Time To Retreat

Gladstone’s Residential Library, Hawarden, Flintshire

It’s going to be a good week this week. I’ve got ‘The Feeling’. Not only was Tuned To a Dead Channel (dystopian Sci-Fi anthology which features, alongside some amazing talent, my short story ‘Ash’) released on Friday and is now available both as an e-book and as a paperback, I am gearing up now to my writer’s retreat at Gladstone’s Library from Thursday.

I think all writers will probably agree that a thing a project needs/deserves, more than almost anything else, is time. You can have the talent, you can have the passion, you can have determination…but unless you have a decent amount of time to sink into a project, it is very, very difficult to make it come about in any form you are satisfied with. I have mused on this subject before in The Gift Of Time and whilst I will never negate the importance of having drive, passion and ability…without making time, our projects fizzle to less than dreams and might-have-beens.

Tuned To A Dead Channel - Out 20th September!

Tuned To A Dead Channel – Dystopian SciFi Anthology available now in paperback and ebook!

A writer owes it to themselves and their work to make the time. I will concede it is easier for some than others. I don’t have children. Or a hefty commute. Or TV. But I do have a full time job, a partner and a social life. But I make the time to write, because I love it so much.

It used to be once a week on my designated writing night. This was enough to keep me going and keep me engaged. Progress was steady, though not staggering. But since I have been given a deadline I do it every night I can.

Even bashing out 1,500 – 2,000 every night after work, however, is nothing compared to the productivity I have achieved during a retreat.

A writer’s retreat is a wonderful thing. I’ve been on two different ones so far, once at Ty Newydd Writing Centre in North Wales with my MA Creative Writing course-mates and once to Gladstone’s earlier this year. It is almost beyond description how wonderful it is to be somewhere where you are so focussed on your writing, where there are no distractions, inspirational surroundings and, a lot of the time, even food as well as accommodation is provided for you. Sometimes a bit of chipping-in is required with cooking or washing up, but you don’t have to think about al those motivation-draining essentials of survival: shopping, cleaning, de-fleaing the cat etc.

I came away from my last retreats with a real sense of achievement. And I’m not just talking about in terms of stumping up the word count. It’s true that on my retreats I made significant progress in in this regard, but there was also the feeling of connection that comes from immersing yourself so completely in a project: when you are working on a project solidly 9am – 9pm three days or more in a row, you understand, see and feel it as a whole far more.

I felt this was very good for the project. The tone, the voice, the characters and the plot became more consistent and therefore more realistic.

Gladstone’s Residential Library Workroom


If only I could ‘retreat’ for the time it takes to complete a whole project! Alas, I have not the funds or the annual leave allowance. Not yet, anyway.

I have made progress working at home since June (127,000 words of progress, in fact) but I can’t wait to get to Gladstone’s, to claim my workbench in the magnificent library work room and to hammer at this draft like there’s no tomorrow.

Fingers crossed for a finished draft by Sunday, with maybe even some cheeky editing time thrown in for good measure. I couldn’t ask for a better way to tie up the experience of writing my very first novel draft.

Have you ever taken yourself anywhere on a retreat? Did you go somewhere set up for the purpose, or to some B & B somewhere quiet? Which do you prefer, if so?

How did you find it affected you and your work?

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7 Responses to Time To Retreat

  1. D. James Fortescue says:

    That looks so awesome! 12 out of 10 on the jealous scale =)

    Have never sent myself on a retreat. If anyone needs one, it’s the wife for some R&R and sanity repletion, away from the hubbie and the kids.

    I get the alone time to focus on writing at night, around 930pm after everyone is in bed. Everything is more focused for writing purposes. Unfortunately, the deprecating voice in the back of my head has hogged the mic for the last month…

    Hope your word count goes exponential on your retreat =)

    • jcollyer says:

      Thanks so much, DJ! You really should get yourself a weekend away somewhere sometime, though. Treat yourself. I appreciate it’s trickier when you have a family, but you’d be amazed at how you come away feeling. You might end up changing it all or moving on to something different when you come away, but you learn by doing and you’d be amazed at how much you progress or connect with your works after dedicating time to it like this.

      I would do it every weekend if I could

      • D. James Fortescue says:

        I did some investigating around my area, and there is a dedicated writer’s centre/retreat a half hour away. They do groups on all sorts of writing, and even have a Friday afternoon ‘Marathon’ group, where the whole afternoon is dedicated to getting that story finished.

        Just need to bribe the wife, and hopefully organise with my next employer a 9-day fortnight so I can attend a couple a month.

  2. Never taken a writer’s retreat, but it sounds like a fantastic idea. Looks like you’ve picked a winner of a setting too. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  3. Pingback: The Great Escape | The Path – J. Collyer's Writing Blog

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