Each year, I’m lucky enough to head off on a writing weekend, down in rural Cornwall. We all stay in a crumbling old manor house, where we do writing exercises, work on our current manuscripts, and eat a lot of cake.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut with your writing, a simple change of scenery is often the perfect solution. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
The first (and most important) benefit of getting away from it all is the peace and quiet. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my home-life is basically a series of high-energy tasks to be performed; such as hitting deadlines, taking the kids to their numerous after-school activities, cooking dinners, cleaning bathrooms, feeding the cat and so forth.
On a writing weekend, you don’t have to think about any of that. You’ve literally got hours upon hours to just focus on your latest novel. Bliss.
There’s also something rather lovely about being surrounded by people who care about writing as much as you do. The group I go with are not only all fantastic, friendly, funny people – they’re also ultra-talented, uber-passionate writers, and it’s wonderful to chat about literary stuff with folk who love it as much as you do.
Likewise, the writing exercises always challenge me to go further. They make me look at writing in a way I hadn’t tried before. Hey, they even get me writing poetry – my ultimate nemesis. If you’re serious about becoming an author, it’s imperative to step firmly out of your comfort zone… that’s the only way you’ll ever be able to improve.
What About the Cash?
For starters, it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. On ours, we all muck in with catering; bringing food from home etc, and it works really well. The house is lush, but it’s not 5* accommodation (as we all noted this weekend, as the heating wasn’t functioning terribly well). That keeps costs down for us all, and lets us focus on the important stuff, which is cracking on with our writing.
However, if this is still too expensive, there are other ways you can create your own writing retreat. Ask your mum if she’s happy for you to stay at hers for the weekend. Stay at a youth hostel for a fraction of the price. Even going to the local woods for the day can reignite your enthusiasm.
Taking it Seriously
I spent many years feeling guilty about my writing. Every time my ‘secret hobby’ ate into family time, I felt terrible. On each occasion that I dared to do a bit of creative writing rather than do some work, I felt like I was ‘being lazy’. As for spending out on a writing weekend… that felt like the height of self-indulgence!
It took me a while to realise that, if you’re serious about being a full-time writer, you need to invest in your craft. You need to stop seeing it as the silly little pastime that doesn’t mean anything, and you definitely need to stop apologising for doing it. If writing burns through your soul and you can’t imagine doing anything else; why then, you have to invest time, energy and perhaps even money into it.
Thank you to the lovely Polly Hall and Dixie Darch for organising our writing weekend!