Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Importance of Retreat

Dear readers, I am thrilled to share with you this guest post by poet Jen Payne. She has just released a new collection of poetry, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. In the guest article below, she discusses the vital role occasional stints of solitude play in our lives-- she speaks of how important it is for writers and creative types, but I think it's something everyone can benefit from. And for a bonus, she even threw in a poem from her new work! Read on:

The Importance of Retreat
by Jen Payne

Photo by Jen Payne, 2017

BUG OUT! That’s what they called it on the TV show M*A*S*H. The enemy is getting closer, someone yells “Bug Out!” and everyone, everywhere packs up everything and bolts!

I use the same word, often, when it’s time to get away for a while. BUG OUT! You know that feeling, right? You’ve been working really hard, your To Do list hasn’t gotten any shorter, you can’t seem to get enough sleep, and coffee just isn’t working its usual magic.

It’s time to Retreat! Regroup! Withdraw! Escape!

I don’t think the battlefront vocabulary is all that off-base. We live in a world of battles—time, technology, schedules, workloads, deadlines. If you’re a creative type, somewhere in all of that you must also make room for the Muse who feeds your soul. And if your Muse is anything like mine, she lets you know when she’s hungry for more attention!

In the Scientific American article “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” writer Ferris Jabr details study after study that confirm the importance of taking time off. He concludes that “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.”

But we can’t all be like author Elizabeth Gilbert—a little overwhelmed, take a year off and travel the world to Eat Pray Love our way back to our creative selves. Not everyone has that luxury.

But here’s what I’ve learned about downtime…

IF…I give myself just a half hour to meditate or take a nap or walk in the woods? My Muse breathes.

IF…I give myself a day off, like a Sunday-Sabbath-resting day off? Then my Muse dances.

And IF…I am so lucky as to be able to take a true retreat—a suitcase, off-the-grid, away-from-things retreat—my Muse will pack up her stuff and come along with me. We’ll see things with fresh eyes, we’ll come up with new ideas, and we’ll start speaking to each other again.

Resistance is Futile 
from Evidence of Flossing

How easily I
write of changing seasons,
life grown from death.
Circle of Life,
I pontificate

with heels dug firm.

But at Sunday service
in wooded cathedral
as summer genuflects,
and jewel weed with wild grapes
stand at the crossing…

Everything is flowing,
god whispers.

How foolish am I to resist?

About the Book

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is a collection of poetry and photographs that ask the reader to consider: What will we leave behind? What is our legacy in this vast and wondrous Universe?

Part social commentary, part lament, the poems in Evidence of Flossing are, at their heart, love poems to the something greater within all of us. Their investigation of the human condition and its folly — what makes us need that downtime— is juxtaposed to a series of poems about our natural world and the possibility of divine connection. Its pages are illustrated by a random, absurd, and heartbreaking assortment of original and vintage photographs, including a series of discarded dental flossers that inspired the title of the book.

Available from Three Chairs Publishing:
$21.99 (plus tax + shipping)

Or click here to purchase your copy today.

About Jen Payne
Jen Payne is inspired by those life moments that move us most — love and loss, joy and disappointment, milestones and turning points. Her writing serves as witness to these in the form of poetry, creative non-fiction, flash fiction and essay. When she is not exploring our connections with one another, she enjoys writing about our relationships with nature, creativity, and mindfulness, and how these offer the clearest path to finding balance in our frenetic, spinning world.

Very often, her writing is accompanied by her own photography and artwork. As both a graphic designer and writer, Jen believes that partnering visuals and words layers the intentions of her work, and makes the communication more palpable.

In 2014, she published LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, a collection of essays, poems and original photography. Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind is her second book.

Jen is the owner of Three Chairs Publishing and Words by Jen, a graphic design and creative services company founded in 1993, based in Branford, Connecticut. She is a member of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, the Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance, the Connecticut Poetry Society, Guilford Arts Center, the Guilford Poets Guild, and the Independent Book Publishers Association.

Installations of her poetry were featured in Inauguration Nation an exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven (2017), and Shuffle & Shake at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven (2016). Her writing has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health.

You can read more of her writing on her blog Random Acts of Writing: 

Connect with Jennifer:

Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out other guest authors featured on this blog.


  1. Hi Lauren! Thank you for hosting me on your blog today, and letting me share some thoughts on claiming quiet time for ourselves. It's especially important this time of year as the holidays kick into full gear, right? Thank you, also, for letting your readers know about Evidence of Flossing - it's fun, smart little book that I hope folks will enjoy!

    1. My pleasure, Jen! I am so glad you wrote about this topic, as it's one I don't see addressed very often among fellow writers. Congrats on the new book-- I look forward to reading it!

    2. Thanks! And let me know what you think of the new book! :)