I am just coming to the end of four glorious days staying at Gladstone’s Libary in North Wales. It is housed in a beautiful red brick building and is one of the finest residential libraries going. Staying here has been an introverted bookworm’s dream, and was the ideal place to nurture the aspiring writer in me. I got to stay here with my reading-writing-partner-in-crime – my mum! To some a trip like this would seem the height of boredom but it’s has been truly wonderful for us. We have been able to read and write to our hearts content in the beautiful surroundings of the library, stopping only to sample the delicious coffee, cake and regular meals in the restaurant, and the occasional conversational interlude. It is quiet and peaceful here and the history of the place itself provides a comforting atmosphere – somehow it feels familiar and there is a sense of unspoken community with bibliophiles past and present.
Each day, we have proceeded to the library or the common room, armed with books, notebooks, pencils and iPads, and luxuriated in the opportunity to explore all the ideas and possibilities that live inside our brains, that every day life just never seems to leave room for. We played with concepts that have lurked on the edge of consciousness for time untold and discovered new writing inclinations we didn’t even know were there. It has been restful and productive, and although I am looking forward to getting home to my hubby and my own bed, I will miss it here and know I’ll be coming back.
One thing that this trip has really brought home for me is that I really DO want to write. If only for pleasure, I find there is a certain peace and clarity that comes from just putting something down on paper. I have long harboured a secret ambition to be a writer but it always feels like such an indulgence, and also such an effort, that I rarely allow myself the time. I fret that there’s no point in spending the time writing if it’s not going to go anywhere, and the likelihood is that it won’t. I worry that my writing isn’t really any good and I always want to produce something that appears polished and complete the first time around – editing scares me because I’m always convinced that when I come to edit my own writing I’ll just want to scratch the lot. But here’s the thing: I really do enjoy writing, even if it’s imperfect; even if it will never be seen by anyone; even if what comes out on the page is nothing like what I had in my head. So it’s time to find time. I have no doubt it will be hard at first to create writing time in my routine, that I will fail miserably on more than one occasion to put pen to paper instead of scrolling through instagram, or get up early rather than lying in bed. But my commitment to myself is to keep coming back, to keep trying, and to remember that I do want to write for writing’s sake, without agenda or expectation.
Not every aspiring writer has the luxury of taking time away to attend a retreat or stay somewhere quiet for a few days. It’s certainly not something I have done before and although Inhope to do it again I know it won’t be a regular occurrence. So I thought I would close by pulling together some of the elements of this week that I have found helpful that could feasibly be recreated on a smaller scale at home.
How to create a DIY mini writing retreat:
- Find a space that is conducive to your writing – this might be as simple as clearing a work surface at home or it might be a visit to a local coffee shop or library. Find a space with the right noise levels for you or put together an appropriate playlist if you like a bit of background noise.
- Take a notebook and pencil. Even if you generally prefer to type, there is something very freeing about writing by hand with a pencil.
- Take something for inspiration – but not too much! I have endless books with writing exercises and an extensive Pinterest board filled with images and prompts. I love them but all together they are too much to be helpful. Before I started writing, I gave myself 15 minutes to scroll through my pin board and screenshot a handful of prompts that I was drawn to. Then I picked one that appealed to me as a warm up. It was nothing to do with anything I had planned to write but it ended up being a really fun piece of writing!
- Take sustenance! Staring at a screen or a page for a long time always gives me a headache but having a bottle of water or juice to hand and a packets of mints or a couple of biscuits helps combat this and keeps me going a bit longer.
- Take a book. Sometimes when you try to write the words just won’t come. And that’s ok. When this happens I like to turn to a book for a) distraction from the writer’s block and b) inspiration! Something I find often helps is to read until I come across a word or line that jumps out at me, and then to use that as a starting point for free writing or found poetry. Even if what you end up with is a load of nonsense, at least it got you writing!
- Go easy on yourself. Whether you manage to find half an hour or a whole day, whether you write a couple of sentences or a whole manuscript, go easy on yourself. If you berate yourself for not writing enough or not writing welll you will taint the experience and be less and less likely to give yourself time and space to write in future. No one is expecting perfection, except you. And you’ll be a lot happier if you let that go.
So there you have it! My rambling, barely tried and tested advice. I’d love to know of any other tips and tricks that help you get writing so stop by in the comments and say hi.
Huge thanks to the staff at Gladstones Library for making our stay so wonderful, and , as always, to my mum for her company, friendship, support, and all the giggles.