I've never been on a writing retreat, although I know people who have been and they've thoroughly enjoyed it. I would like to go on an organised retreat, where you stay in a house or hotel with other writers who want to get away from the distractions of life to write in comfort. You are pretty much looked after and taken care of so that you can focus on writing. On some retreats they have 'classes' where you can do writing activities to inspire you (but these are not compulsory) and you can meet with others to share your work in progress.
One day I would like to go on one of these retreats, but last week I undertook my own retreat. I had a bit of a rubbish end to last year and wanted to get away for a bit, but not too far away. I found a lovely pet-friendly, self-catering holiday home and took my dog and my laptop away for a week.
We stayed in a converted barn, about 90 minutes' drive away from where I live. It was absolutely beautiful. The pictures on the website (Courtyard Barns) are lovely, but they don't do justice to the actual place. And neither do my pictures, but here's a little sneak peek at where we stayed.
There were two bedrooms, an en-suite shower room, a separate bathroom, a kitchen/dining room, and a huge living room, as well as an enclosed area at the front for Lily (my dog) to play in without her running out into the road. Lily is a bit of a nervous dog and she doesn't like change, but she made herself at home in no time!
Being in the countryside, we found some nice (if not extremely) muddy walks around the fields. It was so nice being away from everything. I live in a village and we don't have much here, but there was absolutely nothing there. A few houses dotted along the road, but if you wanted to go to a shop you had to get in your car.
The main purpose of this trip was to get away for a while so that I could sit and write without having to go to work or to the gym or to the shops. I wanted some time on my own (with my dog, of course), where I didn't have to see people or speak to people. It's not that I'm unsociable, but sometimes I do like to be on my own.
So I set my laptop up on the coffee table in the living room, and pretty much didn't leave that spot for the whole week. It was great. I managed to edit a book I've been working on for a couple of years. I'm just going to give it to my editors (otherwise known as my parents) to have one last look over, and then it will be done. I do have to finish the introduction and afterword though, but that shouldn't take me too long. I also started writing a new book; something that has been floating around in my head for a while. I managed to write just over 6,000 words over two days, which as a friend pointed out is more than one of our undergraduate essays. It used to take me a month to write a 3,000 word essay, and here I am writing double that in two days.
It's great when inspiration hits and you just can't stop writing. Obviously, it's far from perfect but there are words on the paper and I can edit them at a later date. I feel like I accomplished so much being away from 'real life' for a while. I wasn't completely cut off; I had access to the wi-fi and there was a television in the barn, so I did have a couple of distractions. I would definitely have done more work without the television, and there is no doubt that I would have done a million times more work if it wasn't for Facebook. But I don't want to be cut off from everything. I know I grew up without the internet, and for the majority of my childhood we only had four television channels, but I'm afraid technology is now such a huge part of my life I don't think I could go cold turkey!
So if you're a writer (or any sort of artist), I really would advise going away every now and then to throw yourself into your work. Even if you live along, or you don't have to go out to work. Sometimes a change in scenery can be great for our creativity. We start to look at things differently because we are looking at different things.
Although I did start to miss home and my own bed by the end of the week, I really didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay and write, and wrap myself up in a little world of words. But now I'm home, and I have to start thinking about getting back into my routine of work and gym and shopping, and grabbing time to write in between.