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Are you your own difficult client? 


Are you your own difficult client? 

Create an environment for success with your most difficult client — even if that person is you. 

Step two in planning a Creative Retreat is setting the expectations. 

You’re the Client

I started writing about the Creative Retreat I gave myself as a gift. To make sure I got the most out of it, I needed to set the right tone. The first thing I know about myself is that I’m rebellious.  (So difficult!, as my husband loves to say.) If there are rules, I’m going to find a way to rebel against them.  This is a good thing in a creative setting, that mutinous attitude can produce all sorts of great ideas. Two things I need are structure and fluidity: A plan that is too open, I’ll wander aimlessly from room to room wondering what to do. Too rigid and I’ll reject it all and end up doing nothing. 

You’re the Guest 

I decided the best way to handle this difficult client was to create distance between me and the plan.  So I treated myself like I was a guest to the retreat and sent myself a PDF welcome letter with a schedule.  

Here’s the welcome letter I sent to myself, from me the Creative Retreat Director: 

Creative Retreat 

Welcome to the Creative Retreat! Your time here will be spent renewing your intention towards a project and recharging your creativity. We expect great things! 

We encourage you to participate fully and to be fluid. Be aware of when you need to stop. Be aware of when you need to keep going (even when you feel like stopping.) Identify the difference between fatigue and fear. Start each day with stretching, meditation, a walk or a swim. Center yourself. 

Here is your plan for the week. We hope and expect that you will stick to it and simultaneously make it what you need it to be in the moment.

You’re the Director 

You are in charge of your creativity and your energy.  When you put a little distance between yourself and your plan for your creativity (i.e. your NaNoWriMo schedule) you establish your own authority over your energy.  Planning and executing a Creative Retreat as the Director and as the Client was really helpful to getting the most out of the experience for me. 


Do-It-Yourself, In-Home Creative Retreat


Do-It-Yourself, In-Home Creative Retreat

For many years I’ve wanted to create a three or four day retreat. I toyed with the idea of a creative retreat for moms or spiritual seekers, writers, caretakers, or pet rescuers — you name a group and I thought maybe they needed one. I got to a point in my current project that I realized it was me that needed the retreat.  Bu who would lead it? 

It needed to be given by a skilled presenter with a passion for leading retreats, an understanding of the creative process, and a focus on writing. I looked at my LinkedIn profile and indeed, I fit the bill. 

So, I did it. I took vacation time the four days after Labor Day which actually gave me nine whole days if you count the weekend before and the weekend after. Since I was the event manager and set up crew, as well as the creative leader and spiritual mentor, I needed all that time. 

That it coincided with my husband’s visit to his family meant I could have the house all to myself and design a schedule that fit my particular needs for a creativity recharge. 

In upcoming posts, I’ll debrief the days, so you can create your own retreat, because, believe me you need one.  But here’s where it starts — with the intention to recharge and reconnect. The style is up to you — you can design a retreat that’s pure creative boost, or you can, as I needed to, focus on a particular project. 

Here are the steps to enact your retreat: 

Step 1:  Decide on a date, time and place. 

Look at how many days you actually need three, four, five? Look at your family calendar and your work schedule and see when the stars align for you to take off from both.  

Then find the place that matches those dates.  Can you book an Air BnB? Can you offer to housesit for a friend?  Are your parents on vacation? Can you farm out your own family to other homes? 

I’m cheap so I didn’t want to actually spend money. I housesit while my parents snowbird, so their place was an option. Ultimately, this project would take my total attention, and I had my husband’s support, so if I needed to I could have booked 3 days at a local Air BnB. Luckily, the perfect vacation time from work for me coincided with Mohamed’s annual visit to Egypt. My child is currently playing the role of sullen graduate who locks himself in his room so Voila!  My home became the perfect oasis from it all. 

Step 2: Design your retreat schedule.

My detailed schedule included an introductory welcome from the director (me) and activities like: creative exercise, focus exercise, pool time, yoga, timed writing, project draft, guest speaker, nap. 

Step 3: Out of Office

Let employers, friends, family members and clients know you are going on a retreat.  Use the word ‘going’.  They would totally respect your time if you were booked at a conference and had paid for an expert staff and hotel. You are an expert on your creative needs and you have booked this time. You are not available.  Do not elaborate.  The moment you tell someone (as I screwed up and did) ‘it’s in my home, I’m leading it!”  They will see fit to break down your boundaries and invite themselves for coffee, for a pedicure, or ask you to rewrite their website ‘super quick’.  I set ‘out of office’ messages on ALL of my email accounts including the one for discount mailers from 

Step 4: Do it.  Do it!  

I’ll walk you through my schedule in upcoming posts so you can adapt the idea for yourself. Just know that this is important. This work is important. Your creative spirit is important. It’s worth taking the time to feed the creative stream. 


People are looking for you...


People are looking for you...

Every year Rodney Whitaker comes to Orlando to lead a jazz camp for students. I got to interview him and his colleague, Diego Rivera during that camp, right before they performed their 'Professors of Jazz' concert. When I saw Rodney and his other professors play together, I knew that jazz was what I love to do.  It's what I always want to be doing.  I'm not talking about the music, I'm talking about the exchange of ideas, the flow of energy.  They were playing songs that were known, recorded and written.  They were playing them in their own way, with their own unique contributions, making those offers right in the moment onstage, in front of an audience. To have that kind of flow within the prescribed music, they had to be in constant communication with each other -- looks, nods, feeling the groove, and sometimes talking to each other onstage, whispered picks ups or ideas, and always the encouragement of purely enjoying what the other was offering.  It was magic. It was inspiration. It was jazz. 

Here are some of the quotes from the conversation with Rodney that I go back to for inspiration. 

On your journey:  "I never made it back, but I made it back." In reference to leaving school and then becoming a professor.  

On finding inspiration: "Some people it’s Jesus. Some people It’s Jazz."

On stepping out: "People are looking for you. They are looking for you; they might not know it’s you specifically, but when they hear you or they see you, they know it’s you."

I hold that as my beacon when I get lost in the work or in the fear of producing the work -- people are looking for me, so get the work done and get it out there. You can take a listen to the whole conversation here.