Something about the beginning of the academic school year invigorates me. It might be because I was an elementary school teacher for two decades or that I’m a perpetual student myself.


I inhale the excitement of learning. I listen to the joy bubbling up in my grandchildren as they rattle off their new teachers’ names, who’s in their class, what new school supplies are tucked into backpacks, and the fun of a new pair of shoes. I see the sigh of relief on parents’ faces as routine returns after the joy and chaos of carefree summer ways.


Like my grandchildren starting back to school, I hunger for starting something new. Do you?


Starting school means starting afresh…imagining that what can be resides just around the corner. 


So, what’s that got to do with the writing life? With writing blogs, books, or Bible studies? With the process of editing the latest version of the novel or creative nonfiction you’ve created? Or, for that matter, any endeavor that tugs at you to make it come to life? 


Starts, or restarts, give us space to catch a new whiff of vision for going forward. With a new teacher, new homeroom, and new curriculum, students look ahead, imagining something different from the previous school year, while still carrying forth skills and dreams they have held. Though I will talk in this piece specifically about writers, the same principles apply to whatever your field of interest is…for we all need space to ponder where we are headed and how to get there. 


As summer slowly sizzles out, the hope of change breezes in. Change offers writers a chance to start again.


Yet I think we often get so caught up with the busy and excitement of the new, that we don’t stop to think where we are headed. As a teacher, my lesson plans reflected my vision of where students could be nine months down the road. The school’s curriculum served as foundational scaffolding for that vision also. 


As I see others begin the routine of a new school year, I’ve been imagining the best way to begin again for the season ahead, to clarify my vision for my writing life. That ends up trickling over into other aspects of my life as well. Much of the initial work I offer to writers as a Writing Coach holds this element: clarifying where their writing life is headed.


What would it look like to set aside three hours for a retreat focused on catching a clearer vision for your writing life? Such set aside time—a personal retreat—creates space to get clear on a vision for our writing life. 


The beauty of a half-day retreat is that it can be done locally, economically, and is easily manageable. By choosing intentional time away from your normal places, spaces, and rhythms, you prioritize your desire to determine a vision for who you are and what you want to do as a writer. Here you join your hopes and dreams as you enter into spaciousness. You dedicate a block on the calendar to think, pray, ponder, and imagine what your writing life could look like down the road.


In The Fantastic Bureau of Imagination by Brad Montague, illustrated by Brad and Kristi Montague, the storyline offers lovely encouragement for creative folks and their endeavors. We’ve all heard the phrase: “That’s just a figment of your imagination.” Montague flips that on its head, engaging the idea that figments are vital parts of everyone’s imagination. 


You see, figments—characters in this clever book—come in all shapes and sizes. When Sparky, the figment responsible for mail, encounters Brenda the dragon over near the Cave of Untold Stories, a dire situation unfolds. This leads to invitations for humans to become Agents of Imagination. They are needed to share their stories, songs, and dances. 


We need gentle reminders like this delightful book. We need to remember why our imagination matters and how to enter into its playfulness to offer more wonder into the world. By taking time to validate the value of your imagination as displayed in your writing, or for that matter any other endeavor, you enter into the invitation to become an Agent of Imagination. 

The world needs your creativity and mine. Let’s see what will come forth from engaging well with our fantastic imagination.


Pragmatically, I propose that you stage your own Imagination Retreat. This will allow you to catch a vision again, or for the first time, of what your writing life might become. Let me offer you one way to do that.


Personal Imagination Retreat: Imagine a Vision for your Writing Life

The Lord told me: “I will give you My message in the form of a vision. Write it clearly enough to be read at a glance.” Habakkuk 2:2, CEV



Much like the teacher work days before school starts or taking care of the steps to actually go on an adventure or one sort or another, preplanning times set the stage for what’s to come. You need to predetermine: Place/Time/Intention


PLACE: Choose a safe space that is conducive to thoughtfulness and messiness.

    • Local library: reserve a quiet room
    • Coffee shop: reserve a meeting room
    • Local park, botanical gardens, lake: find a picnic table or reserve a portion of a pavilion


TIME: Chisel it on your Calendar: Carve out three to four hours, including drive time.

    • When? Day off from work? Weekend? Early morning? Late evening? 
    • How? What will it take to make this happen? Someone else rounds up the kids & pets, etc.?


INTENTION: Center it on your intention. 

    • Clarify what you want to dream about and hope for during this retreat time.
    • Clutter clutters our brains. Keep it simple.
    • What helps you stay focused? What will distract you? 


Preparation: Gathering Supplies

Pull together all the supplies you need, tangible and intangible, for a successful retreat day of vision and imagination.

    • Analog itemsJournal. Art supplies (glue, colored pencils, unlined paper, scissors, post-it notes). Headphones, if in noisy spot (not preferable). Leave behind your phone or turn it off. Notify someone as to where you will be and when you are to check back in. Analog calendar.
    • AttitudeBold, Unfettered, Creative
    • AccountabilityWho will encourage you along?


Personal Imagination Vision Retreat Day Schedule 

Hour One: Collage Creation

    • Start with 15 minutes of a dialogue with God. Ask how He wants to partner with you for your writing life and His Vision for you.
    • Brainstorm for 40 minutes about the Vision He has given you. Begin to persuade yourself what’s possible. Be specific on what you envision:
      • what could your writing life look like?
      • what one writing project might you create or finish?
      • what promises do you want to hold onto as hope for your writing life? 


Break Time: Enjoy a 5-minute breathing space: Get some fresh air & take a comfort break.


Hour Two: Conflict Exploration

    • Over the next 45 minutes, explore specific barricades and barriers that might exist or might come your way to potentially block your dream. In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis spends an entire book on how the enemy of your soul will try to dissuade you. Naming opposition helps you explore what mind fields aim to implode your creative endeavors.

Use two different colors of post-it notes, one for mindsets and one for circumstances. Write down one or two words answering:

      • What mindsets do you hold that hold you back, that block you?
      • What circumstances exist that might block you?
    • For the last 10 minutes, circle the top three mindset blocks and the top three circumstance barriers that might stump your forward movement. 


Break Time: Enjoy a 5-minute breathing space: Get some fresh air & take a comfort break.

Hour Three: Decide, Declare, Dedicate

    • Decide: Where do you want to go with one project that has bubbled to the surface of your imagination today? (30 minutes)
      • Create a visual map of what your writing journey could look like, using colored pencils and unlined paper. 
      • Create the smallest possible step to make one small movement forward. Add specific dates on your calendar for these small specific goals within the imagined vision.
    • Declare: Write a letter to your future writer-self, summing up all that has happened today. (20 minutes) 
    • Dedicate: Hold this vision up to God, asking for His anointing and consecration as you pray. (10 minutes)


Final Wrap-Up: How will you celebrate completing your Imagination Vision Retreat Day? Celebration lets us declare the goodness that occurs and imprints the time as significant to your story. 


A Week after Your Retreat Time

  1. Schedule your next writing retreat, extending its length to include actual writing time.
  2. Review your Collage Creation.
  3. Review your top three mindset barricades and top three circumstance barriers.
  4. Review your visual map.
  5. Review your letter to your future writer-self.
  6. Consider hiring a Writing Coach for encouragement, inspiration, and accountability as you delve into the joy, creation, and  longevity of your vision and your future projects.




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