The house is cold and damp, and the fridge is empty. Coming home from a retreat can feel a bit like being marooned on the shores of real life after a blissful dream. It is wonderful to have your own space, and three two-course meals a day, plus a continual stream of tea and cake, laid on for you. I feel as fat as a walrus. Two and a half days with nothing to do except write, and talk about writing with your writing friends – it’s hard to beat.
As idyllic as it sounds, it can come as a bit of a shock to start with. I woke up on Saturday morning and immediately plummeted into a panic attack of ‘Oh, Gods, I can’t do this!’ The day stretched out before me, packets of emptiness between appointments with the dining rooms. Just me and my four walls, my pen, paper and laptop. Suddenly writing was inescapable. No more displacement activities. There are only so many indulgent baths and long, breezy walks you can have before you can no longer avoid the inevitable contact of nib with paper.
By about 11.30am on Saturday morning, I had done every displacement activity available to me, and there was no choice but to get down to it. I opened a fresh page of my notebook and off I went.
And it was wonderful.
I wrote and wrote and wrote. I didn’t judge or edit myself. I put down everything that came into my head, page after page of it. Story after story fell onto the paper. My two favourite pens ran out in the course of the weekend. By afternoon tea at 3.30pm, I had 12 pages of A4 paper covered with my spindly scribble, and I had discovered things about my new hero that I had never dreamt of. By supper time, I had two pages of polished script to read out at our evening meeting, where we gather to share our progress so far. On Sunday morning, again about 11.30am, I started again, and by lunchtime had an idea of what research I would need to do, and a list of indigenous names for my characters, gleaned from the one book I had bought with me for research purposes. By tea time I was exhausted but happy. I had worked so much out. I had a better idea of what needed doing next. And I had learned to write lying down on my back (which became necessary because my back has really been playing up the last few days, and sitting up proved a nightmare).
I felt a bit dazed when I got home. I stared at the telly for a couple of hours and then went to bed. This morning, when I woke up, I felt slightly hung-over. Just as you can eat and drink too much, it seems you can write too much too.
So I am having a bit of a day off. I am just lolling about, digesting the weekend, getting my head around this week’s diary appointments, catching up on the laundry, and reading comforting books.
Tomorrow I will start again. I will get back to my blank A4 pages and start downloading backstory with my biro, and my soul will soar. In the meantime, I think a little time on the yoga mat may be what my back needs!