Last night I had a dream that I was at the end of a retreat.

It was one of my retreats, through Wild Ground Writing.

But instead of hugging people, making plans to reconnect over ZOOM, thanking them, being thanked, I was scrambling around under a table, cleaning up a mess of clutter: papers, craft supplies, discarded pens, etcetera.

I realized that we hadn’t done the closing giveaway raffle (when we always gift items handmade by our creative writers: one of my knitted ‘magic writing’ shawls, Ariel’s jewelry, Donna’s painting, Anita’s knitting, too (at Still Water she gave away an emotional support chicken–the second one she made, because she got too attached to the first).

We hadn’t done the swag bags either.

It wasn’t my best work but there I was, busy trying to clean, searching for a missing shoe, scrambling to pack up my things.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I am a messy person. When I get overwhelmed, clutter and losing stuff is what happens. When I used to be a travel writer, I was always misplacing items as we went. It became a joke in the minivan: what did Lauren forget now. Toothbrush, scarf, a pair of socks.

On my first international trip–to England, when I was 17–I left my journal at security. Imagine the rising anxiety when I heard myself being paged in the Toronto airport… They’d flipped it open to find my name, and kindly called me back.

Despite the chaos, I love travel. I love entering new landscapes, doing new things, taking in the texture of another place. And I love writing about it…. my mind right now goes back to Buenos Aires, in sunny January (their summer), when I sat at outdoor cafes and accidentally wrote July in my journal, even though there were leftover Christmas decorations all over.

In the dream, after the retreat, I stuffed my clutter-filled suitcase in the trunk of the car, but had to take public transit. Barefoot, because I never did find my shoe–and I got off a stop early (of course).

All week I’ve been trying to get up early to type up a notebook that’s stuffed with a new novel. The character–Jeannie–is also displaced and topsy-turvy (as, in my opinion, the best ones are), but I haven’t been that successful.

Simply put: there’s too much to do, I’m too tired, the hustle is (constantly) real.

Don’t get me wrong. I love running Wild Ground Writing. It’s hard work, but it’s also creative and imaginative and collaborative…

I adore creating experiences for people, drawing together communities of writers, watching what happens when artists devote time to their craft, take it seriously, invest in the importance of their own work.

It is absolutely magical, even without swag bags and raffle, although that adds to the fun and the deep importance, as I see it, of signalling to people that they are safe with me/us, that we care about them… because we do.

Through Wild Ground Writing, I help fill other people’s wells.

Nourish them, give to them, hold space so that they can, as I like to say, let go and lean in to their deepest writing, whether that’s in person or online through Writing Refuge (there are still spots left for this Sunday! Book here.)

And when I’m lucky (and I often am), the writing energy fills me up too.

At Still Water, earlier this month, I wrote two scenes for my current work-in-progress. And in 2018, at the very first retreat I co-facilitated–Wild Writing in the Boreal–I worked on a then-fledgling novel that will be coming out next year with Freehand Press.

At Nook & Cranny, this coming October, I plan to indulge in my own writing too… especially through my Two Truths Make A Lie workshops which I *love* leading! Registration for this one is now open and filling fast!

Sometimes, though, my desk is a mess. Coasters, pens, calculator, lime-green plastic dinosaur, a timer, a stitch counter, too many notebooks, and bright orange sticky notes to remind myself of things that already don’t make sense.

And then… Then I know it’s time to take a rest. To give to myself the gift I give to others. Creative freedom.

This is, after all, what retreats are *for.* Meals are made, dishes are done, the bed we sleep in does not need to be changed by us. All we have to do is write, read, chat—or daydream, drift, go for a walk.

Love what we love.

This dream is a reminder that my own artistic sensibility needs this same freedom.

That I need to give myself some time off, hold space for my own important stories, make room for my own writing. Fill a personal swag bag with kindness and permission.

Watch the black-eyed Susans nodding in our tall-grass prairie, gaze at our happy clematis, fill up the bird bath.

Drift.

Barefoot, maybe. But not because I’ve lost a shoe.

By choice.

Barefoot in Scotland, July 2016.