Imagine it: You're sitting by the ocean. Blue water is roaring and crashing on light brown sand. A steaming ceramic mug sits on a wood slat table at your elbow and a journal lies on your lap. No one's calling you to breakfast. There are no plans for fishing off the pier or dance lessons in the afternoon. The only thing scheduled is time to write about something you've always wanted to explore in your journal.
Maybe you want to make sense of all the dream meanings you've jotted down in the early mornings of the past year. Or maybe you've decided it's time to work through a major life issue you've been skirting around. Perhaps you've just resolved to get happy, and now is your time to define the steps you'll take to do it.
What is a Journal-Writing Retreat?
A journal-writing retreat can be different things to different people. The unifying characteristic is that you spend time exploring on paper thoughts and issues important to you. Have you always wanted to create a narrated scrapbook of your wedding? Do it on a journal-writing retreat. Do you want to undergo a personal financial revolution? Pack your books, check stubs and calculator — it's time to get those numbers all straightened out in a money journal and plan some realistic goals.
What you want to get out of your retreat will determine the type of retreat you should take. Jennifer Louden, author of The Woman's Retreat Book (Harper Collins, 1997), recommends writing a journal entry answering an important question: What is my intention in wanting to take a journal-writing retreat?
"It's important not to say, 'I'm going on this retreat to get something accomplished,' " says Louden. "You don't want it to be about a goal, but you do want to identify your intention."
What's the difference? Identifying your intention is a softer, gentler purpose. It doesn't set you up for a difficult emotional task, so you won't face the intimidating possibility of failure. Louden suggests you ask yourself questions like, "When I think about a writing retreat, how do I feel?" and "What do I most yearn to get from a journaling retreat?"
Once you write on these prompts for about 10 minutes, your reason for taking a retreat should be more apparent, and you can determine the type of retreat that's right for you.
This article appeared in the June 2001 issue of Personal Journaling.