The thing about writers is that they need solitude. My own need for it is something I find hard to square with ordinary life. But I’ve spent the last four days with six other writers and a wonderful unspoken respect for aloneness. I got to spend hours on my own: writing, thinking and walking on the beach without worrying about whether someone might want to come with me... and then break into the evening with the rest of the group, the peace tucked away until the morning.
Scattered around a rickety little cottage over-looking the sea, we all worked at our projects with the time and space to indulge in our own rituals and patterns. We spent hours alone beside each other, silently disappearing out the back door for a walk along the beach or pottering into the kitchen for a sustenance break, then sitting back down to our laptops and battling with our own private demons. And then, around 5 O’clock, we’d break for nibbles and drinks and some welcome social contact. We’d crack open the wine, eat dinner together and settle in for an evening of critiquing, discussion and laughter.
And the sea! The sea is like a magic cure for what I’ve recently described as the “writer’s maze” – less of a block and more of a puzzle, with multiple wrong turns and multiple solutions. Every time I got stuck, I went for a walk and, without fail, some kind of solution would come to me, the sea erasing all the knots and creases like a massage. If I could live by the sea, I’m sure I’d be a much more productive writer.
My writing group is a diverse group of people with very different lives. What we have in common is that we are writers, our temperaments naturally suited to sharing time and space with each other. Around a shared need to write, we have gradually built a friendship and a supportive but honest team. Which is why this retreat has been incredible.
I think I’ve just guaranteed that I’ll never have to go on an organised retreat in order to find the focus and support of a shared writing break. This arrangement couldn’t have been more perfect.
For another perspective on our retreat, read Nathalie’s blog. In fact, do that anyway: she’s great.