Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 31 August 2013

In Retreat, by Jenny Harper

I've got a study of my own.

I can work in my dining room, which is lovely – there's a door to a balcony, which leads down to my garden.

I can work in my living room, curled up on the sofa (in front of a fire in winter), and I can work in my kitchen, which is homely and cosy, and in winter the Aga keeps me warm.

So why do I write SO much better when I come away on a retreat?

I've been asking myself this question for the past couple of days. I'm here, in a gorgeous cottage, with two writing friends and our host, and although it would be easy enough to sit around and pass the day in idle chitchat, none of us do – we all do what we came here to do, which is TO WRITE!

I've been here before. I like (if at all possible) to get to the stage in my work where I'm at least three quarters through the book, with around 25,000 words to go, and where I know more or less what needs to be done. That's what's happened this time. I've spent all year struggling with this novel. The title has changed I don't know how many times. The main characters have changed. The hero has changed and the heroine has changed character. I've changed the plot. I've changed the sex of one of the support characters. In short, I've struggled. But I worked very hard in the past few weeks, in the knowledge that I was coming here, to get myself to the point where I felt I'd be able to 'knock out words' – and my goodness, that's what I've been doing. In fact, I've written 14,700 since I got here, two and a half days ago.

I know I'm finally at the point where I've got it firmly fixed in my head who is who and what it's all about, but is that the only reason I'm able to settle down and just get on with it here?

The truth is, there are a million distractions at home. There's housework to do and bills to pay, holiday arrangements to make and shopping, cooking and washing to do. There's a stream of appointments – dentists, doctors, hairdressers, physios, chiropodists. All the guff that makes up life, in fact. Here, there's none of that. I have winkled out a few precious days where it's the writing that takes priority and the distractions are few. And, most important of all, I have space and time to immerse myself completely in my story. I can live inside it, give it space to flow from my fingertips.

It's very precious time, and all of us here give grateful thanks to the special lady who has made it all possible.

18 comments:

  1. A very special place indeed, Jenny.

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    1. Sun, sea and sky - what more could you want?

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  2. I know where you are, Jenny, and though I've never used it myself as a retreat, I know exactly why you do and why it works so well for so many. Enjoy your stay.

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  3. Sounds brilliant, Jenny. Like Bill, I have a pretty good idea where you are. One of these days, I must follow suit. Enjoy - and come away inspired!

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    1. More inspired than I have been in ages, Liz. Thanks for dropping by!

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  4. I completely get it, Jenny. I live in a cottage in peaceful countryside with no (visual) neighbours and yet I too find it hard to knuckle down and write as, because it is home, distractions are many. I love the idea of a writing retreat! Thanks for sharing.

    Janice xx

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    1. I'll share with you one day, Janice!

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  5. It sounds wonderful, Jenny. I completely understand why you need to remove yourself from all the distractions of daily life from feeding the washing machine to answering the phone and the thinking about all the things which have to be done distract you from the writing. It sounds like you'll have this book pretty well finished by the end of your time there.. Well done. I'm jealous!

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    1. Honestly, it's SOOO peaceful, and the sun has shone from dawn till dusk. Perfect!

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  6. This puts the 'time' question into perspective, Jenny. It's not just time we need, but time and energy in the right place at the right time. And we are so lucky when we find it, as you have. 14K words!! I wish. Enjoy.

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    1. Home again - but with just one chapter still to go. I can't believe I wrote so much. Such a luxury...

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  7. Yes, it's getting everything together, isn't it? I've discovered how to make use of a retreat - hope the magic keeps on working!

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  8. I can see how your wonderful retreat works such magic, Jenny - well done on all those words.

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    1. Thank you Rosemary. It's a great feeling, when the words flow, isn't it?

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  9. I'm so envious. I do think that if you find somewhere where there are no distractions it's much easier. But I don't know if I could turn out that many words!

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  10. Only when you're at the point when you know what needs to be done, Jennifer. And YOU know how long this one has taken to get to that stage!

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  11. I really am going to have to come to CC before too long, aren't I???

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