Is it worth going on a writing retreat?
I am sitting in a bedroom of a house dating back to the 1600s. The upstairs floor is so warped that my desk is at a slight angle. The white-washed walls are cracked and anything but smooth or symmetrical. I adore this room.
It’s cosy and charming and I keep finding new things to look at.
The view from my room is of the thatched cottages across the road, with downstairs windows so low, they are almost at pavement level. At regular intervals, a tractor rumbles on by. This is rural Devon. And it is rural – roughly 45 minutes, we are told, to most of the nearest towns, depending on which way you head.
I’ve walked to all ends of the village during my stay here. It didn’t take long. In the centre, there is a pub and a community shop run by volunteers that serves as a local store, off-licence and Post Office and really that’s it.
Apart from this place.
Retreats for You is a well-integrated part of the village, serving not only as a writing retreat, but as a village tea-rooms on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Linda lives across the road and she comes in every day to tidy up and look after us. Wendy lives down the road and she comes in every afternoon to make us a delicious dinner. It’s like having your mum times two, and the pair provide a welcome that goes beyond service. Warm and generous, we’ve laughed, swapped stories and learned all about Devon farming life. It’s been an education in itself.
I came here with a purpose – to work through the edits of a novel. Many would argue that if you want to be a writer or any type of creative for that matter, you must learn to carve out time in your everyday life. And I agree with that. I think to assume you can only write, paint or make when you have cleared your diary of any other distractions is a mistake. It is something that can then end up putting the pressure on and that’s a sure-fire way to kill creativity.
Having said that, there is also something to be said for being able to step away from the everyday. To know you have nothing else to focus on but your project – no chores, no school run, no other responsibilities than to yourself. For me, that was what attracted me to this place.
I came here with a purpose – a project I needed to work on – and I’ve been able to do that without distraction. I’ve been fed, watered, offered cake in the afternoon and given wine at 6 p.m. every evening – what more could I ask for?!
There is room enough for six people here – five in the house and one in the barn conversion in the garden. This week, there have been five of us. With desks in our rooms, a large lounge, an equally large dining area, garden and studio with television and gym equipment, there has been plenty of space for all.
The beauty about coming away to somewhere like this is that you are all here for the same reason and that means everyone respects each other’s space. You can socialise as much as you want to, but no one minds if you prefer to be a recluse in your own room. You are here on your own, but at the same time, you are not alone.
I’ve written over six thousand words this week, interspersed with some walks, time in the gym and some relaxing in front of the TV. I set myself the target of getting through as much of the edits as I could manage and surprised myself by finishing by Thursday afternoon, leaving me Friday morning to write about my experience.
I think taking time out for yourself is one of the most important things you can do, not just as a parent, but as an adult.
Coming here was my treat to me – my time out. I could have chosen to go away on a girl’s weekend, but I didn’t because allowing myself time and the headspace to write was more important to me at this time.
So, is it worth going on a writing retreat? I would say, yes, definitely. I have found this week so productive and rewarding that I’m going away feeling invigorated and revived, with a writing mojo I thought I’d lost. If I can make this an annual thing, I most definitely will.