Last week my family and I got away for a few days together. We scampered all around Northern California, experiencing new towns and possibly discovering every possible way to become carsick on winding back roads. However, it was refreshing to get some quality time together and a change of scenery. A bit of vacation also proved good for my writing.
One afternoon my family sat on the shores of a jade-green lake (interestingly named “Trinity Lake”) and sat in silence, each member absorbed in a different creative project. I took the time to soak in the silence, slowing down after nearly a month of nonstop work (and almost no time for my novel). I scribbled out a poem, a first response to the beautiful place and the quiet moment of being still and noticing. It felt like a drink of cold Gatorade after a hard run or hike.
One of our stops was at the charming Blackberry Inn in the coastal town of Mendocino. Caressed by the foggy, temperate marine layer, lush with dozens of varieties of colorful flowers, and deliciously out of range of cell phone service, it was the perfect place to stop and rest and write. Our adorable little room looked like a life-sized dollhouse, complete with a sunny window and a pair of wing-back chairs.
In my home office, the writing time I eke out is often interrupted by the phone ringing, the dryer beeping, new e-mails, the front door. In this quiet room in Mendocino, I was cut off from those interruptions. Sure, there were all my usual mental distractions (read a book! what do I need to do tomorrow? oh look, a seagull!), but in a one-room enclosure with almost no technology, I found it easier to center down and blurt out eleven pages of new novel material, written longhand in a pink journal. It helped to sit at this old-fashioned wooden desk under a painting of a thatch-roofed English cottage. I felt a bit like Jane Austen or one of the Bronte sisters.
What I realized most was that my normal life is full of multitasking. It’s a skill that makes getting multiple mindless things done at the same time possible, but it really kills deep, original thinking. Writing is one way we mortals imitate our Father God, who breathed a world into being ex nihilo, out of nothing. That takes focus. When my attention is on fifty different things, it’s hard to get below surface-level maintenance writing and think of anything new.
Creative thought, like a relationship with God, requires some periods of silence, solitude, and centering. (Hot tea, fuzzy socks, and a beautiful view don’t hurt either.) Sometimes it’s important to retreat from routine to create a nurturing environment where creativity can grow. For me, it was a time of peace and releasing the story within. It left me refreshed and a little readier to return to the daily world of multitasking.
Does the world of multitasking ever leave you in need of a retreat? Where do you go to refresh your creative side?