Retreat I

Header photo: “Walden Pond in Late June” by Cbaile19 CC0

Every once in a while, I touch my phone in a certain way so that the apps move down, like this:

I usually fumble around until the icons inexplicably return to their normal position. Last week, after having done this for the umpteenth time, I wondered if the feature serves a purpose, so I googled “iPhone apps move,” which filled in the phrase “iPhone apps moved to bottom of screen.”

Ahhh. I am not the only one.

Hold that thought…

A Retreat by Any Other Name

Before we go any further in this blog series, I should explain what I mean by a DIY summer writing retreat. The idea has been percolating in my mind for several months but didn’t come to the surface until my friend Christi Craig recently attended a novel retreat in Vermont (read her thoughtful reflection here). I began to think about not just writing retreats, but retreats in general, including a handful of spiritual retreats from my college days, and why retreats are worthwhile.

Retreat: A period or place of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation. (Oxford Dictionaries)

Retreat: A period of group withdrawal for prayer, meditation, study, or instruction under a director. (Merriam-Webster)

A good retreat takes us away from what is normal and familiar. It provides quiet and simplicity and space for self-reflection. It allows us to look at ourselves and the world in new ways.

More important, a good retreat gives us the tools and support we need to carry our changes and growth and new habits back to our usual world. In this way, a retreat marks a transition, a before and after, not just a respite or break.

For myself, I enter this summer with no grand plans or false expectations of sudden renewal, but with the goal of—as much as possible—adopting an attitude of retreat in the midst of everyday life, so that I can make small but real changes in how I approach and practice my writing going forward. This means paying closer attention to choices I make throughout the day, simplifying life as much as possible even in the midst of work and appointments and socializing, pausing before reacting, making time for meditation and focused writing. It also means gathering and reflecting on wisdom from those who have gone before me, other writers I admire. This blog is my way of keeping myself honest and recording those reflections.

Back to My iPhone (or “I’m Not the Only One”)

My internet search revealed that when one double taps the home button of an iPhone (without pressing in the button), the apps move down so that people with short fingers, like me, can more easily reach the upper apps if using only one hand. Who knew?

My point with this anecdote is that I’ve learned that whenever I am struggling with or searching for something, almost always I find that others share the same concern or need. Writing is no exception, perhaps especially so, as I consider myself a fairly typical, run-of-the-mill writer. My needs and questionings certainly are familiar to others, so as long as I’m embarking on this summer project, why not see who else wants to join me for the ride? And, along the way, we can help each other.

See also the New York Times review of a new Morgan Library & Museum exhibit about the quintessential American writer on retreats, Henry David Thoreau: “Thoreau: American Resister (and Kitten Rescuer).”


DIY Summer Writing Retreat graphicThis post is part of the DIY Summer Writing Retreat blog series, with daily posts Monday through Friday. Subscribe to receive full-length new posts in your inbox or catch them on my Facebook page.

2 thoughts on “Retreat I

  1. I’m so tired tonight, I’m not sure I can do much writing. The exhaustion comes from getting ready to move a house-full of stuff from one place to another a week hence. And all the time I’m packing boxes, and sorting through things, I’m thinking about “the book.” Yesterday, I found again my grandmother’s autograph book from the 1890s. Two of the entries are in German and it just so happens that we live next door to Hans and Emmie who are first generation Germans. I will take these two entries to them before we leave the neighborhood for translation. And so the work goes forward even when I can’t put one finger in front of the other.

  2. Sally, I love this… “And all the time… I’m thinking about ‘the book.'” Yes! That’s exactly what I’m trying to get at, how we can integrate our writing so completely with our days that we make progress even when we are not writing. How cool about the autograph book!!

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