Writing in the house of Zoom

 

The second in our series of The Writing Retreat Stays Home took place on Sunday 7 June. The focus was poetry, and especially how to write poems that draw on our own lives, experiences and memories. We can say now, with certainty, that the opportunity to enable writers to assemble via the magic of Zoom is more precious than we could have imagined.

When the Covid-19 lock down first hit us it seemed impossible that we would be able to carry on with activities that entail bringing people together. Since then, we have sorely missed the pleasure of sitting round a big table with everyone in the same room, but we have to admit that the sight of guests Zooming in from across the UK, Europe and even the Southern Hemisphere, is a delight.

As we gaze at everyone in their individual squares on the screen it has the effect of looking into the open front of a doll’s house, each room inhabited by a writer, gazing back at us.  It is a different kind of community, but it has its own feeling of intimacy and being connected.

While lock down guidelines keep public venues closed, and people are unable to meet others from outside their own  households indoors, residential retreats remain impossible. Here is a reminder of how it used to be:

And how we hope it will be again:

We hope to resume our regular progamme in 2021  but in the meantime, we are exploring the potential to do more online. As we ponder that, we welcome suggestions and requests, and invite you to let us know the sort of things you would like to see on offer via Zoom. Please do email us your ideas at thewritingretreat@btinternet.com. We’ll mull it all over and see what we can come up with.

Our next Sunday retreat is on July 19th and is about blogging. We can squeeze a few more into the doll’s house and you can find more information about this retreat here. Do stay tuned for news of further online retreat events later in 2020, and if you are not already on our mailing list, drop us an email to request to be added.

Stay safe and see you soon.

Fighting it: why not writing makes no sense

Not everybody will share my view that for a writer, writing is not a hobby, it is almost an addiction; a compulsion that can drive us to entertain inappropriate and often criminal fantasies. I very much doubt the condition will ever be officially recognised, and I’m pretty certain there will never be any NHS funding for treatment (other than to advise us to keep doing it). But still, I would argue my case that writing can be addictive. If you can go with me on this for a moment you might understand why, given writing’s addictive qualities, I am constantly bemused by the fact that every writer I know (including myself) is so fantastically talented at avoiding doing it. Why do we find a million and one reasons not to write? Focused on voice When writers are writing, our social lives suffer. Many of us grow pale and sickly. All too often, our finances are strained beyond breaking point as we strive to feed our insatiable habit. When we’re really going for it, some of us forget to wash or dress for days; why bother when the only people we intend communicating with are figments of our own imagination and unlikely to notice? We spend too much time locked away from the world, inhabiting our own weird dreamlands, tripping through the realms of our imaginations, which are every bit as real to us as that other world huffing and puffing away outside our window. And yet, we find a million and more excuses not to write.

When writers aren’t writing, we go about our everyday liTanya 167fe pretending all is well, but look closer and you will see we are restless, twitchy. As time goes on we may grow irritable, morose, frustrated, and eventually depressed. If only a perfectly-plotted, startlingly original idea would plop fully formed into our lap. If only we could find that idyllic haven, our ideal writing space, in which to meet our muse. If only we could go on a writing retreat. If only we had that yearned-for pocket of free time when life would just get the hell out of our way and let us WORK… Then our words of genius would spill forth and stun the world with their utter brilliance.

And when we forget about all this nonsense and just put our butt in a chair and write? Working hard Even on a bad writing day, when the words come hard and are clunky and crass, and our characters are stiff and dull as breeze blocks, the truth is, it’s still a buzz. A hit. And it’s not even, in and of itself, bad for our health. So how does not doing it make any sense? Why do we resist the very thing we are craving? No wonder all my friends think us writers are a bit weird.

How about you? Do you resist the writing urge and if so, what do you do about it? Does a writing retreat help? Or joining a writing group? Or do you just have a really harsh word with yourself?

Writing Retreat, what’s that all about then?

Before I plunged without a map into the world of writers and writing, for some reason I was convinced that given the option, writers would choose to veer shy of contact with other humans. But the current boom in writing retreats would seem to imply I was wrong. Writers gathering together to write and talk about writing? What’s that all about?

For those of my students who enter the realm of writing as tentative, virginal explorers, one of the biggest surprises awaiting them is quite how much of a community spirit exists between writers at all stages of their journey. It’s true that much writing takes place in solitude. The popular image of the lonely writer holed up in their den living a fantastical existence while the real world plods on by without them, is valid enough – some of the time. But most writers will also work intensively with others of the same species, be they colleagues, beta readers, editors or agents. Being a writer is both a solitary and a social activity.

writers blog sept 14Writing is part art and part craft. It requires a combination of practice and study in order to become a master craftsman. You can study at home alone, or you can join a class or group and work with others. Many choose to learn and grow as a writer in the company of others who are on the same journey.

If you are dreaming of publication (go on, you can admit it, you’re amongst friends here) having somebody else cast a critical eye over your work is a crucial part of the writing process. The truth is, few of us can produce our best work without the help of others. Even those who have persisted through the drafting, re-drafting and polishing process while wrapped firmly in a solitary bubble will, should they be lucky enough to snare an agent or publisher, find themselves confronted with the need to work collaboratively on their writing. There’s simply no escaping it.

I believe that the writer who spurns the company of other writers is missing out.  The support, learning opportunities and sheer camaraderie that come from getting together with other writers are not only fantastic for one’s development as a writer, but are also a huge part of the fun.  For me, being able to drop out of the world of ‘normal’ people and surround myself with writers and writing for a sustained length of time, is a joy I would not wish to live without. That’s why I’m so looking forward to this November’s writing retreat in Cornwall.

Kath Morgan

What’s it all about, this thing we call creative writing?

Early Dreams

When I first decided to get serious about writing, I had this lovely vision of me sitting on the beach, or in front of a log fire, or huddled into the corner of a country pub, scribbling into a well-worn but totally classy leather-bound notepad. And that would be my life as a writer.

Or so I thought.

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The reality is somewhat different. Less peaceful. Nowhere near so self-indulgent.

But for all that, this real writing life is in its own way just as stimulating and exciting as the one I once fantasised about. Just different. Definitely different.

How have you found your writing journey so far? Did it live up to the early dream, or even surpass it?

Kath Morgan

Ooh, the nights are already getting darker…

It’s only August, but already you can sense this exceptionally kind summer we’ve been enjoying retreating to the hills as Autumn gets ready to do her thing. For the past few years, the closing in of night filled me with sadness. I wasn’t ready. Where did the summer go? Did I Blink? But this year, I feel happily sated, and I’m putting that down to two things.

Firstly, we’ve had a fantastic summer season at last – blue skies, brilliant sunshine, warm evening air – and this year I really have made the most of everything that lovely Cornwall has to offer. I’ve spend a lot of time lounging on the beaches, swimming in the sea, kayaking up the rivers, camping in the wilds, and enjoying barbecues with friends.  The dogs have walked their little socks off, and though I will be quietly wishing for an Indian summer and a fabulous September and October, it would be ungracious of me indeed to resent the Autumn her turn. So I won’t.

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Secondly, I am so looking forward to starting a new year of teaching – more lovely creative writing students to meet, established students and writing colleagues to catch up with, new writing workshops to design. But best of all, the first of our new writers retreats will take place in November, and I can’t wait. When Jane Moss and I were planning the launch date for The Writing Retreat, we thought maybe November was a bit soon. Perhaps we should wait until February? But I am so glad we didn’t. It’s given us something to look forward to, something delicious to break up the sometimes gloomy period between summer departing and Christmas arriving.

What are you going to do this year to cheer yourself as winter approaches?

Kath

www.thewritingretreat.com

www.kathmorgansays.com