I increased the length of my manuscript by 47,000 words between the 20th of June and the 4th of July this year.
For me, it’s a massive result, because I’m not the fastest writer in the world. How did I do it? I went on a writing retreat.
Before I began going on retreats I looked askance at other writers going to lovely venues to write. Was this not a thinly-disguised holiday? A bit of a jolly with your mates? I’m the first to admit that I love going to Italy to work on a sunny terrace and also to enjoy the company of other writers at meal times and in the evenings, but it is not a holiday to write approximately half a first draft of a novel in two weeks.
So how does a retreat work for me?
- By freeing me from domestic responsibility, gym classes and social engagements and the only timetable being dictated by mealtimes.
- I took time off to watch the Formula 1 races and their qualifying sessions but, apart from that, I began after breakfast and finished just before dinner every day.
- Maybe I should have taken more time out to visit nearby Citta della Pieve or Orvieto but I found that having almost no distractions meant my story occupied centre-stage in my mind, allowing each writing session to follow seamlessly from the last. I didn’t want to disrupt that.
In case you’re wondering if the 47,000 words were a fluke, last year I was only on the writing retreat for one week and wrote 23,000 words.
I suppose if I stayed at home, cancelled my classes, ignored my family and friends and had meals delivered I might achieve a higher writing output than the norm but somehow I don’t think it would be the same as ‘getting away from it all’ to a peaceful, beautiful venue that inspires as well as frees me.
I love Arte Umbria. I taught writing courses there for several years but now I’ve moved onto heading up writing retreats instead. In my mind, it’s also the setting for One Summer in Italy, the town of Montelibertà being built around it. My imagination grew the house into Casa Felice, the hotel where Sofia and Amy work, and the view Levi paints in watercolours is the view from the terrace.
Will I return next year? Absolutely! For one week beginning 26 June 2019.