Our Story

Dear Creative Soul,

Have you ever had a moment when you realised that you felt disconnected from yourself, something was missing or that your life had veered off track? Last year I found myself at a cross roads, completely burnt out. I was physically and mentally exhausted, grieving, heart weary and spiritually depleted. In the midst of all this I realised that I wasn’t really living, I was just about surviving my life. Thankfully, fate gave me a reminder of my true nature which led me on an unexpected journey to this moment right now, writing these words to you.

Cast your mind back, if you will, to 2013. For me, life was fine. I was completing an MA in Writing and had been tasked with creating a website with a photograph which reflected myself as a writer. Being a bookish introvert, the thought of having my photo taken made me squirm so I drafted in a sensitive photographer friend of mine, Karyn, to help. After several frustrating attempts of trying to encourage me to pose for the picture in my favourite woodland, Karyn suggested we take a break. She put the camera down and left me to my own devices for a while. I was soon absorbed in exploring fallen leaves, watching squirrels bound up trees and listening to the birdsong drifting between the branches above. After merrily drawing on the ground with a stick I dusted myself off and noticed my hands were covered in mud. I laughed out loud and sheer joy zoomed right through me.

‘Got it!’ Karyn said.

She was smiling into the screen on the back of her camera. In that moment, Karyn had captured the uninhibited joy of my creative self at play.

Last year, during my tender time of burn out at the crossroads, I rediscovered that phothappy-lady-lighto. I looked hard at the image and my heart sank. I felt a hundred thousand miles away from that moment of joy in the forest. How could I have wandered so far off track? I vowed to not just survive my life but to reclaim my joy and thrive. I wasn’t writing at the time, I wasn’t even reading. I was off work ill, trying all kinds of things to heal. I knew I needed to do something creative to inspire me to feel more positive again but I didn’t have the energy or resilience to sign up for a workshop or travel to go on a creative retreat. So, I designed some mini retreats that I could explore at my own pace at home or outside on days I felt brave enough to face the world. I allowed myself to start where I was and didn’t judge myself for not being where I used to be or where I thought I ‘should’ be by now. My goal was to move forwards, step by step, from exhaustion back to joy. I’m delighted to report that I made it- yaaaaay!

People started to notice that I was getting my groove back and wanted to know what I was doing. While I was sharing some of my experiences with others it became clear that my situation wasn’t unique. I discovered loads of people who feel disconnected or off track and are unable to indulge in creative retreats or even a regular bit of ‘me time’ for so many reasons. Stories poured out of people about caring responsibilities, child care issues, time pressures, financial constraints, work pressures, unpredictable energy levels or even simply a lack of confidence. Honestly, it was heartbreaking! Something more accessible, convenient and flexible than a traditional retreat seemed to be needed. Now I was feeling more like myself again, my inner Muse started niggling at me to spread the love. I created a few little retreat boxes for local writer friends, crafty folk and painters I knew and felt fizzy with excitement as I posted them out. The feedback was amazing and they wanted more! This is how the idea for Muse Retreats was born.

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a ‘Muse’. In Ancient Greek mythology Muses were goddesses who inspired people to write, paint, dance, sing or act etc. Rather than these inspirational goddesses being outside of us I prefer to think of our Muse, our creative inspiration, as something that is always within our hearts. We can unlock the joy of our creative potential by spending time alone to explore, connect to ourselves and play.

This page is not called ‘Our Story’ because it’s just about my personal journey or the birth of Muse Retreats. When we wander away from our gifts, everyone feels something is missing in their life. It’s our story because it’s about the path every creative soul takes to dare to reclaim their joy. It’s about us. Everyone deserves the joy of being creative. It is not a feeling reserved for the anointed few. No matter what age we are, what we do for a living or where we come from, creativity is our birth right. Spending regular time alone to breathe and explore unlocks our true creative nature. It is an integral part of our self-relationship and self-care. Simply, being creative makes us happy!

I believe that each of us has a unique contribution to make to the world. Whether it’s writing, painting, colouring, sketching, crafting, crochet, jewellery making, cooking, dress making, photography, decorating, setting a beautiful dinner table for loved ones or drawing in the mud with a stick- there is something special inside each of us that makes our hearts sing! No matter what your creative interests may be, the important thing is that you stop to regularly appreciate what an amazing person you are. Remember to make time for your true self to shine, share whatever is in your heart and continue to live in the world with wonder.

Thank you for reading. If this resonates with you and it feels like something your heart needs to be part of, subscribe for yourself or a loved on and join our creative retreat community. Reclaim some delicious ‘you’ time and let’s start your journey together!

Love & sweet thoughts,

Shirley x

Founder, Writer & Creative Curator, Muse Retreats