The Gifts of Staying

Walking Lightly Ranch

Walking Lightly Ranch

When I contacted author Laura Munson in July about her Haven Writing Retreats I wasn’t sure I really intended to go. I’m a toe-dipper, not a cannon-baller. I generally take my own sweet time gathering information in order to make a decision. It could take me months to decide what model cell phone or vacuum cleaner to buy, for God’s sake. But after talking with Laura on the phone, I knew. She felt like an old friend. The kind where no matter how long it’s been, you just pick up where you left off. She seemed to understand where I was at and I felt certain she could help me.

I was contemplating going in late September, but there was a cancellation for the August retreat, just over three weeks away. I made the call to confirm I could get my financing in order, and then hesitated. I knew once I told Laura I was coming there would be no turning back and I was scared. The next day I emailed her, “I am both excited and terrified. Looking forward to seeing you soon! I’ll be the one breathing into a paper bag.”

That’s when my old friend anxiety paid me a visit. For the next several nights I couldn’t sleep. I felt like I could vomit. The voice in my head was on a mission. “What have you done? You can’t afford to go to a retreat. What if you need that money later? Besides, you’re too sick. You won’t have enough energy to participate. The travel alone will be exhausting. You should just stay home.” This is not the voice of reason. This is the voice that tries to stop me from going after my dreams. So I listened instead to the voice of my heart.

That’s not to say my inner critic took a vacation. Oh no. That voice never really goes away. So when some of the writing exercises stretched me in ways that were uncomfortable, I breathed through it. When my “I’m not doing it right” story had me wanting to cry, quit, run, I stayed.

“Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~Rumi

I stayed because there were ten other extraordinary women willing to bare their souls and share their stories. I stayed because Laura, our courageous leader, showed us by her own example how to ‘lay yourself bare on the page.’ Because I stayed, I walked away with renewed confidence in my writing, a more solid vision for the structure of my book, an author’s statement, and a clearer idea of my writing voice.

But it was so much more than that. I am amazed at how close I became to these women who were strangers just a week ago. We laughed. We cried. We got real. Because I stayed I met all these beautiful souls who don’t seem to realize just how magnificent they are. That astounds me. Until I also realize I am one of them.

This is my author’s statement, which is written on a brown paper bag: “I write to find my way–and to remind others they are not alone.”

So if you are looking for somewhere to explore your creativity on the page, I can think of no better, more nurturing place than Haven. Any time you step outside your comfort zone, it will be scary. It’s tempting to stay on the shore because that’s where it feels safe. But if you can just breathe and trust and stay, your dream will ripple out into the world in ways you never imagined.

Come on in…the water’s just fine.


I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Coni Green
    Aug 13, 2013 @ 20:27:36

    Hi Shannon, I really enoyed reading your story this week. I too have what I call ‘the voices’ of judgement going on in my head. I judge everything negatively when it comes to myself, thoughts and actions. I can think “That was pretty clever Miss Coni” only to counteract it with “Don’t be so cocky – no one else thought blah – blah – blah………… those voices have ruined too many days for me and I’m tired of it. So when you said to listen to your heart it struck a chord in me.

    Congratulations for continuing to put yourself out there and showing us who you are inside. Keep writing because you are good at it.


    • Shannon McDonough
      Aug 15, 2013 @ 10:54:34

      Coni…everyone has those voices in their head…you’re not alone. The good news is, we don’t have to believe what they say. We get to choose what’s true for us. And for me, that’s not the negative voice that makes me feel bad. Keep listening to your heart. We’re in this together 🙂


  2. Meagan
    Aug 14, 2013 @ 15:45:50

    Awesome!! Good for you!


  3. lauramunson
    Aug 17, 2013 @ 18:49:06

    I have goose bumps from my hair to my toes and am crying with joy. SO much love to you and everyone. I LOVED having you here at Haven, Shannon. I believe in YOU! ox Laura


    • Shannon McDonough
      Aug 21, 2013 @ 12:21:24

      Thank you, Laura…for everything! Haven was life-changing for me. I don’t think I could’ve opened up and shared my writing (and my fear) with anyone else. I consider you both a mentor and a friend. Sending you so much love!!


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