The Luxury of Space and Time to Read

At this year’s NAWG-Fest in September, I met Cressida Downing, who was one of the tutors. She also runs reading retreats with her friend, Sara Noel, and I went on one this weekend just gone.

I’ve been to lots of retreats over the last few years - generally for writing - but this was the most luxurious, indulgent, well-catered weekend I’ve ever spent. They really had thought of everything - goody bags full of wonderful gifts, spare essentials in case you forgot to pack anything, reading lights for borrowing, and an amazing range of food, to suit any dietary requirements. As someone with diabetes, I’m used to organisers just assuming I won’t have dessert, and that I’ll forego snacking, which is always rather depressing. Here, though, there were cheese plates to round off each delicious meal, low sugar muesli for breakfast, and both low sugar and savoury snacks, so I felt very well looked-after.

The main purpose of the weekend, of course, was reading. I carve out time in my busy weekly schedule for my writing, but I don’t do the same for reading, so it was glorious to set aside many hours over the course of a weekend to do just that. Cressi called me a few weeks beforehand to talk about my reading, and provided me with a list of recommended books, one of which she lent me over the weekend. I’m not usually very good at concentrating on one thing for long periods of time, so I had packed my usual array of other activities (knitting, writing, TV episodes) but I found them entirely unnecessary. There was something about the atmosphere at the retreat that made me really want to dedicate all my attention to my reading, and I never felt the need to take a break and do something else.

Obviously, there were welcome interruptions in the form of meals, and Cressi offered optional walks on both days (which I did take and very much enjoyed). Cressi and Sara were always available in the kitchen for conversation and very attentive provision of refreshments. But I was at my happiest, curled up in an armchair in the lounge, with up to three of the other attendees, just reading, reading, reading and reading some more. There’s something very companionable about sharing a space with other people who are all reading, and I loved every minute of it.

I got through 850 pages across 15 hours of reading at the cottage (in stints of 2-4 hours at a time), and then read another 200 pages on the 2.5 hour journey home. I completed three books, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

Reading is so important for writers, but it’s also wonderful just to relax and give yourself over to a book. I’ve already booked my place on the next retreat in February, and would highly recommend any other book-lover to do the same.

XXXXX

 

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