The April retreat at Ty Newydd, the writers centre in north Wales, was everything a good retreat should be. It provided a week of freedom from the pressures and responsibilities of home. It offered a peaceful house in beautiful surroundings and the company of people who, like me, believe that heaven is a day is which you have nothing to do but write, and to carry on late into the night if you want to. It provided good food cooked by other people and mealtimes in which we could all come up for air and compare notes about our writing. It offered scenic walks, a nearby beach and, mid-week, a trip to the colourful folly of Portmeirion for those who desired a change of scene.
It was a blissful and productive week, but like a good dream, it had to end. Real life returned with all the grace of a needle scratching on a vinyl record. As an antidote to the ‘back to reality’ feeling, I have made a list of ideas to help maintain the retreat momentum while getting with the rest of life.
- Forewarned is forearmed. Be prepared for real life to impinge as soon as you put your key in the front door of home.
- Make writing dates in your diary. If you don’t book time to write, it will be eaten by other demands.
- Be realistic about the time you have available. On retreat, the time to write can seem limitless, but at home a few hours may be the most you can manage in a busy week. Admit that to yourself and you won’t feel guilty if you ‘only’ have that amount of time. Look at everything else you’re achieving.
- Remind yourself that you do not have to be writing all the time. Time spent reading, thinking and dreaming counts as well. Some of these (the thinking and dreaming parts) can be done while you multi-task on other ‘must dos’ such as going to the supermarket or earning a living.
- Towards the end of your retreat, spend a little time planning your next steps. These might be as simple as taking some of your draft poems to a workshop when you get home, or as complex as mapping out a schedule to get your book proposal to an agent within the next six months. You can decide what is realistic and desirable.
- As soon as you get home, book the next retreat.
The last one is my favourite.