Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Tuscan Writing Retreat by Elaine Fraser

Creativity flourishes when we slow down for a while, take time out of our regular routine and responsibilities and focus on nourishing our creative souls.

In September,  I arrived at the Borgo Caiano to join The Art of Writing retreat. The other participants and I were seeking a place to pause, reflect and to be inspired.

We found it in the Casentino region of Tuscany, a place of meditation, historic farmhouses and medieval sanctuaries. Dante and Francis of Assisi found something special in this region too.

If you ever watched Under The Tuscan Sun and dreamed of running away to your own Tuscan adventure, you’ll know how excited I was to be in this fabulous place.

As we sat around the table and introduced ourselves on that first night, it was obvious that everyone had a story and something they wanted to produce—short stories, memoir, novels, blogs and poetry. 

We were here to pause for a while and concentrate on our writing, guided by our tutors Lisa Clifford, Jane Corry and Conrad Williams.

Each day was an exercise in creative growth. In this quiet retreat, we were far away from shops, cafes, traffic jams, jobs, family—anything that would draw us away from the reason we were there. It was a pilgrimage of sorts as we sought to unlock the writer within.

Our only excursion was to a castle and then a sheep farm. At the farm we milked sheep and watched as Lorenzo formed the milk into cheese. 

This was a welcome break from the tutorials and critique sessions. The richness of the surroundings and hospitality warmed our hearts and inspired our minds.

I think a few odes to tomatoes may have been written after dinner with the Cipriani family.

In this quiet pause, each person discovered something the story within, birthed something new, or discovered the courage to complete a work begun in their hearts and minds long before the retreat.

The fellowship between the participants was beautiful. It as if we had all been destined to be there at that particular time, with that particular group of people. It was meant to be.

In setting aside a week to be mindful in our writing, we also became mindful of our surroundings. Each moment became an inspiration, a spark and memory that will enrich our lives and creative work.

I’d like to think that I brought some of this mindfulness home with me. I’m trying to slow down, pay attention to the moments and see the miracles in the every day.

The Bible tells us to be still and know that He is God. Being still, unless we are asleep, is not a common state most of us live in. We are so busy rushing and doing, that we forget to just be.

I found that in this beautiful pause, I had time to be still and let the creativity in me flourish. Stillness and intentionality in our everyday, even in the shortest of pauses, is worth pursuing.

Elaine Fraser
Author at Beautiful Books
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  1. What a fabulous experience that must have been Elaine. You're so right that it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of our everyday lives and forget to take that pause to reflect and focus on our creativity. Even when I have a free day at home to write, I often put on a load of washing, get on Facebook etc rather than just taking the time to be in the moment. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just go and break it to hubby that I'm going to Tuscany :)

  2. Thanks Elaine, very encouraging and timely word. :) bless you for that

  3. Yes, 'Stillness and intentionality in our everyday, even in the shortest of pauses, is worth pursuing.' I love the clarity that often comes with being still and allowing God to speak. Wouldn't mind going to Tuscany - or to Oxford - to do it, but that's not excuse not to do it here and now :) Thanks for the reminder.

  4. How wonderful for you, Elaine and what learning you experienced. Those final words that Jeanette also highlights are such a treasure for you and for us - thank you for sharing it with us.

    I've really got to do a writing retreat one day - there wouldn't be many better locales than Tuscany. I also loved that movie with Diane Lane.

  5. Big sigh.....Oh Tuscany! I stayed there decades ago on a paining trip and it was wonderful. Excuse me while I meditate on that for a while ...................... a long while.

  6. Sounds awesome. It would be great to get away from the daily stresses of my job by day and screaming kids by night. I can only imagine the head-space that would open up to make room for writing.
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  7. I'm sorry I missed your post earlier Elaine - just enjoyed it. What an inspiring experience it would have been. Loved all your pictures which added to the beautiful way you shared with us. A writer's dream come true no doubt. Thanks for talking about mindfulness and being silent in order for our creativity to flourish - God calls us to that kind of mindfulness and intentional 'silence of our souls' doesn't He - away from the clanging noise of life around and also within. You've given me a reminder to seek that quietness ... and I shall. Bless you Elaine.