“So, let me get this straight. You pay money to sit in a room and just write stuff?”
I try not to sigh. This wouldn’t be the first time someone’s ask me that. Or the first time a sceptical eyebrow’s been raised alongside it. It’s that or the confused frown. And I admit, when it’s put like that, it does sound a bit daft.
But, unless they’re writers, people don’t seem to get it. Maybe it’s the name. Writing Retreat. A retreat is something mystical, isn’t it? Do we do meditation? Light joss sticks?
Um… Not exactly, no.
‘But lunch is included,’ I point out lamely.
At this stage my audience usually wanders off, no doubt mentally consigning me to the ‘loopy’ pile, with a note-to-self to avoid in future – at all costs.
The lunch is included. And it’s lovely. And the room we go to is quiet, light and airy. But it’s not the reason I’m willing to pay good money to be locked up with my laptop and a dozen other writers. Face it, we’re not even allowed Wi-Fi. Not without special dispensation. Torture, right? Why would I endure that?
The reason’s simple. So I can write. One whole, glorious, uninterrupted day to just write. When was the last time I got that?
Yes, I can sit at home, put on the same music and open the same laptop, the same piece of work. What’s the difference?
Well, at the retreat there’s no TV. No internet. There are no chores. No phones ringing, no dogs in need of walking, no kids in need of feeding.
It’s peace. It’s quiet. It’s opportunity. It’s things I can’t get at home.
True, home is familiar. It has sounds, smells and bustle I’m accustomed to. Surely it should be easier to settle down there to write? The trouble is, home is also where procrastination lies. Where excuses lurk. It’s where video games beckon from their shelves, urging me to play them – just for half an hour. Just for inspiration.
Try procrastinating at a writing retreat. I dare you. Those sinful moments when you look up, just to rest your poor, tired eyes and guiltily spot every other writer still hard at work. Besides, you’ve paid for this. You’re going to waste that money?
With no interruptions, no excuses, no distractions and nothing else to do, the only thing left is to write. And, as with a mystical retreat, by removing all those external influences, the seeker finds what they’re looking for. And so the words come. Since there’s nothing else going on, they have to.
Perhaps, more than anything, the joy of a writing retreat is the energy that comes afterwards – the ‘charge’ that builds up from all those authors churning out words in the same room for a whole day. It’s the satisfaction of making progress, even if it’s just mapping out your novel or fleshing out your characters. It’s leaving there fired up, energised and optimistic and knowing there are other writers out there who feel just the same.
By Martine Lillycrop
The next Taunton Writing Retreat takes place on Sunday 12th May. Visit http://www.wordsarama.co.uk/writers-anon-taunton-writing-retreat/ to book your place.