Sunday, 18 June 2017

Retreating writers - Lu Hersey

Last week, for the first time ever, I thought perhaps being sent to a convent wasn’t such a bad idea. Especially at a time when the alternative was marriage (taking away all your rights), followed by never-ending slave labour (with no decent oven, hoover or washing machine), and probably dying in childbirth.

Not that going on a writing retreat bears any real comparison to a convent, except that you’re staying in a place of peace and tranquillity, where the outside world seems very remote. Oh, and you spend hours by yourself in deep contemplation, even if it’s not necessarily contemplating the divine (though a major character in my current novel is a goddess, so I sort of was).

This was my first ever Arvon writing retreat – and I chose to stay at the Clockhouse. I’d never been able to afford a retreat before, but my kids had clubbed together and treated me to a voucher, which went a long way towards the cost. And I now realise that what sounded like an expensive indulgence is actually a real bargain. I did more concentrated work in five days than I’ve previously managed over two months, because everything was set up to be the writer’s ideal environment.
In case you don't know, this is the set up:
  • The fantastic food is all provided and there’s loads of choice. You can be a coeliac vegan and still eat your fill (not that I am, but you could be)
  • You have the company of other writers (though only if you choose it) at mealtimes and in the evening – and writers can make the best sounding board for your ideas. And they love to talk books

Fellow retreating writer Clare Furniss, exploring the redwoods
  • Talking of boards, your personal study room has a large empty pinboard (with lots of pins) to stick up your ideas, pictures, brain maps etc – as well as a writing desk with a view, and a comfortable sofa for reading and putting your feet up

View from my study window
  • You have an amazingly comfortable bedroom, with neutral décor and a fantastic view. And your own bathroom.

Bedroom wall reflects a shadow view in early morning light

  • It’s quiet. So quiet, it’s extraordinary. Just a chorus of birdsong to lift your heart
  • There’s an amazing and eclectic library with sofas and a wood burner downstairs if you feel like a change of scene
  • There’s a herb garden just outside the kitchen. And a wildflower garden next to it

So are there any downsides? Yes. You’ll find a week isn’t enough. You’ll want to stay for at least another week.

Would I go back? Hell, yes. It was the most relaxing, escape from outside pressures, incredibly productive writing experience of my life. Frankly, in an ideal world, I'd sell the house and move in.

Which brings me back to the idea of the nunnery...

Lu Hersey
Twitter: @LuWrites
Blog: Lu Writes
Deep Water, published by Usborne, out now


Joan Lennon said...


Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds wonderful!

Susan Price said...

Special kids! Good for them and for you!

Rowena House said...

Oh, yes please. Off on a taught course with them in December. So looking forward to it.

Stroppy Author said...

Sounds amazing. If only....

LuWrites said...

Thanks for comments everyone - yes it was fantastic, just getting away from the everyday and not having to think about anything except the writing. Have yet to work out how to reply to comments on my phone and was out all day, so apologies for not answering you sooner! :-)