Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Writer's Retreat

I had to think quite carefully about where to put the apostrophe in my title, because I'm writing about both writers' retreats generally, and my own personal recent retreat.

My family and I just had our annual holiday. We went to Wales for a week (where the Diamond Jubilee festivities were steadfastly ignored, and the bunting was all about the Olympic Torch relay) and, true to form, it barely stopped raining for ten minutes. We had to abandon all plans to visit castles and beaches, and were forced to read books, sleep a lot, play board games together, relax and watch TV.

However, the cottage we stayed in had a "garden room", a little outhouse hidden away and accessible only through the garden. It had light and power. So I shut myself in there for much of the week and wrote over 10,000 words, plus edited and reordered my novel. It was heaven! Once in a while the children would run out in the rain to find me, and when they did it was a real wrench to drag myself out of the story and back into real life.

I also read a magazine for writers that week. It described a writers' retreat centre in Scotland. Like my garden room, it has no internet access, so there is nothing to distract the resident writers from their creative endeavours.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided (lunch is left on a tray outside the room so as not to disturb the artist at work) and complete silence is demanded during the day. The retreats last a month at a time. Price wasn't mentioned in the article.

Much as I enjoyed my week of solitude, shut away with just my characters for company, I don't think I could do it for a month. And I did miss the internet - I needed to research several things, and had to leave blanks in the novel so that I could fill them in when I was back in civilisation. I'd love to have three or four clear hours a day just to write, but more than that might be more than I could stand. I need real life going on around me too.

Would a month-long writers' retreat be heaven for you?


Kevin Cunnah said...

I'm like you, Anna, it's nice to close the world out for a bit but I need some stimulation around me. Now our son is back from Uni for the summer I've lost my office - but am managing OK at the dining room table with headphones in and music turned up :)

Nancy said...

Since you've written in the past about Americans making faux pas in British English, I'll mention that for us an "outhouse" is the shack over the hole in the ground for a loo! We would probably call the little room you describe as an "outbuilding."

Anna Buttimore said...

Nancy, how funny! About time I made an idiot of myself in American. Last time was when Kerry met me at the airport in Phoenix and I told her I was going to need a trolley. She was terribly offended thinking her car wasn't good enough for me. Apparently I should have said a "cart" for my luggage. Or is that baggage?