Early Harvest Brings Creative Freedom

I’m writing in the living room at the Mable Dodge Luhan house in the midst of leading my annual writing retreat.



I can still taste the gluten-free coconut strawberry cupcake from dinner.

I can hear the applause from the reading circle happening nearby.

I can sense hearts stretching as each woman steps ever deeper into her writing. Flares of courage everywhere!

Every year I want to capture some of the wisdom that flies through our time together – and every year I fail.

But not this year! Michele Lisenbury Christensen – my co-teacher of Teach Now and my “yoga babe” at the retreat this year – suggested we have an “early harvest” of retreat wisdom. The women called out their learnings and blessings, and Michele wrote them down.

My wish is the beauty of our retreat feed you. Take what serves:

:: Build a lexicon for a project, for your writing. A book of words and phrases to help you know your world.

:: Conditions of Enoughness!

:: Finish it. Then deepen and thicken. Then edit.

:: Ask my body what it wants.

:: Chocolate (especially the raw magic Cassandra made for us.)

:: Look for structures to use.

:: Keep an eye on the saboteur.

:: Take care of your heart before orienting toward the market.

:: Discern between personal vs. private writing.

:: You are not alone. Ever.

:: Dedicate the writing time and then show up.

:: Use technology to create safety and structure: Antisocial, Evernote, Springpad, Pomodoro.

:: Nekkidness is goodness.

:: Offer yourself compassion in the gap between what you want to say and what comes out.

:: Create containers – use timers, writing buddies, cafe visits, conditions of enoughness.

:: Know your time monsters and shadow comforts. Have antidotes at hand.

:: Name the heart of your piece in one sentence or phrase or question to answer.

:: Trust yourself.

:: Trust the process.

:: Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and breath.

:: Dance in the morning, yoga in the afternoon, and chocolate in between.

:: A schedule supports writing.

:: Prescribed devoted silence.

:: Collage process! Visual supports literary. Dialogue with the mystery.

:: Most writing requires a lot of editing. Remember everyone starts with a shitty first draft.

:: Collective focus lends support.

:: If you fall,  you will be caught. And doctored.

:: The critic has insights. Golden knowledge.

:: Use your writing practice and exercises toward your project. Get skin in the game and the joy of working for the project.

:: Consider giving up morning pages. They may be diluting your writing juice. Evening pages?

:: What’s learning you?

:: Witnessing and honoring women’s processes illuminates my own.

:: These tools will be good in 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years, 50 years. They adapt to where you are.

:: There is beauty in the world. So much beauty.

:: There is before Taos. There is after. A bright line of demarcation.


May your own creative freedom expand to serve the world. Enjoy! And if you have a creative harvest to share, please do.

P.S. Monday is the last day to get the early bird price for Walking into Fire, the writing retreat in September with Patti Digh, Susan Piver, and me. If you like this list, I’ll be teaching on it for my portion. Love to have you.


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Linda Williams - July 31, 2011

I have warm, fond memories of being at Mable Dodge Luhan house with you and all the spirits that dwell there.  What a wonderful place and what a great retreat.  Enjoy and count me envious!

How Matters - July 31, 2011

LOVE this list! I had the pleasure of meeting with Marianne, fresh from the retreat, last night in Santa Fe. Thanks to you both for sharing the joy and inspiration!

jenniferlouden - July 31, 2011

It certainly is!

Bahieh - August 1, 2011

lovely. looks like such a special event 🙂

Christa Gallopoulos - August 1, 2011

I will forever be grateful for all I learned on this retreat – and this list, as wonderful as it is, doesn’t begin to encompass all the wisdom that was shared in Taos.

I agree with Marianne.  It seems to be all about the showing  up, the allowing, and the ability to be okay with whatever happens.

Thanks, Jen, for this lovely reminder.  Printing, posting on the wall, remembering…

Isabel Parlett - August 2, 2011

Lovely, lovely creative time.

So sweet to open back to the work I really want to reach for.

Deep Retreat at Taos — Gaian Soul - August 2, 2011

[…] it — shaped and tended skillfully by Jen and Michele. A little ritual for beginnings and endings. The teaching and the receiving. Small groups to check in with, every day. Assignments, required and optional. Times of silence […]

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