Sunday, May 31st, 2015
For the next six days I’m going to be posting a blog every day whilst away running the Inside Out Writer’s Retreat in Greece.
It’s all part of a writing challenge each of the writers on the retreat will be going through. Each writer will determine and set a personal writing challenge for the retreat. Each has challenged themselves to stretch beyond a writing goal they feel comfortable in achieving.
A few years ago someone reminded me of this excellent quote, ‘Progress, not perfection.’ This has been a liberating quote for me when I realized that part of becoming a working writer is about focusing on the progress made each day through writing practice. I can’t stress how much your development as a writer is based on developing the habit of a writing practice. There’s little point wanting to write a book if you don’t get into a regular habit of writing to begin with.
Writers who write their first book, without little in the way of writing practice behind them, who then have success with the book are far and few between. For the majority this is not the case and we have to do the work. We have to put in the time. We have to write even when we don’t feel like it. We have to deal with rejection and failure. We have to make time to write when it doesn’t feel like there’s time to write. We have to be wiling to get down the shitty first draft and not just stop there, but also get writing beyond that.
When all is said and done you can’t really become a writer you respect unless you give yourself the space and time to write and do it regularly. Over the course of the next five days I plan to take each of the writer’s on a journey that will connect each one to the core thread of what it is they want to write about, to dive into beginning or extending some of that writing and to discover ways in which they can keep writing when they’re back home.
We’ve had an almost hundred percent re-booking for this retreat so we know that what happens here in Greece in making a difference in some important and valuable ways in writer’s lives. In the course of the next five days I’ll be sharing insights into some of the exercises and activities we get up to over the course of the week.
The sun is back out after a few days of rain and a drop in temperature but it’s nowhere as hot as when we were here last July. Now that probably is a good thing. With less of a pull to the beach and the sea the writers can get down to business.
Tuesday, May 19th, 2015
Last weekend ended with a social engagement on the Sunday evening, which even though I enjoyed catching up with old friends sapped my energy leaving me desperate for some me time.
By the time I hit the sack I knew I needed to recharge my batteries. My job the next morning began at 9.30am so before falling asleep I planned to get up extra early the next day so I could head over to one of my favourite green spaces in London, Richmond Park. The weather the next morning was nothing to write home about but I didn’t let that put me off and by the time I pulled up in the car park it was raining with a crisp breeze that pelted cold air on your face.
Still determined I pulled on my wellingtons, wrapped up and strode off for my morning walk. With no heavy bag on my shoulder and just my iPhone in my coat pocket I suddenly felt remarkably free.
I headed off in the opposite direction of the school run traffic streaming through the park which I needed to get as afar away as was possible, which is the park’s one only un-redeemable feature. The wind howled and the sharp crisp air pelting across my face suddenly felt comforting, my own call of the wild.
In the distance I spotted a tree off the beaten track housing what looked like a hollowed out bark and headed over to investigate. It was a wonderful specimen, maybe a hundred or more years old. My iPhone sparkled as I took images of inside the trunk. Some of those images resembled hill top terrains. Take a look at the image below to see what I mean.
Nature therapy is available and free. My morning dose of nature therapy had immediate effect in re-energising my diminishing energy reserves.
For the next 45 minutes I sauntered across the green plains of the park stopping to commune and take photo’s of various trees. By the time I realised just how much I was enjoying myself I had only thirty minutes left to get back to my appointment but Oh, I felt delicious.
Back in my car a quick glance in the car mirror reflected back a face with blushed cheeks that had clearly benefitted from a free, natural non-surgical procedure. I’d been injected with a huge dose of energy.
The next day was yet another early start but at least one where I could get a seat on London’s heaving packed rush hour traffic. Before leaving home I’d popped two decorated luggage tags into my journal. Then on the train I pulled one out and on one side I wrote across the top, three things I intend to get done for the day. This really helped me prioritise for the day in a way that felt light and easy.
On the other side of the luggage tag I wrote across the top, three good things about yesterday. I then proceeded to answer both questions writing my answers directly onto the tags.
Things started off well with question one but by question two I began frantically scanning the day trying to recall the best bits of the day. I mean anything and to my surprise found myself struggling. By item three I’d drawn a blank. Yes in less than twenty-four hours I had forgotten about my wonderful time in Richmond Park.
That’s why writing things down makes a difference. Writing it down brought the experience back into focus and made me in the moment instantly happier. Remembering my time and most importantly recording it felt like I had retrieved something of value from my past.
Most people are familiar with the practice of writing a Gratitude journal and more recently the Five Minute Journal click here for more information http://www.fiveminutejournal.com/ has condensed this practice in their product the 5 Minute Journal.
Years earlier I’d introduced a similar practice, 7-minutes of spiritual grace writing practice to groups I worked with. The idea behind it was once you set yourself an achievable goal of writing for 7-minutes you’ll probably without even realising it write for even longer.
The reason I’m sharing all this with you is because I know how busy you are. Most people just can’t imagine where they’ll find the time to get through even a quarter of their to do list let alone write a journal.
But wait a minute? How many of your priorities get compromised at expense of the things we love or are important to us as we fritter away valuable hours checking social media and playing on our mobile phones. Both the five and seven minute practices are practical and fast ways to gain the many benefits of journaling and being reflective.
For example a 2012 study found that women who wrote down three positive events and the reasons why they were positive experienced a reduction in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain and muscle tension.
For the next seven days how about trying out the fast track, seven-minute journal writing practice to discover how it works.
Here’s how it works:
Writing materials needed:
- Collect seven luggage tags or seven small slips of paper or use your journal or notebook. It’s a good idea to try writing on a luggage tag because it breaks the cycle of writing for work and feels a lot lighter and fun.
- Date each luggage tag on one side for future reference.
- Each day for the next seven days on one side of your luggage tag write three good things that happened the previous day.
- Next on the other side write down three things you’d like to get done today. It’s common for individuals to find that they end completing a different activity than the one originally entered on their list. But they also find that what gets done is better than the original intentions.
- The second thing that turned out to be a bonus is that without making an effort people find themselves continuing to write after the seven minutes is up. It’s a great way of bypassing writers block and a lack of confidence.
- This practice of short writing bursts is a smart way of outwitting the inner critic who often considers short writing periods insignificant which means the inner critic is likely to be off duty and less likely to show up.
Remember the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Let’s build a journaling revolution one line at a time as a base line for becoming a writer and growing your business!
If you’re ready to try this out or interested in learning lots more about how to become a writer then there’s still time to join me and a small group of writers at the Inside Out Writer’s Retreat I’ll leading in Greece in ten days time. Click here for more details: http://www.alexandros-kalikalos.com/creative-writing-greece