Creative retreats are an opportunity to explore new ideas and create new work, or to immerse yourself in long-term creative projects. For a lot of people, they might summon ideas of mountain cabins and pastoral settings — but you can have a creative retreat right at home, with just you and your notebook.
Why do a creative retreat?
Inspiration, creativity, and artistic ambition — all steeping together like a great cup of tea. A creative retreat focuses time on your creative interests, without the interruptions, distractions, and tasks of every day life. Whether it’s a few precious hours on a Saturday afternoon, or a whole day or weekend, a retreat prioritises time for creativity and creating.
At the end of a retreat, you’ll have the work you’ve created, and a greater understanding of your own creativity. Frequent retreats can shape your creative practice, and make time for you to explore the things that make you want to create.
Particularly for busy people, who never have time, space, or energy to create as they wish to, a creative retreat can be freeing permission.
How to have a creative retreat at home.
The simplest way to hold a creative retreat is to do it at home. A solo creative retreat is an excellent way to create with no self-consciousness, and allows you to be brave with exploring your creative practice. Whether you are an artist, writer, sewist, or any other creative, you probably have everything you need at home.
Here are our best tips for a successful home retreat:
Make a cosy space.
One of the best ways to prepare for a creative session or retreat is to prepare your space. Think of it as nesting. You’re making a place full of things that you find cosy, relaxing, and inspiring. Pick a part of your house or garden that has enough room for your activity (especially if you are doing something like garment sewing or painting at an easel), isn’t too bright or too dark, is free of distractions, and won’t have anything getting in the way.
For many of you, you’ll be working at a desk or table. Consider the placement — is the lighting adequate, and will you be able to have all your necessities close to hand? (Powerpoint, charger for laptop, music, blanket, cup of tea, air conditioning . . . whatever will help keep you comfortable and creating).
Set up all the things you’ll need in advance of your retreat time. For artists, this might mean getting out all your art supplies ready and waiting. Writers might make a stack of all the books and stationery they’ll need. Knitters should wind their yarn into balls, mark out their patterns, and make sure their knitting kit is close to hand. And so on.
Set up a snack and refreshment plate for you to nibble on during your retreat time. This is very helpful if you’ve set aside a longer period of time, such as a half-day or a full day. Biscuits, fruit, sandwiches, cakes, tea, water, and coffee . . . make yourself a little menu and go shopping before your retreat! Or pick one of our recipes at the end of this section and restock the biscuit tin in advance.
In a similar fashion, create a playlist of music or ambience to keep you company as you work. It’s best to do this in advance, so you don’t have to spend precious retreat minutes dithering over which song to play.
Make a list of things that distract you and take you out of your creative moment day-to-day, and then try to minimise them for the time you’ve set aside for your retreat. This might mean closing the door on housemates, putting your phone onto silent, letting your friends and family know you’ll be busy on a certain day. Clear your schedule of any errands, chores, and phone calls. This is absolutely the time for prioritising yourself, and your creative time. If you find your phone and social media very distracting, try putting it aside and only checking it at certain intervals. If you wish to have it on hand to take photos and record, try setting it to airplane mode with the wifi off to circumvent the desire to open Instagram or scroll through TikTok.
Make it nice. Clear your retreat area of any unneeded mess or clutter (even if it means temporarily relocating it to another room), sweep the floors, air out the room. Buy some flowers to put in a vase, light that candle you’ve been saving for something special, or wear your favourite perfume. Wear clothes that make you feel happy and make you feel like you. Indulge yourself in your favourite textures, scents, colours. Your favourite objects around you, your favourite music and sounds. Be unapologetic and indulgent!
Alone and together? How to host a virtual retreat.
Teaming up with some friends for a creative retreat can be an excellent way to boost your motivation and keep each other on course and away from distractions. Once you have picked a date and time that works for everyone, decide whether you will be on video or audio chat for the retreat, or do timed check-ins in a group chat for a low-distraction option.
For those who enjoy a chat while they work, video or audio group calls are a cosy way to keep company around while you work. Keep each other motivated and enthusiastic, and encourage your friends to let their creativity roam free!
For some, the conversation can be a distraction. For people who will be writing as part of their retreat, this can be a dramatic distraction indeed! Our suggestion for a low-distraction retreat group is a variant of the virtual co-working setup. In a private group or audio chat, have everyone check in at the start of the retreat and state their intention for the retreat. Then set a timer for an agreed amount of time, such as 45 minutes, and go off and work on your project. At the end of the time, jump back into the group chat and share what you’ve worked on. Spend some time (ten or fifteen minutes) discussing your work and cheering each other on, and then repeat the pattern of quiet solo work time, and group check in, until the retreat is complete!