I went on my first creative retreat almost two years ago.  It wasn’t a conference that was packed with classes and activities.  It wasn’t a family vacation where I was wrangling kids between pockets of relaxation.  It was a time away specifically for the purpose of filling my creative tank and stepping outside of my daily routine, so I could think without distractions.  I came back from that first retreat with clarity and excitement and I immediately knew this had to be a regular thing.

Since then, I’ve done a few creative retreats and they’ve all been beneficial in different ways.

Last week, I went down to Panama City Beach to spend a few days with Shaunna at her parent’s condo.  We had a to-do list, but it wasn’t so aggressive that we wouldn’t have free time to read, journal, paint, walk on the beach, or just go to bed early and get a full night of sleep.

The first day was cloudy and cool.  As it turns out, Shaunna was getting hit with a virus, so she was in her jammies and glued to the couch most of the day.  We did get some work in, but she wasn’t feeling up to doing too much.  While she napped, I walked on the beach, listening to an audiobook.  I watched the waves, dug my toes in the sand, and observed the seagulls stretching and then tightly tucking their wings and the sandpipers as they scurried quickly through the surf.  I almost had the beach to myself, which I enjoyed.  As a driven person who likes being productive, I tend to hop rapidly from one thing to the next.  When I walk on the beach, it all slows and I have time for contemplation that isn’t hurried or wedged between two items on the to-do list.  There was no time limit except for when my feet were numb and I needed to go inside, warm them in a shallow bath, and put on some wool socks!

The clouds made for a spectacular sunset that night…

I sat out on the deck, watching the sun slip behind the horizon.

The next day, Shaunna was feeling better, so we were able to accomplish more and we even sat out on the beach while we worked.  Brainstorming is always better if it can be done with a pretty view!  We sat in low beach chairs and soaked in the sun.  It was still cool (in the 50’s and breezy), but it was too pretty not to be outside, so we bundled in sweaters.  The funny thing is, the little bit of my leg that was showing ended up with a sunburn!

We also combed the beach for shells.  I found a few olive shells, but mostly collected broken pieces of sun-bleached sand dollars.  Their texture and varying shades of white drew me to them.

It was during our time on the beach that we realized we craved more time.  I was leaving very early the next morning and we felt like we had lost most of the first day.  So, we scrambled to see if we could steal away just one more day.  I was able to move my flights and our families gave us that extra time.

I was so thankful for that extra day.  We could slow down and soak it in, knowing we had one more full day to work, chat, and play.

Our last day, we pulled out the paints, put on some music, and just played.

I wanted to try something totally different from my usual style, so I did a loose botanical and some abstracts…

Shaunna and I laughed when we compared our palettes.

My palette was tidy, soft, and natural.  I always seem to mix the same colors, even if I start with completely different tubes of paint.

Shaunna mixed less, allowing the colors to be bright and bold.  Her palette was delightfully unrestrained.

Abstracts are a struggle for me, but I had an idea of painting a “color blob” and felt sort of like a nest or a flower.  I ended up really liking how it turned out.

And here is the botanical…

I gained a lot from all of the reading, conversations, idea-development sessions, and journaling, but this creative play-time with paint was perhaps the most enriching.

I feel even more excited to get back to the easel and paint and to create new designs at the drafting table.  I just need to get my studio floors finished, so I can put everything back together and do more of exactly that!

And I’m also excited about all of our ideas for The Creative Exponent.  We have some really big ideas, but put together some manageable first steps that we can start implementing over the next few weeks and months.

If you are considering taking your own creative retreat and need a bit of direction, I developed a Creative Retreat Guide just for that purpose!  You can find it HERE.



  1. Sheila

    So glad you had time away at the Beach. My parents used to take my sister and I down to Panama City for vacation every year. Mother said we rented at a little motel with a kitchenette and a pullout sofa which my sister and I love to sleep on. I remember falling asleep to the sound of the waves. Mother said it cost them $25 a week for the four of us to stay there. My sister and I have had a love affair with the beach ever since!

  2. Julie N

    Marian, I am so glad you were able to get away… PCB is fabulous as well as any beach on the panhandle of Florida…we enjoy visiting beaches on 30-A and can’t wait to get back there very soon…

  3. Kathy

    the pictures of the sunsets are breath taking, love all the shell on the beach, and i sooooooo envy that you can do that, good for you, enjoy

  4. Michael Wurm Jr

    This looks like such a beautiful retreat! I need to plan something like this for myself. I could totally use some rest and creativity. Thank you for sharing!

    xo Michael

  5. Jody

    I really like your colour blob. I think of it as a nest of feathers. I’m brand spanking new to painting at age 60 and am loving the creativity. I am in the middle of a Painting for the Petrified beginner course at our local art school. I look at scenes now and think of how I would paint them.

  6. Rebecca

    It looks like this is exactly what I need! I don’t have my own business, but life has gotten very stagnant in the last couple years and I really need to focus on what is the next steps in my life – big picture stuff! I clicked on the links for the creative retreat guide and received links to planning sheets. Is there anyway to get the guide you refer to in your post that has a lot of prompts/questions about what/why/what’s next? Thanks!

  7. Terry

    Retreats for any reason are the best. OMG those shells we have nothing like that on the Pacific coast.

  8. Naomi S

    Good for you giving yourself a little getaway. A great time to leave Winter behind for a little sand and sea.

    I have been looking for a photo of some surf and sand to enlarge and hang in my bedroom where my decor is Coastal. The shot of the beach that has your feet in it is perfect if you crop out your feet. Would you consider selling it?

  9. Caryn Dahm

    I love this! Last year because of your encouragement I took a weekend away as a creative retreat! It was incredible for me. I craved alone time and since I live in FL I booked a little hotel only about 25 minutes from my house. It was renewing, refreshing and uplifting! Thanks so much for the encouragement to do it again.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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