A venture for your consideration: The Left Brain Right Brain Retreat


[Editor’s Note: As promised earlier, this is the first in a series of Ventures being put forward by some of you.  Steve and Scott’s venture is a good beginning, since it is so tangible and since it calls on the community for response and possible participation.  We’re looking forward to the other, widely varied contributions you’d like to propose.]


by Steven Fletcher

As stated in the Crossroads town hall session in September, I have a venture that started a few years back as a beer-to-beer chat with Scott McDonald. There were three things that came up during our conversation. They all related to a healthy and balanced existence – something that we seemed to be missing in our careers.

First, we felt stymied in our academic writing and wanted to build a time to focus on getting a product completed (article for submission, proposal for grant, etc). We both tend to work well when there is a dedicated time and space for writing, and if there are others who are also engaged in this at the same time.

Second, I was curious about integrating creative personal work with professional academic work as a way to balance the intellectual aspect of my life. I used to build and work on boats. I started to think of boat building as a metaphor for personal and professional growth and wanted to pilot a community boat-building workshop to see if others took as much joy from building an organic shape from flat sheets of wood as I did.  Scott was intrigued and asked if it was possible to create a boat in a few days. I assured him that it was; I once built a rowboat in 7 hours with a colleague.

Finally, we both agreed that shared cooking and/or exercise were great ways to connect with others and that having pairs or teams of folks responsible for kitchen duty was a good way to both build strong friendships and save some typical costs.  Shared exercise also does this.

A rented house for 8-12 people, in an inspiring natural place, with sleeping, cooking and exercise options, that allows for creative outlets seemed like a logical solution to these three intersecting themes.

This vision has evolved to include: A) An opportunity to work for some time each day on academic writing. B) An opportunity to work on some creative project each day (like building a small boat, but could also be poetry or painting or dance) and C) An opportunity to spend time preparing and sharing meals together.

A very rough itinerary might include:

  • Before 800am – exercise/ breakfast/ etc. alone or with others.
  • 800-12pm – Left side of Brain exercise. Personal writing time with a focused product due at the end of the camp.
  • 12-1 lunch – make your own from groceries purchased by leaders before retreat or go sample local foods.
  • 1-4 – Creative hands-on time – Right side of brain exercise. Cutting, nailing, gluing, shaping. Painting, etc
  • 4-430 – clean up
  • 430-6pm – Free time (except for dinner team)
  • 7pm – dinner together
  • 830pm- clean up and hang out.

Before renting the house and setting the date we are asking for some crossroads community feedback to see if this is something you would commit to. Perhaps you could respond to the following questions:

  • What value would you place on an experience like this? How much value would your University place on an experience like this?
  • What is the best time of year for you in terms of attending a 3-4 day experience like this? Would the summer work?
  • How many days could you attend?  What days of the week are easiest for you to get away?
  • Are there ways you can think of to make it more feasible for you either academically or personally (much like Crossroads is a conference and therefore allows institutional support for attending)?
  • Would you be interested in building your own wooden canoe as a part of the experience? Are there other creative pursuits that you’d rather try? Carving? Painting? Poetry? Welding? Would you be willing to share the cost of an expert to help guide the creative work?
  • Would you be willing to travel to Central Texas for a pilot run of this project?
  • Would you be willing to organize a local edition of this idea in your geographical region? I can see these camps occurring in different areas with different creative themes for each region.

You can address any feedback / comments to me at stevenf@stedwards.edu and I’ll share with Scott (still in Ireland).  We’ll use your feedback to set up the first of these experiences within the year.

Thanks and miss everyone! Hope your semesters/quarters are going swimmingly.

Steve (and Scott).

One thought on “A venture for your consideration: The Left Brain Right Brain Retreat

  1. sandy watson

    I think this is a great idea. And I would love to build a boat! Also, if one is not working on his or her own article at the time, perhaps it could be an opportunity to write collaboratively with colleagues who are also attending the retreat with some previously discussed ideas via email. The summer would work. Preferably early in the summer or late spring. I could attend 3-4 days I think.

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