Making creative work happen. Or: How to justify a working vacation

Right now I’m in and around Barcelona, Spain on a personal creative business retreat.

Why did I get on a plane (four planes, actually) and travel 30 hours each way from Mexico to Spain to “work” on my business?

barcelona-workshop-19To gather with other writers, photographers and artists. All who are in various stages of creative business development.


One of the goals I have for my own business this year is to improve my photography and video skills.

So I signed up for a photography and writing workshop in Barcelona led by someone who is already doing what I want to do. I’ll share resources at end of this post.


Looking at photos I took on city walks, I noticed a theme of photographing cafes and gathering spaces.

Alex and I’ve been building out our own cafe, gallery and workshop space in Oaxaca, Mexico. I’m always looking for ideas on making a welcoming space.


Many neighborhoods in Barcelona have long, narrow walking streets that connect and branch off in a great maze. Businesses fill the ground floors and walk-up flats rise five or six stories above.

The Catalan flags and laundry hung out to dry share equal air space above the balconies.


This stencil art on an easel caught my eye, which led to an artist’s studio.


I’ll share more on the artist I met in a future post, he was so generous to let me take photos of his work, and of himself at his easel.

Note the rolls of Kraft paper on the left of the work table. I’ve been searching for these in Mexico.

This is also part of our cafe plus studio/gallery plan in Oaxaca. To create a more public space to work so I can meet other art lovers. As an introvert, this is a big step that I’m nervous about.


One of the ways I’m stretching my creative muscles is to get out of AUTO mode and use my Canon DSLR on manual.

This week I learned how to categorize and process images with Adobe Lightroom. Plus, I’ve finally got an organized photography workflow. Being able to look over the shoulder of a seasoned travel photographer and writer and see how she does it all has made all the difference.


The Botiga del Paper – a paper and art supply shop. Closed when I walked past on a Sunday. It’s on my list to visit before I leave town.

The apartment I rented is in the Gracia neighborhood. Three-story lilac trees are in bloom right now and fill the air with the scent of bouquets, even at street level.

The last house where I lived in Chicago has old lilac trees whose blossoms reached my second-story bedroom. I remember reading a Martha Stewart living article about pruning lilacs to proper bush height, but I could not do that.

Falling asleep and waking up to lilacs for a few weeks each May was one of the rewards of putting up with 8 months of winter.


Cafes line the streets of Barcelona.

From early morning until the wee hours, people gather to drink, eat, talk, while their children run and play nearby.


Many of the buildings here were built during the Art Deco era. Floor to ceiling windows have wooden shutters that block out light and sound, while letting in air.

My days and nights were bookended with the ritual opening and closing of splintered, hundred-year-old shutters.


Shop owners make works of art out of the rolling metal security doors that close over their shops. Most places here observe siesta, and close between 1:30 and and 4 or 5 in the afternoon.



Taking a break for coffee outside of siesta hours is customary.



The gals in the photography class met up in various cafes to share progress and ideas. Whenever I got separated from the group, I looked for Charlie’s bright fuschia bag and turquoise top.

After the photography and writing workshop, I attended a weeklong business retreat near Monserrat, Spain.

Our leader rented a villa with a pool and good Internet. The schedule: get up by 7 am and journal our intentions and plan for the day. We work in 2 hours chunks until 7 pm, and are in bed by 10pm. Social media and socializing are limited to our evening 7-10pm dinner and free time.

All meals are prepared for us at the villa, the Spanish wine flows. All we have to do is focus on our work. Collaborate as desired. And rest. Luxurious.


On the road to Monserrat, Spain – we stayed just 15 minutes from the famous mountain. I snapped this through the front windshield. Did you know that little mountain village street names do not necessarily share the same names as the google? We found this out.


Getting down to business, Creative Entrepreneur style.


British photographer Charlie Hambly is just one of the talented women I got to work with this week.

You’ll be seeing some brand new work that I’ve been creating for The Creative Entrepreneur before the end of this year.

I’m partnering with artists, writers, photographers, and others who love this work. They are helping it reach a larger audience. Do get in touch with me if you’d like to join us.


I’ve still got a few days left here in Barcelona. After the business retreat ends tomorrow, I’m heading to one of my favorite beach towns before heading back to Mexico.

If you’re intrigued by this creative way of getting things done, then I’d like to invite you to join me in the USA in June.

The Creative Entrepreneur workshop will give you the time, space and focus to nurture your creativity. We can work on specific projects you’d like to clarify and make happen.

Or you can just show up with a general desire to create more, and stress less. Whatever you’ve got, we’ll work with it.

I’ll help you make headway on any creative project or business idea you have.

Getting away from it all to put our creativity on the front burner is something that women especially need to learn how to do. We spend so much of our energy and other resources taking care of others.

Many of the women I’m on retreat with Barcelona have young children. All have families, spouses, partners, and employees who depend upon us daily to be their support system.

If you think you can’t “afford” to take time off and get away, try giving yourself permission to dream about it a bit. This is a great subject to journal about.

What do you want to create? And who can help you create it faster, easier, and with more joy?

Even for me, it always feels like a big stretch to take a chunk of time (and money) out just for me, my creativity, my business ideas. I usually have to journal on it a bit, and then give myself permission to take the leap.

The rewards show up in the new work that sees the light of day. You wouldn’t have The Creative Entrepreneur book, for example, if I hadn’t gone on so many retreats just like this.

Doing creative work usually means many hours working alone. But it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey. I’ve found that things happen easier and faster with support and input from others.

This is why I venture out of my own studio to take and guide creative work retreats.

What creative projects do you need support with right now? I’d love to be part of your creative entrepreneur dream team this summer.


The Creative Entrepreneur workshop. You, me, your creative project, a weekend. Let’s do this.

One-day LIVE workshops happening in June: The Wisdom Journal and Dreaming on Paper: The Creative Sketchbook

These are my only live USA workshops in 2015. Future workshops will be held in Mexico at my studio or elsewhere around the world.

The 7 Creative Powers, an online workshop in breaking through blocks (creative and otherwise). Early discount open NOW.

Blog Brilliantly: Learn to become a better writer, photographer, storyteller – whether or not you ever want to blog. I’ve been a member of this course for years, and the creator, Christine Gilbert leads some of the best workshops on writing and photography (and managing the tech stuff!) that I’ve ever attended. I came all the way to Barcelona to study with her (again) and will be brining her to Oaxaca in 2016. Yay!

You’ll be hearing more about Charlie Hambly and others I’m working with real soon.

All photos in the post are by me, taken with my Canon DSLR. Whee!

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