This month’s theme is SETTING. Where do you find it’s easiest for you to write? That’s the topic of my blog below. This month’s writing article is all about the importance of getting SETTING right in your stories; there are five prompts to develop that topic and have a look in the Hints and Tips too.
Many writers have their favourite place for writing and perhaps a favourite time too. But we just have to make sure that it’s not an excuse when we just can’t seem to get down to it if we’re not in that right place at the right time! I have a perfectly lovely office at home with everything I need at hand. But, and I’m sure I’m not alone, so often I get distracted by domestic issues: I really ought to put that laundry on, must go to the shops, I’ve started decorating the lounge so I really should finish it …… and on, and on.
I have a large picture window in my office – fatal! If I’m not looking longingly at the sunshine, then I’m thinking that flower-bed needs weeding, the lawn needs mowing and I frequently get up to shout at the squirrels and ducks (yes!) that are eating my plants.
So it’s probably no wonder that WRITING RETREATS are increasing in popularity and there are a whole variety on offer, from one-day sessions to weekends, weeks and longer. They vary considerably – some offering part of a room in which to write alongside others, to those that provide the full package with a room of your own, three meals a day, unlimited tea and coffee and the option of sharing your work with others at the evening get-togethers. Libraries, universities, offices, country houses, hotels at home and abroad – the settings are unlimited. You have just got to find what suits you.
Many famous writers are known for their own particular writing haunts: Sir Walter Scott composed on horseback; John Le Carre wrote his first novel when commuting by train from Buckinghamshire to London; DH Lawrence wrote outdoors, leaning against a tree, any tree; George Bernard Shaw had a revolving writing shed built in the grounds of his house; Maya Angelou hired a room at a hotel; Gertrude Stein wrote in her car – a Model T Ford; James Joyce wrote in bed; J K Rowling in a café.
Later this month I’m off to my favourite place of all – southern Ireland – for my own, personal annual writing retreat. I do meet people, I am sociable, I go sight-seeing but I go specifically to WRITE. And, like Gertrude Stein, I tend to write in my car. I drive to one of my favourite places – I have a list of them all within ten miles of where I am staying. If the weather’s good, I go for a walk, come back, get a chair out of the car and sit and write. If the weather’s not so fair, then I write in the car with a beautiful view in front of me.
Once or twice I have been disturbed. This was my view one day and the writing was going really well. Then a coachload of Americans turned up and for half-an-hour I had to answer why was I on my own, what exactly was I writing and was I famous? Another time, I was besieged by a group of geologists who had come to study the cliffs. I moved so they could get a better view and when they’d gone, I just had to go and look for fossils myself!
I’m hoping to hear soon from a writing friend who is currently on one of Arvon’s writing retreats. This organisation has run tutored retreats for some time but this year they opened The Clockhouse in Shropshire: four self-contained apartments specifically for writers on retreat. I’ve had one email from my friend: “Loving my retreat”. I’ll let you know her full story, and mine, later this month.