I have just spent two weeks in a cabin, without children or the need to shower, and within arm’s reach from my desk of a microwave and bar fridge, and I cannot recommend applying for a writing retreat highly enough. At first I wondered — how would this be different from my normal life? As a single mother, I regularly go without human contact for days at a time when the kids are at their father’s house, and I live in a cabin surrounded by countryside and no mobile reception. But on retreat, there’s the urgency and desire to make the most of it.
Katharine Susannah Prichard’s house in the Perth Hills is more connected to the everyday world than where I live (oh my god unlimited internet, and ermagawd 24hr traffic noise), but I could not help feeling connected to KSP’s legacy. With my two fellow Fellows, I ate in her house at night, sat in her library and drank wine, and gazed from the window of the writing cabin built by her husband. Perhaps I didn’t make more of my time, spending it like other writers on other retreats do, going on frequent long walks, or participating in writing groups, and maybe it wouldn’t have mattered where the retreat was for all the limited exploration I did. But I was in WA, my home state … home … and the air, the sky, the sunset invigorated and encouraged me to write and edit like I could never do where I presently live.
In the two weeks that I spent on retreat I achieved all this and more:
- I did an entire hard copy copyedit of my February 2018 book in three days (very comfy recliner chair).
- I finished writing the first draft of my hopefully 2019 book, The Lovers. This one has been causing me grief, taking ten months to write, compared to two for my last one. But I’ve been dealing with rewriting that book five or six times. I added about 17,000 words to the total word count of The Lovers during the retreat; however, I began by cutting out about 3,000 words, amalgamating two chapters into one, and rewriting numerous sections to accommodate changes. So maybe 25,000 written words?
- Sparked by discussions with my two fellow Fellows, I’ve come up with an idea for my 2020 book, which has me all excited and planning a roadtrip down south WA next year. I’ll just mention the words ‘drowning pool’, ‘mermaid’, ‘Bluebeard’ and ‘prison farm’.
On Day 9 of the retreat I changed out of my UGG boots into shoes. Whenever I read a writer’s blog post about a writing retreat they’re on — Varuna or Bundanon, etc. — they seem to go on a lot of long walks, to ponder, work through a knotty plot issue, or get their circulation moving after many hours at the desk. As the only walk I’d been on at this point was to the local bottle shop, I thought to rectify the situation. Beautiful John Forrest National Park.