At home, there are always things to do. Even if those things are reorganising the drawers or picking hair up from the carpet (don’t ask). Escaping those things is tricky, unless you have the chance to run away for a little while.
I used to think writing retreats were pretty self indulgent and maybe useless. I now know that even if they are a little indulgent it is in a wonderful, enriching kind of way and they are nearly always very useful. Even if you spend quite a lot of the time making friends with ducks or worrying about how close that cow is about to get.
First of all, the guilt of being away from home and your normal life for a week tends to work wonders. Then there’s a distinct lack of distractions. You’re not as likely to pick up the hair from the carpet when it’s not your carpet – or your hair.
And then there’s a glimmer of that great feeling you get when you’re on a proper holiday. That ‘everything is out of my hands because no one can contact me’ feeling. It’s a good one when you’re trying to work.
So far, I’ve tried hiring a little flat to myself, booking a hotel room (both off season) and renting a place with other writing friends. I was also lucky enough to go to Cove Park through the Scottish Book Trust. The four experiences were really different (in the first flat I felt lonely, in the hotel I ate a lot of sneaky olives and oatcakes in my room and at Cove Park I stared at the sky a lot), but ultimately, it was the getting away that was the important thing.
Finding the time and money to escape isn’t easy, especially when it’s to do something that ultimately only benefits you, but it’s really valuable when it comes to getting work done. Sure, it means that instead of holidays where I relax and stuff I tend to spend any break working, but it’s super satisfying when the work is done.
There’s also a bunch of retreats you can apply to, including Cove Park and the current James Hogg residency, but if you don’t mind skimping on comfort, teeny hotels can be pretty cheap. And if it means you’ll spend some time really understanding a project or getting some words down, it’s totally worth it.