Haven Winter Series #5

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.57.34 PMEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Today’s writers are Renee Bauer Soffer and Sally Stevens

I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, So Now What?
by Renee Bauer Soffer

I knew that one consistent message has been repeated to me time again, “You should be a writer.”  Friends, family and newly met acquaintances have all said, at one time or another, “You’re so clever, so funny, so smart – you should write a book.”  “You’ve lived an interesting life, a challenging life, a complicated life – you should write a book.”  I am wise, I am hardened, I am compassionate, I am a survivor – I should write a book.

Despite all these messages of encouragement, I have successfully managed to dodge the thrilling temptation to write that book, or to write anything else, for that matter. I have stored that urge in a box and labeled it with a big tag that said, “Maybe Someday.”  I never completely ruled out being a writer, I just had a healthy fear of being judged and seen as inadequate. I knew that I could string together sentences as well as the next literate gal, but I didn’t think writing deserved the time.  I was too busy doing more conventional tasks in order to make a buck, or spend my time.

Everyone has a story to tell and my ego is just unchecked enough to think my story was perhaps compelling enough to capture people’s interest. Despite this, I was pretty sure that my writing talents were along the lines of those poor, unfortunate bastards who think they can sing, but really they can’t carry a tune with a jumbo trash bag.  Their friends and family smile and encourage them to yowl because it is easier than telling them the hard, ugly truth and risk hurting feelings.  These gutless enablers will let ‘em sing their little hearts out in the living room, but then go into the kitchen and mock them.  They even allow the hapless wanna-be’s to go on national TV singing shows to embarrass themselves beyond repair.  This is what I assumed would be my fate if I ever put words on paper and let others read what I wrote.

I know that the truth of the matter is that writing is a personal exercise in allowing your deepest thoughts and emotions to live outside of your head in the harsh environment of judgment.  Let’s face it, most of the time when you are being judged, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be praised.  You hope for fairness, but often get harshness, from the jury.  I found avoidance a more appealing option than risk.

But, I also knew that I wasn’t doing what I love to do and the last time I checked, I wasn’t aging in reverse. My amusing turns of a phrase can’t write themselves.  So, with the help of a dear friend who knew the magic in Montana would save me, I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat.

So now what?

Now I have to embrace the power of my newfound confidence in myself as a person and as a writer.  I have been given the challenge to live differently; otherwise I am wasting my time and talent.  I need to write, it is a way to record my emotions and experiences.  I learned from Laura Munson and the other beautiful souls who shared the Haven experience with me to no longer be afraid of the consequences of writing.  I am now afraid to NOT write!  I cannot risk losing my voice.

Now I have to make changes in my day-to-day life.  The first order of business is to create space for writing.  This is both a physical and mental task.  I need to create a place where I can feel safe and comfortable in order to let my true words flow.  I also need to embrace the critical importance of committing to specific times for writing.  Putting a pen in my hand, or a keyboard under my fingers, is now a priority.  No longer is the practice of writing trivial, now it is vital to me.

Now I have spent time with Laura Munson, an amazing teacher, a brave word slinger who has the experience to offer profound guidance about the art and craft of writing.  I have witnessed the generosity of her talented spirit and that will inspire me for the rest of my life.

Now I have friends, some so close I call them “sisters”, who will encourage and support me as a writer.  They live all around the world, but the closeness will never be doubted.  We have recognized and acknowledged the talent and passion in each other and through this I have a sense of connectivity to my Haven group that I describe as magical.

Now I know the importance of eating healthy, fresh food.  I was stunned at how better my mind and body felt after just a few days of having meals lovingly prepared with many ingredients that were in the ground a few hours prior to eating.

Now I understand the healing power of meditative breathing.  I have a new tool to use anytime I need to refocus, relax or repair myself.

Now I draw from the wisdom of horses.  I have been touched by the silent voices of a beautiful herd and a particular bay mare that knew more about me than I knew myself.

Now I know more about who I am.  Recently, someone asked me what I do (as in how I spend my time) and I answered for the first time ever that I am a writer.  I hesitated a fraction of a second before I said it.  It felt like confessing a secret out loud.  But, after I heard myself say the words, I stood up straighter and smiled a smug little half smile of pride.

So I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat and now my life has been changed – for better, for good.  I have been changed into a writer.

“I GAVE MYSELF THE GIFT OF A HAVEN WRITING RETREAT. SO NOW, WHAT?”
By Sally Stevens

Okay, so I spent four days in the most magical setting imaginable, surrounded by creative writers of all levels, each one from whom I took home a valuable lesson.  Okay, so I totally changed my food consumption standards, when exposed to organically grown fresh vegetables, prepared by a gifted young woman chef for us each day and shared over a family–style dining table, with the added spices of great conversation.  Okay, so I had a brilliant teacher, Laura Munson, who had written a book I knew was amazing but hadn’t had a chance to read, prior to the retreat.  Okay, so there was this beautiful lake nearby, and woods to hike through under the gentle, wise guidance of David, and a yoga studio where I enjoyed the safety of sharing from a place deep inside me, and okay, yeah, there were horses I got to communicate with in a way I’d only read about in fairy-tales…so, what’s the bottom line?

Well, here’s a bit of it.  I came home, thanks to this brilliant writer who taught us with such generosity of spirit, with basically an outline for an autobiography that had been challenging me for years…how to frame a fifty-year journey through the music business, and have it be much more than just a “then I did this, and then I met so-and-so, and then I went…” .  It had to have a theme, a message.  I had to turn a corner and understand something about myself that was worth sharing.  After forty years or so of therapy, you’d think I would have done that by now, but no, it took four days in the woods of Montana with a wise, generous, creative young woman to bring it all into focus.  And it helped to be surrounded by other writers, people I didn’t know, had no history with, who enthusiastically and supportively said, “Yes, you have interesting stories to tell!  You should do this!”

SO, now what, you ask?  Yes, I had to ask myself that same question.  So now we leave the magical woods and the uninterrupted focus on writing and creativity, and we return to our daily lives, to the pressures and deadlines and annoying sounds and distracting television programs, and all the reasons we use to procrastinate, to delay putting the metaphorical pen to paper.

Well, not this time.  Despite family drama, despite the amazing and gratefully received work calls that continue to knock on the door of this septuagenerian, and despite the other distractions of daily life, I managed to sit down and start.  Ten pages in the first stretch at the keyboard, five pages at the next, and so on…and not necessarily in chronological order.  I learned I didn’t have to do that.  I could dive in any place, I could share the moment, the event, the insight, that floated to the surface in that hour, on that day, and know that I could weave them into some kind of a shape, eventually. I did not have to treat them as a final draft, I did not have to come up with the final order of things.  I just have to get them on the page.  The progress has been slower than I would like, because it’s impossible to change all those bad habits over night.  BUT it’s been faster, and more productive than I would have ever dreamed.  I came home knowing … KNOWING…that it was possible.  That I could do this, and that I actually might have something of interest to share with readers. So, thank you Laura Munson, for creating this beautiful, safe place where we can go to learn, to grow, to commit to our most creative selves…and thank you, ME…for allowing myself the gift of this experience!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Blog Series-- Now What?, My Posts

One Response to Haven Winter Series #5

  1. Jan Myhre

    Sally, I’ve just read your “so now what” piece and saw myself in every paragraph. Thank you for sharing your experience with such vivid detail. I find myself encouraged to return to the keyboard and finish what I started. My first draft is nearly done, I’m stuck on the ending, I’m not writing. But, when you described your process (doesn’t have to be perfect, chronological, etc.) all sorts of wisdom words from Laura came back to me. I also remembered I had found my voice while in Montana. It’s time.
    Jan Myhre, Haven Alum 2012 & 2014

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