Remember the Monster book? No? Well, I was writing a book. About Monster-y things, and sometimes I got distracted and sometimes I squeezed a few hundred words out and was happy with that. Near ecstatic in fact. My record until now has stretched to a few completed short stories, some half-written ideas for stories, a children’s book that I never really tried very hard to get published… nothing longer than 6,000-7,000 words and nothing that really lent itself to being drafted properly and edited, etc.
I came across the Urban Writers Retreat on Twitter. Charlie, the woman who created the retreat days, rather improbably yet delightfully works in a chocolate factory and makes super cakes. This just adds to the general excellence. ‘Retreat’ is an accurate term, but it’s not quite what you might infer. It’s non-residential and just one day, a chance to retreat from distraction, family and friends, phones and the Internet and just write. And I loved it
At £35, it’s an absolute bargain. The cost covers the rental of the space. Sunday’s location was The Make Lounge in Islington, a lovely, light, fresh venue with several different small, comfortable rooms. There’re also tea, coffee, biscuits and homemade cakes provided, as well as books and writing exercises on hand if blockage strikes and a wealth of power sockets for those using laptops (on the day I went everyone except Charlie who, Neil Gaiman-like, writes longhand, bless her patience).
The general rules are basically quiet and respect for the fellow writers. I chose a downstairs room because there was no chance of being distracted by people walking past, and because one of the upper rooms had music quietly playing – inspirational for some, another distraction for me. Four of us quietly shared a large pine table, in the centre of which were two big jugs of water and some glasses. The session kicked off at 10:30 after quick intros and broke at 1pm for an hour’s lunch. The group reconvened at 2pm until 6pm, although I left at 5 when my brain finally shut down for the day, wanting to end on a high note.
And what a wonderful high note.
Without the possible distractions of my husband, the cats, the ever-present Internet and my own inability to focus on anything outside work, I suddenly found myself actually capable of writing. Consistently and imaginatively. I dare say that some of it will be jettisoned in the editing stage but I now actually have a hope in Hell of reaching the editing stage; a major win in my opinion. Five and a half hours of writing generated almost 11,000 word. ELEVEN THOUSAND! My project now runs to over 16,000 after stalling just before the Disney trip and being destined to rot, like my other good ideas, through fear of failure spurring lack of motivation.
I hope I’ll be able to continue that progress at home. I suspect that left to my own devices I’ll go back to my old ways, but now I know that the Urban Writers Retreat is there and I can use it on any Sunday it’s running to get myself back on track. I feel accomplished, properly writerly and excited about how this project might turn out. Urban Writers achieves precisely what it intends to, offering a comfortable, quiet place to write, endless tea and the spoken and unspoken support of others in the same boat. Although it’s not necessarily a place to meet friends as people tend to go randomly rather than regularly, it’s still a friendly environment where there is the blessed relief of knowing others who love writing just as much and are serious about it to the same extent can still get distracted just the same.
I had no interest in the beautiful day outdoors, much though I appreciated finally having the possibility of fun in the sun. It was the most relaxing day of writing I’ve ever had, and it finally underscored that I can do it. I know not every day will be like this. Some parts will be sticky, and there will be blocks. Editing will still be a tough slog. There will be much rewriting to do. But at last I have something worth rewriting, and I’m grateful to Charlie’s bright idea for giving me the chance to get my writing back on track.
Writing is the only thing I love more than baking (and as much as kittens. And my husband). And now I feel I have it back.
Now… how do I write a sigh of relief?