The Retreat, Somerset: Getting over a Creative Block

Have you ever had writer’s block or creative block or just had a period of time where you feel like you are coasting?

I have.

Forgive me, this is rare for me, a blog about blogging, but sometimes I think it’s interesting to go behind the scenes a little more.

I went to a blog retreat ‘The Retreat‘ recently, and the effects have been quite magical. I think we all need time out and space to reflect on our passions, our skills and our creativity. To nurture our creativity.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

I’ve been ‘retreating’ now for a while, moving to the country, slowly letting some of my blog life be taken over by refurbishing our barn and static caravan for Airbnb and writing a book about happiness with Becky from A Beautiful Space and really reflecting as we did, on everything the research taught us about what truly makes people happy.

I haven’t really gone into it here, probably I should have done, but I had felt a bit creatively stuck for a while. Before we moved, I’d felt very stuck. Moving helped loads, but I knew it couldn’t fix everything, and it takes a lot of time and energy to adjust and adapt to a new life.

I’ve slowed down on social media, I don’t feel the same pull towards it. Perhaps I was a little bit addicted? I think we all are if we dig deep and admit it.

We’ve slowed down our travel too, we travel less, but I think we appreciate it more. I’ve never felt so ‘at home’ in my adult life since we moved. I suspect perhaps some of our travelling was me running away, escaping. That’s important too, but now I feel much more conscious of why we are travelling and how it fits into and around the rest of our lives.

Moving house was everything I needed but it can also bring a lot of things to a head. For me there were lots of small things I needed to leave behind, grieve for, forgive and forget.  I feel like I’ve done that.

I think I have had a blogging seven, or eight or is it nine year itch? For the last year or so I have really ummed and ahhhhed about it. Struggled to be as buzzy, happy and excited about it as I used to be.

I think along the line I may have blog burned out a little, but out of those ashes I can feel a new passion and love for my online life starting to smoulder.

I’ve learnt to practice what I preach, comparison IS the thief of joy and I’ve learnt my lesson – to be happier I need to do more of what makes me happy and less of what everyone else is doing.

And its funny, since I stepped back a little from blogging I’ve actually wanted to do MORE.

I’ve felt MORE connected to the people I do interact with on social media.

I’ve been offered MORE in terms of collaborating with the kind of projects that make me really smile.

The Retreat was the perfect space for me to reflect and sieve through all this. So many magic moments and so much space to focus on what I really want.

I wanted a space to be creative and find my mojo again, not to come away with a load of notes on social media platforms.

Content is king, or queen, I’ve always felt and found it is the stuff that comes from the heart that truly makes exciting things happen online.

So I packed my new Mia Tui bag (more on that shortly) and headed off to sunny Somerset. Mr A had bought me this book too, which is meant to be incredible for frustrated creative types. My room was beautiful, with stunning views.

I loved..

Yoga

Yoga with Rachel, who was just brilliant and a real encourager with glittery shades, funky yoga pants and a gloriously cheeky sense of humour which made us all relax and take ourselves less seriously.

I’ve been doing more yoga at home and its is teaching me that it can help me make mental space, direct my energies, help me find what it is I truly want. Yoga is a really spiritual thing for me and Rachel was my kind of teacher.

I loved Rachel’s opening ceremony which really put us in the right space for the weekend – instead of panicking about which sessions I was doing and who I was chatting to, I focussed on relaxing into the weekend, to opening my mind to having fun with film and photography and to discovering a new blogging focus for myself.

Rachel’s parting gift to us from The Radiance Sutras.

 

Photography

I joined Tom Arber for some golden hour, night sky and dawn photography. I rarely get my camera off auto, but I have been doing lots more playing since these sessions. I found myself absolutely one hundred percent in the flow trying to photograph the stars. I was giggling and smiling so much. Not many actual stars here on reflection, but oh I was having fun playing and learning!

Filmmaking

I had so many little lightbulb moments in the film sessions. Alister from Somerset Film had so much fun kit and a fab attitude to filmmaking while travelling. I have been dithering about which kit to get for about a year now, but playing with kit in the session really helped me sort all that out. I’ve bought a gimbal for my phone and as I played with a little skateboard slider for the go pro I really thought about how to put the fun firmly back into filmmaking for me, and the family.

I’ve since helped my kids set up a You Tube channel and make films, I taught Media and Film Studies for years but had reached a point where all I wanted was to keep my kids away from all social media as I’d started to get bogged down myself in how miserable it can make people and how shallow it can be.

Scrap that!

The fun has returned.

Being able to voice the things that are holding me back with filmmaking in Dan’s Video Clinic and Aspire’s Confidence on Camera sessions felt like the creative’s equivalent of drain unblocker. Hearing that professionals have the same hang ups and frustrations really helped, as do my peers.

More time to play is the answer, setting up some shortcuts and systems for film footage and blocking out a weekly slot to make film. And recognising that teaching drama has given me bags of confidence, but presenting to camera is a slightly different skill was another lightbulb!

Just being able to talk about your creative blocks and frustrations and being listened to, is often as effective, if not more effective than being given a solution.

I had a play with making recipe videos too, although recreating that at home that might have to wait until I have more time on my hands and filming outside is definitely my natural preference. But I just loved getting creative and having fun.

Outdoor Adventures

Plus I went kayaking and paddle boarding with Exmoor Adventures, sometimes facing a fear is another way to unblock your brain. I’ve done it before, in sunny Rhodes and I loved it but fell in a couple of times. I fell in here too, as we hit the waves in Porlock Weir, but I didn’t care, it reminded me failing, or falling is a hugely important part of mastering new things. Although I taught film for years I always had a technician on hand, I need to stop into a more challenging zone and recognise you can’t stay in your safe zone all the time!

I also paddled elegantly round the harbour like a swan.

The organisers made this video evidence:

Oh and I swam in the pool in my vest and pants, because I forgot my cossie and it was too lovely to miss out on swimming outdoors. Again, an important lesson in seizing the day!

Positivity

The final session made me smile, we all came away with so many lovely words to describe each other from our peers. Blogging can be a solitary, comparative and sometimes even competitive pursuit, so it was lovely to be reminded what the wonderful people I call my blogging buddies think of me and I cherished writing theirs too.

Have you ever retreated? Unlocked a creative block? Would love to hear about it!

Photo credits: Me, Tots 100Vic Welton, Kitchen Talk and Travels,

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9 Comments

  1. 08/05/2018 / 3:24 pm

    So lovely to spend time with you as my room mate, and really happy to hear it put you back in the blogging mojo 🙂

    • Penny Alexander
      08/05/2018 / 4:20 pm

      Oh my goodness, and you Helen! I didn’t dare mention all the bloggers who inspired me here as I’d leave someone out, but our chats were so helpful and you’re a fab roomie!

  2. 08/05/2018 / 3:49 pm

    I’ve come away feeling exactly the same. I haven’t been blogging for as long but I’ve found the same recently. Everything is a competition, everything is a show. Except it isn’t – it only is if you let it. And I’m just not anymore. I’ve come away feeling inspired and reconnected with why I started blogging in the first place.
    It’s funny, because I’d have loved to have chatted with you more. But being more ahead in the world of blogging I always feel a bit in awe and a bit shy. But reading this just shows how we all have our wobbles and blocks and we are just all trying our best. Glad you’ve found the fun in it all again Penny. xx

    • Penny Alexander
      08/05/2018 / 5:29 pm

      I’d love to have chatted more with you Katy, I came away feeling I really hadn’t branched out enough! I feel like blog land has changed so much I’m the one in awe. I’m so glad it worked for you too, there was a lovely sense of everyone going on their own creative journeys over the weekend, but supporting and cheering each other on. And a lovely openness to sharing vulnerabilities and blocks. Next time! xx

  3. 08/05/2018 / 4:53 pm

    It really was a great weekend and I agree, so good to just focus on being who you are and how that can translate to your blog rather than being weighed down with top tips and social media shortcuts. I’ve also been getting my camera off auto and am off to investigate the gimbal as I missed that session! Clare x

    • Penny Alexander
      08/05/2018 / 5:33 pm

      Yes that’s exactly it! Being YOU! Thanks Clare, that’s nailed it. Wish we’d chatted more too. I went for this gimbal – its the one he suggested https://amzn.to/2KN0aHI (affiliate link – every little helps ha ha!) x

  4. 08/05/2018 / 6:31 pm

    Oh I LOVE your post, it’s so lovely to hear how much you loved it – and I did too! Will look forward to even more wonderful things coming from you soon! x

  5. 08/05/2018 / 11:27 pm

    Ah Penny, I know you’ve had some ambivalence about blogging this past year or two, along with many of us who have blogged for more than a few years, and have witnessed some of the changes. But it’s unbelievably lovely to hear that you totally GOT the message of the event and what we wanted it to be all about. I’m so happy it’s left you feeling more inspired and connected. Because it IS a wonderful thing we do, it really is!

  6. 09/05/2018 / 1:39 pm

    Great post. A great reminder that to stay creative, we should take a break from what we normally do and allow our minds to wander and explore other things and relax.

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