(Re)Treat Yourself

I’ve been going camping since I was two years old. Family vacations were spent in tents in national forests and state parks. Twice, my parents and I camped our way down through Mexico (and back, luckily). My honeymoon was a three-week camping trip, and every vacation my husband and I took was spent camping in forests or at lakes from California to Massachusetts, Montana to Texas.

A few years ago, shortly before my husband passed away, I met Sara L. Hudson at a local RWA chapter meeting. I hadn’t been writing much during Bob’s five-year battle with cancer, but I made it to meetings whenever possible. About six months after Bob’s funeral I finally started to get that creative itch to write again. Sara convinced me to try critiquing together, and we became immediate ride-or-dies. But one day she read my website bio and said, “You need to take out that line about camping and fishing, because that’s just not you.” I was  devastated, because camping has always been in my blood. It’s who I am. It’s what I do.

Then I realized that she didn’t know about that part of my life, because since Bob had died I hadn’t had the opportunity, or the desire, to do some of my favorite activities. Sara hated that I’d lost touch with such an essential part of myself, so she gave me a combination birthday/Christmas gift (sometimes it pays to be born in December) of a long weekend at a lake. She drew the line at actual camping, but she’d found us a tiny house right on the water.

Best. Present. Ever.

We recently returned from our weekend at Cedar Creek Reservoir in north Texas, and it was amazing. I relaxed. I recharged my battery. I read. And I wrote. We both did. We’d decided beforehand to make it a combination R&R weekend and mini writing retreat. We packed all the essentials (basically a delicatessen and a liquor store), brought our laptops, and let the good times roll.

There were no distractions. No errands to run or chores to do. Our time was our own and we were determined to make the most of it, whether swinging in a hammock, watching the lake lap at the shore, or getting words on paper. Bouncing ideas off each other, getting instant feedback and critiques, and having dedicated times that were committed to writing helped get shit done.

There have been a lot of studies on how to increase creativity, and we managed to hit several of the suggestions. Brainstorming. Being in a natural setting. Being happy and rested. It worked so well, we’re going to do it again.

What began as a gift to get me back in touch with my true essence has became the start of a new tradition for us. Instead of giving each other birthday and Christmas gifts, we’re going on annual writing retreats. We’ll create and replenish our wells at the same time. And who knows, one day I may even convince Sara to try camping.

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