I read so much in the press about ‘the top 50 retreats’, ‘the best writing retreats worldwide’, we have become obssessed with the idea that in order to write we must retreat. Retreat from what exactly, and to what exactly is my question?
Retreating to The Hay Festival is the good kind of retreat to do in my view. It’s a chance to fill up the creative tank listening to my favourite authors, catch up with friends, and hear some publishing gossip, smell the whiff of new trends, and pick up ideas while slurping an ice-cream in the sun. Yum.
What if retreating to A N Other place isn’t an option? What if in these recessionary times, you decided to stay at home and create your own retreat indoors, or outdoors – even better?
One of the best retreats I went on cost me nothing in airfares or train costs, my accommodation was fully paid for, and my only cost was stocking my larder with tempting and decadent foods.
Here are my top tips for creating your own writing retreat:
Clear the shed or spare room, and lay a luxurious rug on the floor.
Stockpile it with really comfy cushions to sit on
Create retreat sounds on your iPod playlist
Collect a chocolate stash and other candy treats
Stock your fridge with voluptuous Sophie Dahl type foods to snack on
Switch the phones off and tell your family you are ‘on retreat’
Intersperse writing with a long soak in the bath while reading your favourite novel.
We don’t need fancy and expensive places to retreat to in order to write, nor do we need to get away from ourselves. Virginia Woolf was right, a woman needs a room of her own to write in, so your retreat can be anywhere that you are set up to write from, and the essential quality is a desire to retreat within, not without.
Writer and activist Dambisa Moyo appears on Norway’s Grosvold show and discusses Dead Aid with host Anne Grosvold and politician Raymond Johansen (April 18th 2009).
When I lived in South Africa in the ’70s, my family employed an African maid. Her name was Anna. She lived with us for 12 years, and during that time she became fluent in English – in addition to the other 4 languages that she spoke fluently. She was part of our family, although we sadly, were not part of hers, because domestic workers could not have their families living with them, so the apartheid regime separated families as much as it separated minds and hearts.
What I learned from Anna is that she needed support, encouragement and the opportunity to educate herself and her children to better themselves, and not for aid to do it for them. No hand outs, because they breed dependency. Anna became independent, and she wanted her children to have the choice about where they worked, and to be self-supporting.
Thank God writers like Dambisa Moyo are raising their voices against the celebrity-driven aid culture we have, and speaking out for aid to be in a form that nurtures local businesses, restores human dignity and builds self-esteem as well as houses and water holes.
Journalist William Wallis has written about the increasing opposition to Dambisa Moyo in today’s Financial Times.
I’m not saying this is an easy problem to solve, but I am saying economic aid in the form that we have it, isn’t serving the African people, and we need to lend our voices to the campaign Dambisa has started.
When I began my first career in publishing in the 1980s, I travelled twice a year to New York City to scout for new writing talent. I’d read a manuscript on the plane, and one on the way back. I savoured all the first and second hand bookstores I browsed for hours in, scanning the shelves for what was hot, asking myself who the new voices were. The rest of the year I spent travelling around Europe, to conferences, journal board meetings to meet new writers. The point is I earned a lot of air miles and a passion for Dorothy Parker’s hangout, The Algonquin. Always stayed there. Now it’s all new and hip, but in the early ’90s, the doormen were celebrating 40 years of service, the marmalade cat greeted you in the lobby from her cushioned chair. You sat in the lobby reading and drinking your white wine to read and not just be seen! It was a riot. And as much as I loved it, it was exhausting. Now the publishing world has changed so radically I don’t recognise it, and the recession means travel budgets have been slashed, and everyone is flayling around wondering where the next deal is coming from.
It’s closer than you think.
In fact, having a home-based business is the best way to beat this lousy recession. Why? Because with a little ingenuity and skill, you can create a niche for yourself online that will complement anything you are doing offline. You can have your cake and eat it. Who needs long-haul travel when you can do business from the comfort of your super-comfy armchair? And, you can order your books online and get them delivered the next day or, same day if you are lucky enough to live in Manhattan.
I hunted around for a business that would teach me how to leverage my business online, and I found it in WEST. Bob Yeager, the founder of this programme is not for the feint hearted, but his approach gets results.
Do I miss the travel? No because I have the comfort and luxury of being able to make my art when I want to, how I want to, and enjoy the dialogue I am creating with my subscribers all over the world. I do miss the airmiles though!
What are you sacrificing to create your art?
Be sure to leave a comment and tell me. You know I read them!
I am celebrating tonight and honouring my mentor and friend Bob Yeager. Bob is a person who truly deserves (but doesn’t seek) the title ‘internet guru’. He has taught me a crucial lesson about internet marketing through his WEST programme: it works most successfully when it is combined with authenticity.
As artists we express our authenticity through story, in paint, in words, in music, whatever our medium is. Then when we combine that voice with all the technical knowledge, bingo, we start to manifest real wealth.
Having learned the hard lesson of ‘finding my voice’, I recognise this teaching as absolutely ‘on the money’. This applies to whatever business you have and whatever artistic medium you are in.
When we say ‘show me the money’, we don’t always want to be taught the back office lessons of personal development, but I have discovered these are equally important to receive the money!
Don’t just take my word for it, listen to the testimonials of Bob’s other students in WEST that were recorded for this online party taking place tonight.
I wish you could listen in and join us, and maybe you will another time.
How did you discover your voice?
As always, leave me your comments – I enjoy reading these stories.
Before you make money online (or offline), you have to have something to say. To find your story, and tell that in words or pictures. As a writer and artist I switch between words and images. Today is a day for words. I’m away from my London studio, and have not travelled with any paint, so I’m left with my journal and pen, and my blog, of course!
Several years ago I completed Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way At Work, the famous 12 week course in creating a map of creativity. What I learnt about my own map is that I need to make time for my words to express themselves on the page, as much as I need to make time to find meaning in the paint. When words tie me up in knots, the paint releases the tension. For years I wrote Morning Pages, 3 pages of A4 every day come what may, and it was good, but I reached a stage where those 3 pages weren’t enough, and in a way they became a substitute for my real writing. I still keep a journal, but like any performer, I’m now looking for means of bigger exposure.
I began creating small paintings of ‘emotional moments’ a few years ago on Indian Khadi paper. This roughly textured paper absorbs paint and water like a sponge, making it easy to make small paintings quickly. I treated these like I would a diary entry in my journal, and sometimes created a whole series in one evening. They were incredibly therapeutic to make because after short bursts of energy I would end up with half a dozen takes on a feeling or an image I had in my mind. Creating these images was and is still like a meditation for me, and painting in this way allows me to produce work easily without over-analyzing and obssessing about ‘what the market wants.’ This keeps my creative fire stoked, and can often lead to ideas for other images. This was before I’d even heard of Duane Keiser’s method of a painting a day.
The New York Times published an article on May 10 about how during good times, an art auction is the obvious choice for a collector wanting to sell a work of art. And now that the recession is deepening, many art collectors are ‘retreating’ into selling their art privately, for less money. Well boohoo I say.
“The game has definitely shifted,” said Christopher Eykyn, a former head of Impressionist and modern art at Christie’s who is now a dealer in New York.
I should hope so.
What has also shifted is the balance of power between artist and dealer with the publication of 51.9 million blogs (according to Technorati). Artist/bloggers such as Duane Keiserare democratizing the art world, using the Internet to change the making and selling of art, and therefore taking back their power. Dealers and galleries, who have historically commanded a whacking 50% commissions, no longer have exclusive control in defining who is hot or successful. Now artists can sell directly to the public, using blogs or auction sites at prices more affordable to would-be collectors. They can even create a new customer base using this media.
Here is an interview with Ross Bleckner, the New York-based artist, centering on his artistic practice and appointment as the United Nation’s first visual artist as goodwill ambassador to Uganda.
What’s interesting, refreshing and inspiring to me about this appointment is how a big name artist is using art therapy techniques to help these children express their physical and emotional trauma. He calls it, ‘using imagery as a rehabilitative tool.’
Isn’t this what all artists do? I know I do.
Stripping it back so that ‘a lot of what they want to be is expressed in their work.’
How do you use imagery in your art? What does it represent for you?
Be sure to leave me a comment and tell me.
This was originally intended to be my painting blog, but now it's also about writing, what we ache for, and everything else important.
"Your paintings are like auragraphs. You pick up the information from the person and express it through art. However, they are on an altogether deeper level - not dealing with the outer projection of ourselves, not even with the spirit, but on a soul level. They are soul reflections".
Mary Clair Kelly, Cruse Counsellor