“Be prepared for things to change. Your writing will grow, your outlook will change, and you’ll be very glad you came.” Sarah Fisher, March 2016 guest
When we look back over the past few years of running our retreats we see a pattern. On each retreat there seems to be at least one person for whom the experience turns out to be – potentially – life changing. When we started The Writing Retreat we didn’t set out to change lives, but for some people the experience of a complete week immersed in something they love – writing – seems to gives them permission to realise how central it is to them. You can read some of our guests’ comments from recent retreats here, to get a flavour of the difference a week away to write can make.
I’ll come clean and confess that I had my own moment of epiphany on a retreat, many years ago now. It came towards the end of a week in Devon, during a round of sharing our writing in draft around the big table. I was sitting next to one of the tutors and, as I read a poem which I had written during the week, two things happened. First, I heard the sound you always hope to hear when you read a poem; a sort of sigh crossed with ‘hmmm’ as the listeners take in the meaning and emotional impact of your words.It was the first time I had heard it in response to my own writing. It made me feel about ten feet tall.
Then, from the chair beside me, I heard the tutor say, under his breath, ‘That’s good, really good,’ and he gave me a little nod. I felt even taller. I had been given permission to enjoy something I had written, knowing it was good. It had communicated something to the audience and it worked as a piece of writing into which I had applied thought, feeling and craft. I left at the end of the week knowing that life would not be the same again. I was a writer and I didn’t mind who knew it.
At The Writing Retreat we host writers of all types, interests and levels of experience, from those who are exploring what sort of writer they might be, to others who are experienced and published, looking for time away to focus on their writing. Everyone is fascinating, but the ones I love meeting are those who do not yet know how talented they are, or perhaps even that they can call themselves ‘writer’. They are often the ones who hold back from sharing their writing until quite late in the week. It is as if they are building up to the moment, deciding when to trust themselves, and us, with their words. When we do finally get to read with them, in a one to one, it is like the sun coming out. Some of my favourite moments as a tutor have been when I can look someone in the eye and say ‘do you know how good this is?’ That is when I see someone’s mind open up to the possibility that they can really do this.
There are other moments of epiphany during a typical week. Someone might feel inspired to write fiction, having arrived convinced they are a life writer. Someone might decide to abandon the draft they have been working on and start something new; a positive choice. A first attempt at poetry, a radically revised narrative structure, or the discovery of just how many thousands of words they can actually write, given the time and head space that a retreat provides; these are all regular experiences on retreat.
Whatever your reasons for coming away for a week, be open to the possibility that things will change. Be ready to make discoveries and enjoy the journey. Wherever you are at the start of the week we are certain things will have shifted for you by the end – and we look forward to assisting you along the way.