Most writers develop the ability to block out noise and a certain amount of chaos. Complete peace and quiet is a rare commodity, so in the interests of getting any work done, this is a skill worth nurturing. What writers don’t always manage is to block out the endless nagging feeling that there is something else they should be doing. And this feeling is invariably made worse when the writer is working from home – as so many writers do. The answer of course, is to leave home for a while and go on a retreat. Preferably a writing retreat.
A jobbing journalist, as I was for 20 years, manages to get copy finished and filed no matter what - mostly through fear of what would happen if they didn’t. Phone calls from irate editors and an inability to pay the rent, for example. But having opened my own writers’ retreat, I now know that writers of all kinds benefit hugely from the sort of nurturing environment that provides support, encouragement and more than a little TLC. A clean comfortable room with a desk and a kettle, in surroundings that are peaceful and quiet, but with likeminded company never far away. A log fire and lots of squashy sofas help create an informal and relaxed atmosphere. It’s a simple recipe, but one that works.
Take away the responsibility for shopping and preparing food and output soars dramatically.
And speaking of recipes, ask any writer what distracts them most and they’ll tell you it’s food. Shopping, deciding what to eat, cooking and dishing up a meal – for themselves and possibly others too. And of course clearing up. Take away the responsibility for all of this, and the results are almost always dramatic. Output soars, established authors hit deadlines and novice writers gain in confidence and insight. Added to which, the prospect of a delicious home cooked meal and a glass of wine acts as a beacon, spurring writers on with its promised reward. It’s worth saying here that it’s not only writers who benefit from this kind of space. We’ve welcomed several guests who simply need rest and a peaceful place to clear their heads.
For me, owning and running a writing retreat which offers all of the above, has been an eye opener. I am constantly amazed and delighted at how writers grow and develop, once they’re given the room to do so. Ideas blossom, writer’s block melts away and words and sentences tumble onto page and screen at a rate of knots. Readings around the fire in the evenings encourage constructive feedback from published and unpublished writers alike, boosting confidence and offering the chance to learn ever more of our craft.
One of the definitions of the word retreat is ‘a place of safety,’ which strikes a chord with me. A writing retreat isn’t about going on a course, or spending time alone in the middle of nowhere. It’s about being given the time and space to explore and achieve, while being well looked after – and well fed.