It’s okay. I deserved it.
It started as a vague idea to reward myself with a short break for completing the first novel. It became a six-day retreat during which I wrote more than I had done in the previous six months.
I’ve not been idle – I’ve been editing. And tweaking. And moving commas. And removing commas. And putting commas back in. And deciding that none of it was worth bothering with. And – just occasionally – enjoying a few moments of satisfaction before my inner critic started shouting again. But eventually, the months of editing had to end. The MA programme I was on had a submission date and there was no way on God’s good green Earth that I was going to miss it by shifting more of those pesky commas.
During those months, another project had been nagging. Write me! Write me NOW! I’d had some feedback on an initial chapter that convinced me it was an idea worth pursuing, but it had been gathering dust since the start of the year. I wanted to write again and not just the routine morning pages. Liz and Neil (bear with me – one day you may be able to meet them in print) were demanding to be heard, so instead of a trip to Lisbon or a walking break in the Yorkshire Dales, I opted to shut myself away in Shropshire at Arvon’s new Clockhouse retreat.
What a brilliant set-up – Wi-Fi because writers need to research, books because reading is lifeblood. A comfortable apartment, a constantly refilled fridge and a mountain of teabags. Peace and quiet, the odd spot of fresh air and the chance to compare notes on progress with fellow retreaters over supper. What else does a writer need?
In six days, I took my characters through a messy few years. I had left my editing head at home and the commas recommenced their usual riotous behaviour, but I will deal with the little blighters later. Words flowed, not always effortlessly, but they flowed, and I began to believe in myself again. I can write. I will write. I will tell this story.
But then, I had to come home. Back to the real world of the day job and household chores. The car needed new tyres. My dentist was missing me and demanded an appointment. I had to attend a training course, turn up for choir rehearsals, bike rides and the running club. I had family commitments, a fridge to fill and a garden buried under fallen leaves. Myriad distractions began to eat up my days.
There was only one thing for it. I have booked to go back in the spring.