Thursday, November 19, 2009

Go On A Silence Retreat

I would use all of Oprah’s billions to purchase unlimited silence.  Silence and solitude are the playground for my creativity.  There can be no distraction.

Remember solitude  on a day long silence retreat.  Here’s the trick, it must be a full day. If you have a partner or children, send them away the night before, and don’t let them come back until the day after. (This makes Saturday the optimal day for silence retreats).

You want to wake up alone with yourself, with silence. 

The Rules

Do not communicate or interact with a human being. This includes:

  • In-Person Conversations
  • Phone Calls (Turn the Ringers Off)
  • Text Messages
  • Emails & Fax
  • Instant Messengers, Twitter
  • Blog Posts &  Comments

Next, do not communicate with media:

  • Television (DVD Player included)
  • Computer games
  • Internet
  • Music with words (Instrumentals, Classical, Jazz allowed)
  • Book (yes book lovers, books)


The Night Before

Write a list of specific actions you want to complete. It may seem like underachievement, but focus on one action for only one poem. For the following example, I’ll use a fictional poem called Tread in Silence.

  • Finish writing Tread in Silence
  • Revise Tread in Silence
  • Record  Tread in Silence
  • Add sounds to  Tread in Silence.
  • Memorize Tread in Silence.
  • Rehearse performing Tread in Silence.

While it may be tempting to create a marathon by writing X number of poems, creating a submission package or compiling a chapbook, small actions work well.  You may be surprised at how long it  takes you to revise a poem or how quickly you can memorize one. This time is about self-discovery. By this practice, you’re learning what you need to delve into your writing process.

The Day

Wake up in solitude, with yourself and silence.  Most books tell us to wake up and write.  I prefer to take a shower, put on clothes, pray and eat breakfast. This can take me up to two hours. It’s ok if I give myself that time because I know it’s me preparing for the work.  I take out my list and begin working on whatever task I prepared for myself.  I break for lunch. Then I come back to the words, exercise, then dinner.  After dinner,  create a quick to do list, giving yourself 3 items that you want to work on during your next writing time.  Again, make sure they are specific actions.

Phase in media by reading a book. Read it until you fall asleep .  Of course parents should always check in to see how their children are doing.  Feel free to talk with your partner  but don’t tell them  exactly what you were working on, keep it private.  Sometimes we need to keep our creative parts to ourselves. 

The Day After

Welcome your partner and family.  Go out to lunch with a friend.  Just reintegrate yourself back into the “noisy world.”

I’ve been taking silence retreats for 14 years.  Most times, they last for only a couple of hours.  Still, there are other times that last for days.  These are always my most productive writing periods.

If you have a little extra cash ($50), go to a local bed and breakfast or motel. You can usually find great deals on Tuesdays.  If you call ahead, you can even schedule a stay like an extended work day (checking in at 9 and leaving at 9).

Forgive Yourself

Even if you succumb to watching movies all day and don’t get any work done, you’ve still taken a mini vacation from communicating with others. Schedule another silent retreat for the following month.

If writers write, then poets poem. Use your solitude and silence to poem.

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