have to respect myself as a writer, if I want people to respect my writing. During this retreat the theme of shame came up a lot. I was surprised at first, but as I did meditation and internal work on that theme of shame I discovered just how much it influenced my writing and business practices. Turns out it influenced them a lot. Whether it was shame from being called a disappointment in my childhood and not measuring up to standards set by other people or shame I felt for not being a good enough writer, I had that shame in spades and I needed to work through it. That shame also showed up in my identity and so in some ways I wasn't letting my identity come through my writing, not as much as it could be. I'm still working through a lot of this, but one decision I've made is that I'm not going to write for exposure, unless that exposure actually helps me. I'm limiting my writing to each of my sites to two articles a month. If my readers choose to patronize my writing that may change, but otherwise I'm going to focus on projects that will bring in tangible results. In other words I want to get paid for my writing and I don't think that's unrealistic.
6. A retreat lets you ground yourself in what really matters. I spent a lot of my retreat reading books, having conversations with people I admire and respect, and spending time with family and friends. All of that really grounded me and helped me see that just how appreciated I am. Also in taking this retreat, it helped me discover an opportunity to challenge myself as a writer. I'm taking a class starting in January on how to write for the social web because even though I know how to write, I also know I can always improve and I figure taking a class would be an excellent way to do just that.
7. A retreat helps you re-ignite your creativity. It certainly has for me. I was initially hesitant to do this retreat, worried that I'd be less inspired to write by the end of it, but if anything I'm ready to write and I've got lots of projects I want to work on and share with readers.
Today my retreat is finished. My thanks to Eligos for keeping me on track. Now I'm ready to get back in the saddle, but I'm also ready to do things differently.
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