A Treat at the Retreat

11 Mar

This time last week I was at Moniack Mhor – on Day 2 of my annual retreat. I had intended to blog when I was there, but it didn’t happen, so here instead is a reflection – which will hopefully be more interesting than – got up, had breakfast, wrote, had lunch, read, wrote, walked, had dinner, drank.

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So, this year was my third time at Moniack Mhor – the first time in Spring, although that didn’t stop us having snow every day (I was in the Highlands after all), but it did change my schedule a bit as I was able to go out for a couple of head clearing walks.

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The first time I went on retreat, I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed – wow, I’ve got all this time, and I’ve got no family to look after, and I don’t have a washing machine to feed, and I’ve got all this time to write, and I really should make the most of it, and I can’t believe I’ve got all this time to write. Aaaah. Second time, I relaxed a lot more into it. Decided that I had to write a complete novel in the first day, realised that I do need down time between burst, and that flicking through a trashy mag can be as vital a part of the creative process as reading Ulysses (which I brought back unread from my first retreat).

Fast forward to last week. Six of us met at Queen St Station in Glasgow (another 2 folk would join us later) for the 3 and a half hour train journey to Inverness, where we were met by the lovely Gordon and his minibus and taken to Moniack Mhor. The train journey itself was lovely – a great chat, and fantastic scenery, then into the cottage and we were off. I set myself absolutely no targets, and as they say, I managed to exceed them. I had been critiqued the previous night at our usual G2 workshops, so I started with going over my draft and making changes based on the comments. Then I pulled out another short story which had also been through the workshop but never been revised. And finally I started my novel, and over the next few days wrote almost 5,000 words. Not bad going.

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Sunday was Mothers’ Day, and it was 5pm before I saw my three kids – and no, the non-mothers in the group didn’t decide to give us breakfast in bed – and my own mum. So, back home, what happens next. Well, there was the inevitable back to work blues – why can’t I still be at my desk writing? Which was followed by a major TV binge. But from Wednesday I’ve been able to find the inner retreat – to get into the writing groove – to go out walking, to read, to write, to be a proper writer.

And that really is the treat from the retreat. Being with a group of writers (and I’m lucky that I have a great group of writers who I know well, even if they are camera shy) means that you don’t have to apologise that you are heading off to write. You don’t have to feel embarrassed or guilty or self-conscious. You are there to write, and that’s what you do.

On a final note – since as a group we are normally picking over each others’ writing with a fine tooth comb, it was great to kick back and relax. And what can I say – Obama Llama brought on an asthma attack I was laughing so much.



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