Writing Retreats

Back in January (which, somehow, both feels like last week and about 6 months ago), the Scotsman went on a snowboarding excursion (I was originally going to go, and ended up not going, which worked out in my favor in more ways than one :), so while he was away I figured I’d be super productive AND have fun. I planned a mini-writing getaway to Cornwall.

Pendennis Point
Pendennis Point

I did a film degree at Falmouth University (when it was still University College Falmouth), and those 3+ years are legendary in my mind. Whenever I visit now, I’m infused with the same anything-can-happen mentality I had when I was at uni. Maybe because it was my third attempt at finishing a degree, maybe because it was my first year living in the UK, and most definitely because for the first time in my life, I worked my butt off and was genuinely HAPPY about it. Whatever the magical combination or alignment of planets, I feel like it still lingers when I visit. So for me, it’s the perfect writing retreat destination.

Gyllyngvase Beach
Gyllyngvase Beach

Ignoring the fact that I do NOT work in film, I don’t regret a day of that degree (okay… maybe ONE day, but that’s another story 😉 because I got to research things I love, learn about different cultures and perspectives and theories, and most importantly, surround myself in storytelling. (Not to mention the amazing people and memories).

I booked four nights in a hotel on the beach. On the 4.5-hour train ride down alone I wrote about 5k. Every sunrise I did a 4-mile run along the coast (which I do NOT do where we currently live because there’s nowhere remotely pretty nearby), and soaked in the pool and sauna in the evening, but during the day, I took my laptop on a writing tour of Penryn and Falmouth and wrote over 30k. In 4.5 days. And I didn’t go home and delete it all (MONSTER WIN!).

I realise not everyone can get away from home for 1 day, let alone 4.5 by the sea, but the change of scenery is what’s most important. I work in my home office most of the time, and somedays, even changing CHAIRS makes a noticeable difference.

It wasn’t even that I didn’t have distractions — there were loads. I still know people in Falmouth and met up with some of them. I wanted to go in all the shops and could’ve spent the day at Gylly Beach just staring at the horizon. Reflecting on why it worked, I’ve concluded that:

a) It wasn’t a place I’d never been, therefore there was no urge to go off adventuring and explore EVERYTHING. Yes, I could’ve just walked around for 5 days and been content, but if it had been somewhere new to me, I would’ve done that without hesitating.

b) …and at the same time, it holds a place in my heart, good memories, though I was mostly surrounded by strangers, so I was able to tuck into the corner of a cafe or restaurant I knew, but eavesdrop and even partake in conversation, and all the familiar sights mixed with the unfamiliar, and made it refreshing without being overwhelming.

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One afternoon, I sat in a Penryn cafe and listened to locals converse about everything under the sun and I LOVED it. They were so friendly and inquisitive and open, and while I didn’t get as much writing accomplished there when I had my headphones off, what I heard fed my head. Nothing of what they said or did ended up in my draft; it was simply being outside of my daily settings, and even outside of somewhere I can physically GET to on a daily basis.

Even if your writing retreat is just part of a day (and I realise, even one whole day, or one whole afternoon can be very pricey both time and money-wise), I highly recommend finding a way to make it work. The ideas flew out of me. It wasn’t about not being distracted; it was about having new distractions.

Over the past year, for awhile I was going to a coffee shop in a nearby town where we used to live, and writing there. It’s only a 20-minute drive yet it takes me out of my regularly scheduled program. I need to get back to that.

Have you gone on a writing retreat, big or small? What works for you? I’d love to hear about it. I need to stock up on some ideas for other ways to swing it 🙂

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