Retreating to Write

Not long after I’d started taking this writing malarkey seriously, the opportunity came up to go on a script writing retreat. A whole week away to write in a nice house with some other writers and an editor on hand to chat to? Sounded great so I signed up.

As the date grow closer, though, my social anxiety started to get the better of me and I began to worry. The only kind of retreat I really knew anything about was the new-agey, yoga-ish kind; what if this turned out to be a group of serious young writers all writing worthy dramas whilst wearing kaftans? What would a group of serious creatures such as this make of me and my silly sci-fi sitcom???

On arrival, I was relieved to find that there wasn’t a kaftan in sight and I was far from the only comedy writer in attendance. Not that I have anything in particular against kaftans or people who wear them – do people still wear kaftans? – or drama writers who I am frankly in awe of … anyway. I adored that first writing retreat so much that I went back for more the following year, and again the year after that.

It can be a very isolating business, writing. Especially script writing as nobody quite understands why you’re writing dialogue and action lines instead of something nice and readable like a poem or a novel (I’ve tried, neither work for me). Through going to writing retreats, I’ve found my tribe. Other writers who do what I do and understand the process, the pitfalls, the mental anguish, the days when you just want to bang your head on your keyboard because NOTHING makes sense and what that the actual $!@% is your protagonist suddenly saying *that* for?!

It’s great hanging out with other writers. I can’t tell you how many sudden bolts of inspiration I’ve had simply by talking to another writer about my project. Not to mention what a refreshing change it makes to have writing as the central thing you’re supposed to be doing that day; not the day job, not the housework, and not the catching up on the latest episode of that thing you’ve been watching.

90% of my recent output has been based on research – medieval witchcraft practises in Devon (Domesday), faerylore (Changeling), the Durrington Walls dig (Henge). Trying to find time to fit that research in alongside the headspace needed to find your story is tricky; so that’s what I like to do on writing retreats. It’s amazing. I spent a week in the lake district a few years ago with a notepad, a YouTube playlist of documentaries, and a continually re-filling mug of tea – I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

This week, I’m doing it again. I’ve got a book on Vampires I’ve been meaning to read and a second series of my podcast Vamps to start writing – I love being a writer.

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