How Retreats Improve Creativity and Banish Writer’s Block



If you feel like you’re a phone with no bars and three percent battery (and no charger in sight), then the most efficient way for you to boost your creativity, banish writer’s block, and find that elusive creative flow is to go on retreat. Let me be clear: a real retreat–the kind that transforms you and creates lasting change in your life–is not a vacation. To some, it might appear to be one: beautiful place, delicious food, lots of time to wander and wonder. But the major difference between a vacation and a retreat is that in a vacation, you check out, but on a retreat you check in–waaaaay in. You go deep. You go to the hard places. You give yourself the chance to look at what’s holding you back and  what’s clogging up your creative pores, both in reflective moments on your own and in meaningful conversation with others on your same path.


It’s silly, isn’t it, how we have to get away in order to get closer to ourselves? 


I recently returned from a week-long silent meditation retreat up in the glorious Colorado mountains at Shambhala Mountain Center and, you know, it really is true: you’ve got to go the top of the mountain. That’s where the universe keeps all the goods. I had two huge, life-changing realizations while I was there, and I had them because I gave myself space and time. Away from the stresses of my daily life, I allowed myself to just be. To dive in. This is what mindfulness is all about. When you give yourself permission to do that, you almost immediately become more expansive, which is the equivalent of taking your creativity to the chiropractor: you can almost hear yourself get back into alignment. (It sounds like soft rain, if you were wondering.)


I spent hours meditating or walking around beautiful mountain trails. I sat and listened to the wind blow through the trees instead of binge watching Covert Affairs. I savored my meals instead of rushing through them to check my email. For the most part, I didn’t check my email or my phone or my social media. I didn’t fill up the space with words (silent meditation retreat, remember?), and so I had the chance to hear how much the silence had to say to me. When there were moments to interact mindfully with others, these connections were beautiful and profound because I knew these people were there to do the same inner work I was doing. Kinship is the word that comes to mind.




Vipassana Insight Meditation retreats are not for the faint of heart, but the challenges they have are part of what allow some truly world-tilting truths to show up. You don’t have to be hardcore like me. Simply getting away and being part of an organized retreat around writing and/or meditation will do you fine. Having structure and guidance is key–this takes the pressure off of you and allows those creative blocks to get taken care of by your subconscious. It’s kind of nice to have someone to tell you when you’re going to eat and sleep and write and such. What a relief! I was so honored to have David Chernikoff leading this retreat–check out his incredibly wise, humorous, big-hearted dharma talks if you need to remember what the point of anything is. He’s the real deal.


If this is something you feel you need, then I hope you’ll join me this autumn for my writing and meditation retreat at the Highlights retreat center in PA. It’s a gorgeous setting with some of the best food you’ll ever eat, and some of the best writing friends you’ll ever make. And, don’t worry, it’s not a silent retreat. Ha! That would be impossible for a group of writers, I think. (Though maybe I’m not giving us enough credit). We had a blast last year, with lots of great discussion about writing and process, as well as some meditation, free writing time, and late night fun. This year, our theme is on revision–both for our work and ourselves. Autumn is a great time to explore where you’re at in your life, what needs shifting, and where you’d like to go in the year ahead. This is the kind of deep work you need a retreat for–it’s not the kind of introspection you can do on the fly, in between laundry and errands.





Retreats, man: they do it for me every time. Whenever I get back from a retreat, I’m bursting with creativity. I’ve got a million new ideas, stories are unraveling inside me, and I’m eager to get back to work. I’m refreshed and energized, and I have the clarity I need to take what I’ve learned on the retreat and actually apply it in my life. Speaking of clarity: if you’re in a place where you need more of that, make sure you sign up for my newsletter so that you can receive a sneak-peek download of my upcoming Expressive Journaling Workbook. It’s got some really good thought-provoking questions on there and a method for journaling you probably haven’t tried before that I’ve been using recently. I’ve been getting loads of clarity around questions I’ve had and life changes I need to make through asking myself these same questions. Perhaps the first question you need to ask yourself might be this: Is the Pneuma Autumn Retreat the place I need to be in October? 🙂




Some retreat testimonies to entice you:


Jessica Conoley

The Pneuma retreat is the best thing I have done for myself in years. Heather did a great job of making everyone feel comfortable and setting a tone of community and learning throughout the retreat. I met a fantastic group of writers who are supportive, smart, and dedicated to their craft. I really enjoyed the meditation aspect, which surprised me because it was something I had never done before–and was actually a little skeptical about. After our first meditation workshop I saw the connection to writing and have incorporated daily meditation into my writing time. Thank you so much!

Connect with Jessica on her author website


Margaret Torres

I left the Pneuma Retreat feeling so inspired and creatively energized! It was amazing to spend four days with an intimate group of women, all of whom are on this same journey as me. We talked craft, marketing, industry trends, challenges, and how to stay healthy and grounded with things like meditation. My favorite parts were the evenings, when we drank wine, played games, and talked. I left the retreat with a better understanding of my current WIP, the courage to start exploring book marketing, and a lovely group of friends. I’ll definitely be staying in contact with these ladies and I WILL go to another Pneuma retreat.

Connect with Margaret on her author website


Ready to do this thing? Then sign up! Early birds get $100 off until July 1st and sign-ups close entirely on August 1st. There are only 16 spots, so hustle your bustle (mindfully, of course). 🙂

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As usual, you can sign up for my newsletter to get your free download of my Mindful Social Media for Writers worksheet (life changing!) and a sneak peek of my Expressive Journaling Workbook. You’ll also be in for exclusive posts on the writing life, meditation and mindfulness for creatives, and more. If you’re a lady writer, please join us on the Pneuma Facebook Group for daily inspiration, motivation, and community. If you’re interested in working with me as a writing coach, don’t be shy: email me and I’ll get back to you ASAP. You can also check out the Pneuma Creative site for coaching, editorial, and course info. Happy writing!

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