Yeah, yeah… if you are really serious about your writing you’ll find the time and space to do it anywhere. Proper writers don’t need to get away from it all. Writers just need a desk and a piece of paper… I’ve heard all the comments as to why it isn’t necessary to go on a writing retreat, how it is a waste of money, an indulgence even.
However… blogging as someone who is a wife and a mother and who lives in a very friendly little community, getting more than thirty minutes of peace and quiet at a stretch at any time of the day is a rarity. The thing is, if you sit on your backside for a lot of the day, making things up, there is a sizeable section of the population who do not consider that what you are doing is ‘work’. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate to interrupt because it doesn’t matter.
Remember the man from Porlock? Samuel Coleridge Taylor had ‘seen’ the whole of Kublai Khan in a dream and was busy scribbling it down when he was interrupted by the man from Porlock after just fifty-four lines of fabulous poetry. When his unwelcome visitor had departed, Coleridge found his vision had too, and the poem was never completed. I am not saying anything I write is even close to Coleridge’s literary genius (heck, I wouldn’t put my self in the same country – possibly not on the same continent!) but being interrupted just when you have the perfect turn of phrase, the perfect scene, the mot juste is unbelievably frustrating and it happens, if you work from home, on a daily – sometimes an hourly – basis.
Worse, as a wife and mother I am expected to do the shopping, sort the house out, cook food and generally look after my family – I know! They are so unreasonable… but, seriously, if I were a bloke I’d be able to get away with shutting the door and demanding that I must be Left In Peace. Fat chance of that if you are a woman.
So, I go away. I go away to France, to Chez Castillon where I can switch off my mobile, ignore Real Life, stay in my room all day and just appear for meals. It is bliss. It is peaceful bliss. Even better, I am in the company of other writers who are happy to talk about plot points over lunch, who understand about emotions and the difficulty of getting them on to the page, who will brain-storm you through a tricky patch…And then there’s the competition regarding the Word Count. ‘I wrote two thousand words today,’ says a fellow writer casually, over dinner. Two thousand?! Hell’s bells. So the next day you are determined to equal and possibly better that amount. After all, if she can do it, so can you. Two and a half thousand words… three… amounts you would never achieve at home suddenly become possible. As does hitting that deadline.
So, yes, writing retreats are worth it. If only for the sake of one’s sanity
The picture above was taken from my room at Chez Castillon.