Compare and contrast
First we had susnshine
And then like the rest of the country, we had snow.
In fact we were subjected to the storm that became known as The Beast From the East. Gale force winds combined with snow and below zero temperatures for three days in a row. What larks! Nantlle village was cut off for a time by fallen trees across the road, and Trigonos’ heating system was tested to the max. The folks at Trigonos told us it was the worst weather they’d had in thirty years. Some of their staff didn’t make it in to work, but a few dedicated souls who lived within walking distance kept us fed in fine style.
We simply hunkered down and kept writing.
Though I was worried about the drive home and kept checking the AA website to see which Pennine roads were open (answer: none of them), I got a ton of work done. The advantage to sharing a writers’ retreat with other writers is that you don’t feel isolated. We all came together for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, fourses and dinner, and then after dinner gathered in the library with a lovely open fire. Conversation was all about writing, of course, which was perfect (the conversation, not necessarily the writing). Being amongst serious working writers is simply the best kind of boost to productivity. We all felt supported, while being able to socialise or retreat to our rooms as the mood took us. It also did us good to have those breaks mandated. Have breakfast. Write for two hours. Have coffee. Write for two hours. Have lunch. Write for two hours. Have tea/cake. Write for three hours. Have dinner. Spend an hour in company. Write for another two hours before bed. Five solid days of (close to) eleven hours a day of writing. Fifty five hours of moving our writing projects forward.
When I’m not an Milford I work from home. I have my own office and can schedule my day to suit myself. I live in a nice rural village with lovely views, so why would I need a writing retreat?
- No pressure to break off from writing to see to the day job.
- No phone calls from clients in the middle of their own emergencies which they want me to fix.
- No breaking off to cook meals or do any of that domestic stuff which slurps up time.
- No random visitors.
- No need to take a foraging trip to the local supermarket
- No requirement to answer emails
- No distracting television
Could I achieve fifty five hours of writing if I stayed at home? I doubt it. I’m hard-wired not to ignore a ringing telephone, and to try and help someone out if they’re stuck, and to put dinner on the table, and take my mum to the supermarket, and – y’know – occasionally talk to my long-suffering and very patient spouse.
I’ve never been on a writing retreat before, but I’m totally sold on the idea. By the time we departed on Saturday morning, the AA website was telling me that the M62 had reopened (though the Snake Pass and the Woodhead Pass were still closed), so I could stop worrying about the journey home. The trains were running for those folks going south from Bangor station. And the planes were flying out of Manchester for those going back to Amsterdam. I’m pleased to report that everyone got home safely.
All things considered, we might arrange the next Milford Writers’ Retreat when the weather is a little kinder, but I think we’re all convinced that it’s been a very good thing.
Jacey Bedford maintains this blog (weekly) and occasionally writes for it. She’s the British author of six novels published by DAW in the USA, the sixth, Rowankind, due out in November 2018. She writes both science fiction and fantasy and has had thirty-something short stories published on both sides of the Atlantic in anthologies and magazines. She’s the hon sec of Milford Writers and hosts the quarterly Northwrite writers’ group. When she’s not writing she runs a folk music artists’ booking agency and does immigration paperwork for visiting musicians. You can catch up with Jacey via her webpage at http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk, or on facebook or twitter @jaceybedford.