Personal Writing,  Writing Retreat Reflections

tempus fugit*, part II

Three hundred and thirty six hours. That’s how many hours are in 2 weeks, 14 days. And that is how long I was an artist in residence starting September 2nd and ending today.

I had so much fear around this retreat; so many things I anticipated would be challenging, scary or hard: the dark, being alone, time moving too quickly and/or slowly, reading my grandparents’ cursive handwriting from 70 years ago, strangers waiting to “nab” me in the country…

Turns out, I did ok with all of those things. The more I addressed them, the more I wrote and talked about them, the less scary they got. By day three, I found myself waving at all the men in trucks or gigantic pieces of machinery rumbling down the country roads I walked and walked and walked.

The scary farm dogs didn’t become my friends, but they didn’t come after me, either. I began to find a rhythm to my grandparents’ writing and started to hear their voices, although they were so different from my grandma and grandad that it was hard to believe I was reading about the same people—perfectly illustrating that moment when you realize your (grand)parents were actually people before becoming your (grand)parents.

My To Do list was lengthy, as was my Not To Do one. I both didn’t end up working on so much of what I set out to do and far, far exceeded my wildest dreams at content creation.

  • Visualization and yoga? Not much—turns out I can’t get over the smell of yoga mats. What IS that smell??? They all have it, and it makes me feel car sick for hours afterwards. It’s enough to turn me off yoga.
  • Reread a bunch of books? Not too many
  • Read all 500(ish) courtship letters of my grandparents? I made it through 47 before I realized that, delightful as they are, there’s nothing there for me…at least not right now. So I abandoned the project on day three (They’ve been around for 72 years, they’ll be there if I change my mind in the future)
  • Catch up on coursework from my online course with Dorie Clark? ✔️ I made good progress
  • Teach my MSUM course? ✔️
  • Keep going with Daily Dose of Dr Marry & DD episodes? ✔️ (we did all 10 workdays)
  • Write at least 4 blog posts? ✔️✔️✔️ Don’t make me laugh. This is blog post #15!!!!!
  • Eat sparingly? ✔️ I ate so well and feel excellent about my eating patterns
  • Play and get comfortable being uncomfortable? ✔️✔️✔️ Definitely a yes!

Things I didn’t anticipate doing that I pursued with fierce dedication:

  • Walking: I walked more than 215,000 steps for an average of 8.9 miles/day
  • I made four loaves of bread, one batch of plum almond scones and an incredible plum torte as well as two pots of soup and four big bowls of popcorn, which I didn’t have to share with anyone!
  • I watched the entire season of The Last Dance. In fact, I watched episodes 5-10 in one sitting!
  • I came across and completed a 10-day Miracle Challenge to pretty good success
  • I joined a 21-day online Abundance Meditation challenge and then started my own with 30 people involved
  • I participated in an an afternoon writing group with a number of people from the Recognized Experts group I belong to.
  • I did a 3-day Post It Note Challenge to level up my public speaking
  • I celebrated the 19th anniversary of meeting Dr Marry with Dr Marry, and it was lovely to have him here for about 26 hours
  • I completely re-articulated and re-defined a significant piece of the work I want to keep exploring in my life. I drilled down on some things that have been floating around in my head and had a number of lightening-bolt moments, interestingly, all at about the same place on the dirt road right by my soybean field where I livestreamed nearly every sunrise
  • I shared incredible prairie sunsets with Dr Marry over FB Messenger nearly every night
  • I fell into bed mentally and physically exhausted every night and slept so well, despite the extreme dark…or perhaps because of it.
Just a reminder in case you need to see how dark dark can be.

For the record, I also never put on one jot of makeup and barely showered. It’s so dirty to walk the country roads that it felt stupid to get clean only to get filthy again so soon after.

I sent three email correspondences for my day job. Three!

I had no alcohol—something I was aware of the first couple of days and then grew to not miss at all.


I’m leaving this residency a less fearful and more inspired, thoughtful person. The entire time I lived in income-based housing, I said I wasn’t really working much because what job could possibly pay me enough to value the one commodity I have always prized above all else? Time. (Believe me, I look back on that version of me with some level of shame at that entitlement. Reality Bites is hardly comedy or fiction for me. #HardcoreGenXer)

But as misguided as that was, I still stand by the notion that time has a value we cannot begin to calculate. And I still say it’s my number one most important commodity.

I will be grateful for the rest of my life to the North Dakota Museum of Art for selecting me to be part of the McCanna House Artist in Residence program. It truly has changed my life.

And now the sun has set on this writing retreat, and I’m making my way back home and back to the “real world.” But I have a better sense of direction, and I know more about myself. This incredible gift of time was not wasted; even the moments that I slumped or watched Netflix were not wasted. I created, I developed, I planned, I risked, I failed, I overcame, I gave in, I explored, I learned, I shared, I expanded, I grew, I changed. What more could anyone ask of the luxurious gift of time and a two-week writing retreat?

*time flees

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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