Thursday, 19 October 2017

My First Writing Retreat by Sophie Claire

Do you ever wonder how much you could achieve if you weren’t constantly interrupted by the demands of daily life and could concentrate solely on your writing? Well last weekend I did just that when I went on a writing retreat for the first time. It wasn’t anything official – just a group of us who booked into a Bed & Breakfast in the grounds of a monastery in Yorkshire.

Beforehand, I was excited at the prospect of immersing myself in writing for 3 days and being in the company of writer friends, although I must admit I was a bit nervous too about not having my usual desktop (I borrowed a laptop) or a printer, and also, would it be too intense? Would I be the naughty one who was always stopping for cups of tea and distracting the others? (*coughs* that did happen, but I think they were happy to stop – and eat flapjacks!).
The orchard (the monks produce their own apple juice)
The vegetable patch

I needn’t have worried. The technology worked, and I was at my desk at 8am each morning.

Away from my usual routine, I was really productive and more focused; although we had internet, I wasn’t as tempted as usual and enjoyed the uninterrupted stretches of time to write – what a luxury.

My word count steadily increased, but regular breaks were essential, so I explored the monastery grounds, which were surprisingly big for a town site.

The whole place had a very peaceful atmosphere, with benches dotted around everywhere, inviting you to sit and contemplate...

...Encouraging you to slow down, and live in the moment.

By the third day I felt immersed in my story and with this came a feeling of deep calm. It reminded me of when I took part in NaNoWriMo last year – I experienced the same freeing up of the imagination and shutting off of the inner critic, allowing my imagination space to simply create.
I could hear the outside world, the cars and buses trundling past on the main road nearby, yet I felt cocooned here and apart. Cloistered, is the word, I suppose.

The church bells rang four times a day and they soon became a familiar background noise, also calming. Out of curiosity we went to evensong, which was beautiful and the monks were very welcoming. (I kept setting my alarm to go to 6.45am matins too, but I confess I never made it!)

The church

Anne Stenhouse, Sophie Claire, Kate Blackadder
& Helena Fairfax

After evensong we headed out to eat in the local pub, where we soon became regulars.

Unlike the monks’ meals, these were not silent!

The four of us had lots to catch up on, writing projects to discuss, ideas to share. All good fun and inspiring.

The whole experience was very liberating and productive. We all agreed that we’d like to do it again and I look forward to that.

Have you ever been on a writing retreat? How was your experience? 


Anne Stenhouse
Kate Blackadder
Helena Fairfax
Sophie Claire