The idea of a retreat is perhaps novel for most people. Taking a week out of a busy lifestyle to focus on writing sounds rather extreme, but also like a privilege. The plan of being in a house with a large garden out of town, away from shops and cafes, with a small group of other writers, conjures up images of an alternative commune lifestyle. Something like the lifestyle led by artists at Heide in outer Melbourne several decades ago.
Well that's one view - "you'll be like a real writer hiding away from the world, just like the Heide artists". Other comments haven't been quite so positive: "you won't have tv for a week, how will you survive?" or "you have to share a bathroom". Even, "you're gonna get so bored". "Surely this is all part of the experience", I reply, sounding like I'm feeling much more certain than I actually am.
It does seem like an opportunity to connect with the inner self, the inner writer, away from the all consuming day to day distractions. Having time alone, away from family, friends and work colleagues, away from home and work responsibilities, seems like a novel opportunity to let go of the ties that bind. Doing this for a week seems manageable, doing it for longer would need more thought. There's perhaps as much to lose from disconnecting from the world as there is to gain. Guess that will be something to test out.
Ultimately the week will provide a chance to connect with self, to sit with thoughts and reflections, to break some of the habits built up over long periods of time. Some of the habits which stifle creativity, which engender fear, anxiety and mostly, self doubt. It might enable some new ways of seeing the world, of connecting with writing, of valuing self and the writing experience.
Being with like-minded people, all there for their writing, will no doubt bring opportunities to gain new insights, to see the world differently, to learn some new skills and ways of writing and even facing the writing process. It may present opportunities to engage in different types of conversations, sharing writing and listening to others' works and ideas.
There will be time for non-writing activities too. A glimpse at the house's website reveals some photographs of beautiful gardens and the design of the old house. The house was built by writers in the 1930s, then maintained since their death as a house especially for writers. The gardens no doubt provide a space for wandering and wondering: reflection and self nurturing, taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Being there in winter might bring its physical challenges but no doubt the space will still be accessible spiritually.
Being in a house inhabited over the years by writers might be inspirational. It might mean that there's a sense of responsibility to keep writing happening, or perhaps a feeling of support, of scaffolding, from writers no longer physically present in the space, but having left their mark so that their presence is felt.
Overall, there's a sense of hope and opportunity that comes with planning a week's retreat for the sole purpose of writing. While not as exotic as travel in a far off country, there still might be some moments of awe and inspiration that can be found. Self discovery might just replace discovery of others and things.