‘At the end of the retreat…I wanted to share something I had written (a major break-through!)’
I love this comment from Liz, one of our November retreat guests. For me, it sums up the value of a week away, immersed in a supportive environment in which there is time, space and – importantly – permission to write, experiment and learn.
On the final evening we invited our guests to share a piece of writing from the week, or from their personal portfolio of work in progress or finished pieces. There would be no critiquing, just an after dinner cabaret of words.
Earlier that day, Liz showed me a poem she had written, prefacing it by saying something along the lines of ‘I don’t really write poetry’. The poem was about the experience of walking in a storm. It was alive with strong images and had the natural narrative structure of the storm blowing up, raging, then becoming calmer; an effective shaping device for a piece of free verse. I read it and told Liz what I liked about it, what I thought worked well, and some things she could work on to make it even stronger. She went away for several hours and, later, showed it to me again, improved. I encouraged her to read it and she did, to our enjoyment and admiration. I know now that it was the first time she had shared a poem in this way.
The experience of coming on retreat can be all about these breakthroughs; the moment you share your writing with someone else, the moment you discover the form or genre that will serve your story, or the moment you find the voice in which to tell it. They are small steps in themselves but huge in terms of the confidence and sense of purpose they can inject into a writer.
I am looking forward to hearing more of Liz’s poems.