Diary of a Writer – In Retreat

Working in the sunshine

Working in the sunshine

Retreating has become very popular among writers and I’m no exception. Being cut loose from domestic and other responsibility opens up endless possibilities for the creative mind.

The late, Hugh Rae, aka Jessica Stirling, used to set up speakers for a small writers’ conference held in Pitlochry at the beginning of October. A number of people would do the paperwork, but Hugh had the contacts. This was my first taste of writing space in the day. The two hours between arrival and dressing for pre-dinner chat in the bar seemed endless to a busy wife and mum. No telephone calls, no car runs, no hunting for the elusive football boot – just a quiet room and a notebook and pencil.

Hugh was a lovely man and spotting that I was a newbie, he came over and said, “The first coffee is always on me.” So typical of his concern.

My first taste of retreating for the purpose of writing rather than conferring, was signing up for a radio writing course run by The Arvon Foundation in deepest Devon. Totleigh Barton in Sheepwash was straight out of the Girls’ Own Book of writers’ retreats. I slept in the pigsty. It’s a sixteenth century manor house with barn.

But the crème de la crème has to be a friend’s cottage near Stonehaven.

A secret garden

A secret garden

I’ve been several times to this magical place where the eye is on a level with the local murder of crows and where I once arrived to an aerobatic display by a pair of buzzards. I finished my second novel here and I know many others who wrote reams and reams in its welcoming embrace.

Alas, all good things will end.

So, this year’s retreat is home based. That isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. I’ve got the space, but I’ve also got regularity around. So how’s it going…

Well, there’s been a bit of spring cleaning of my writing chores’ backlog. So far, I’ve edited a novel and sent out an enquiry concerning a possible contract for it. I’ve completed another paid editing job. I’ve signed a contract (news about that to come) and I’ve started a short story.

I’m avoiding the elephant in this particular room. That’s the 1950s novel I’m having a lot of trouble structuring. Maybe that points up the real drawback of retreating in-house: there’s no other writer to bounce ideas off in the evening. Maybe the next time I have the house to myself, I’ll invite a friend to make a retreat in the spare room. Bet they get lots written as the Wi-Fi doesn’t reach there!

Where’s your favourite retreat? Is it solitary and miles from anywhere? Is it in plain view in a café?

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Writing, Just Writing

A secret garden

A secret garden

Some people will recognise this wee chap. He sits guarding the entrance to a ‘secret’ garden somewhere in the north-east of Scotland. I’ve visited there on several occasions and enjoyed peace, spectacular scenery and warm hospitality. It’s a place where I’ve retreated to write and written. I have fond memories and I’m grateful.

Back at the ranch, it’s not so easy to carve out the time to write and once you do there’s always the pull of what else is going on around and about. As the days and weeks pass online marketing becomes more of an issue and other things, like writing the next novel or story or play, have to fight even harder for attention. I mention this for two reasons.

First up is having just deleted around 6,000 unwanted spam e-mails from the my post office box I use. As hardly anyone ever sends me a bona-fide e-mail to that box, I rarely go there. This turns out to be a huge mistake. Why do people send, over and over, e-mails about floor mops, accounts I don’t have with banks, pharmaceutical preparations for the enhancement of an organ I don’t have? So, in trying to be accessible to people who might want to ask a genuine question, I’m deluged by rubbish that has to dealt with and steals my time.

Second in my problems’ list is the unwritten. I was replying to a FB post when I realised I’d probably written a blog post about the same subject. I can’t track it down, but the gist was this: I hate finishing anything once I’ve worked out the puzzle. So, my husband should think himself lucky that there’s all those jars of marmalade downstairs. I can’t think how many times I’ve made it. When it comes to knitting, same problem. After I’ve seen how the pattern looks, I find it incredibly hard to complete the garment. That’s the insidious attraction of FB and Twitter. Every post brings something new and interesting. A challenge. A puzzle to unravel.

http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage at amazon.co.uk
http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage at amazon.com
http://goo.gl/3yj8U1 Bella’s Betrothal at amazon.com Australia
http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal at amazon.co.uk UK
http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal at amazon.com

Keeping on going with the regular is so hard, but in the end that’s what creates. I need a deadline. Is there an editor out there? Even just a little chap to wave me in and guard the door of time would be a help.