Writing is hard work. It is emotionally draining, mentally straining, and physically… well, sitting hunched over a computer for hours at a time isn’t good for anyone, writer or not. So it’s not surprising that, every now and again, writers need to get away from their words and recharge. Writing retreats have always been a popular idea, and there are many around today that can be booked by writers who need a little peace and solitude – they are about finding a bit of space to complete that novel or edit that selection of short stories. Sometimes that’s exactly what is needed.
It is perhaps not a surprise that Vita Sackville-West had her own Elizabethan tower to lock herself away in. After all, she was a rather wealthy woman in her own right, coming from an important family (her father was the 3rd Baron Sackville). Vita took to her tower, located in Cranbrook, Kent, when she needed a little space. There were two reasons for needing this alone time. The first was that she couldn’t write with any kind of distractions around her, and so she decided that the tower was the perfect place to complete All Passion Spent. The second was so that she could write her wonderful love letters to her soul mate, Virginia Woolf.
The Harry Potter author has made no secret of the fact that she was living in abject poverty when she first started writing. Her retreat, The Elephant House café in Edinburgh, was used out of necessity rather than desire, but it worked well for her. She went there because it was warm – warmer than her home – and, even when it was no longer completely required, she liked it because of the inspiring views. It is said that from her seat at the window Rowling could see Edinburgh Castle, and this led her to create the famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
When you want somewhere isolated and beautiful, there aren’t many better places than some of the Scottish Isles. Jura was Orwell’s choice, located in the Inner Hebrides. He used to visit a little farmhouse in the middle of some rather beautifully desolate and bleak scenery to write. It is here that he wrote Ninety Eighty-Four.
The Inklings were a group of notable authors including C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Hugo Dyson and others. They used to meet in a pub (where else?) called The Eagle and Child in Oxford where they would discuss their works in progress and get further ideas and inspiration.
Retreats For You
Retreats for You in Sheepwash, Devon, is my first choice of writing retreat. I’ve visited twice now, and each time I’ve completed a novel (Perfect Murder and the soon to be published Waldgeist of Wanderal Woods). It is a wonderful place and so welcoming – I’d recommend it to everyone.