Art of Living - Creative Writing

In House: Eric Maisel on Criticism & Creativity in Writing

December 18, 2017

Art of Living - Creative Writing

Eric Maisel is a Creativity Coach and author who’s been working with writers for 30 years. This summer, he hosted the Deep Writing Workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center, where writers of all experience levels relearned how to prioritize and develop their creativity in a supportive, quiet space.

A different kind of writing group

The Deep Writing Retreat is very simple in structure. Eric provides a series of lessons, as well as a safe space — there’s no critiquing or sharing of the writing that is created.


“A lot of people come for that reason alone,” Eric says. “They know they’re not going to have their writing shredded by somebody else on the spot. There’s also plenty of time to write, and not on writing exercises that go nowhere, but on their own projects. Many attendees have a project that they’re working on. This is an opportunity to get a lot of writing done in a safe environment, and also learn lessons that they can take back and continue to implement when they’re back home.”


About 15 years ago, Eric was invited to teach a writer’s workshop, and his group shared the space with another writer’s course. He noticed how much critiquing and unhappiness was happening in the other group; tears and feuds and everything he knew he didn’t want in a writing workshop. Observing that group, Eric saw how the idea of sharing and critiquing in the moment doesn’t really support one’s intention to have a good experience and get a lot of writing done.


According to Eric, many writers don’t understand the extent to which anxiety and existential despair gets in the way of writing, especially when they feel blocked. He crafted his workshops with this in mind, and has been leading groups with compassion, respect, and space for over 15 years.


What is deep writing?

Deep writing is simply getting quiet enough to write. “If we get quiet enough, we go deep from a physiological standpoint, and we get our whole brain back,” Eric says. Our minds are always on the go, and not just figuratively. Each thought takes up thousands of neurons, and when you’ve got a lot of your mind, it’s very difficult to find the brain space in which to be creative.


“One of the main things I help writers understand is why they want to get quiet. This is different from meditating, but not unrelated. This is quiet for the sake of generating ideas; it’s quiet with the purpose of allowing something to bubble up. When you get quiet, you have that experience of silence in which ideas are born, and that’s the depth of the workshop.”

Deepening your writing practice often has the effect of deepening your life as well. If you’re a writer, and you’re not making time for your writing, it’s easy to become disappointed in yourself and with life in general. Joining a workshop, especially one in which you can give your writing a depth of attention that’s almost impossible in the business of day to day life, helps you do the wonderful, existential work of living your life’s purpose.

“I found the Art of Living Retreat Center quiet in a way I’ve never experienced quiet before. Everyone felt very productive in the silence. The place is beautiful, the food is wonderful, and the service is great. It’s been a wonderful experience here.”

Letting your voice ring out

Most people have a voice, or wish they had a voice with which to express themselves. Most of blockage, according to Eric, is self-censorship. Speaking your truth is difficult, whether you’re a writer, an activist, a teacher, or even just initiating a difficult conversation. This is all the same process. The process by which we can let our voice ring out involves getting quiet, being courageous, preparing ourselves, and then actually speaking.

“A lot of the workshop is about eliminating excuses that people have. I think  many find it to be a profound experience, a life-changing experience. I very often get mail from a person long after they’ve taken the workshop, telling me their book is finished or that it’s been published, and that it was the workshop that made the difference.”

Are your thoughts serving you?

Eric also tells us that we need to think the thoughts that will serve us. The biggest creative blocker is the way we talk to ourselves. If we say “I’m not talented”, or “there’s too much competition,” or even things like “I’m too tired to write, I’m too busy”, we won’t get our creative purpose off the ground, or our other purposes as well. The most important element is the cognitive work of making sure that you think thoughts that serve you.

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , creativity , criticism , eric maisel , writing

In House: JAC Patrissi on Storytelling for Change

By Paige Reist
April 24, 2017

Storytelling for Change


Stories help us connect. They move people to action, get them invested, and create meaningful relationships between ideas and people. JAC Patrissi has dedicated her life to the art of storytelling, and has seen the power that stories have to affect change first-hand. This spring, she will bring her unique and heartfelt approach to storytelling to the Art of Living Retreat Center. Here, JAC touches on what she’ll be sharing this upcoming May.


Storytelling for ChangeNo one tells the whole story. Whether we are in an interview for a job or making a toast at a wedding, we all edit; we adapt to the goal at hand, choosing which parts to focus on, which parts to leave out. If our whole life is a tree, the story we tell is a bonsai, carefully pruned and shaped. It is impossible, and not even respectful, to tell everything we know about a thing (though, goodness knows, some of us try).


Storytelling for Change is a creative workshop aimed at strengthening your ability to tell the story of the work you do in a way that is brief, natural, and compelling. An idea that is not shared is lost. Your unique insights, the lessons of your life and work, the things that inspire you, are meant to be shared in a way that speaks to others. You can learn to tell moving, funny and essential stories without reading from a script. You can give the toast that comes from the heart and you can move new supporters to join the social causes that give your life its direction.


In this workshop, we will explore how audience, character, conflict, and calls to action impact our message and shape the story we choose to tell. We will clarify our own understanding of the kind of change we seek through the work we do and the message we wish to impart. You will learn simple ways to use your voice and body to convey your message naturally.


During our three days, we’ll tell our stories to one another in small learning groups in a supportive, safe environment. We will employ a method to giving and receiving feedback that is supported by research on how we learn. Most importantly, you will feel seen and understood as you are coached by others who want you to do well. We will learn tell stories more easily to help people “get” us. Finally, you will leave with two stories ready to tell and the skills to tell many more. This retreat is open to all levels of expertise, all gender expressions, and is appropriate for people in all physical conditions. Please contact us using the form here if you have any special requirements.


Come tell us your story

Join JAC Patrissi for a three-day retreat, June 2–4, 2017, in an idyllic setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains for a relaxing, rewarding, all-inclusive learning experience. You’ll leave rejuvenated and prepared to share your story with the world. Learn more here!


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , creativity , knowledge , wisdom , writing , writing retreat

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