Writing is a tricky business. It’s the thing I most want to do with my time, and it’s the thing I least want to do with my time. This seems to be true of all the writers I know. We desperately want to create amazing things – and in fact can’t imagine life without writing – but we find it so difficult to actually sit down and get on with it.
This is what makes organisations like Urban Writers’ Retreat so valuable. Why would I pay £45 to spend the whole day writing when I could just easily do that at home for free, you might ask? Because I know I won’t do it if I’m at home, and I’m prepared to pay good money for the opportunity for some forced focus.
Charlie, from Urban Writers’ Retreat, provides a bright, airy, comfortable space for the day, where up to about 12 writers gather to work on whatever projects they want. Phones must be switched off, there’s no talking allowed – only the gentle tap of fingers on keyboards punctuates the silence. And it’s glorious. Charlie sends out a goal-setting worksheet a couple of days beforehand, where you can plan out your writing day in slots of about an hour, but the day itself is largely unstructured. Lunch is provided, along with a welcome (albeit brief) break from the intensity of concentrating in an unfamiliar way, and then we all go back to work again.
It’s such a simple concept, but every session I’ve been to has been full, so it’s clear other writers benefit from the external motivation just as much as I do. Having an appointment in my calendar, which prompts me to plan various writing activities, and involves travelling to a specific location in central London, creates a productive mindset that would never be possible otherwise. It’s also lovely to feel part of a community, while taking part in such a solitary activity, and it’s even better to have a whole day set aside with the sole purpose of getting on with some writing.
Today, I started a read-through of the first section of my novel. This is with a view to getting it professionally edited later in the year, and it was really fun to go back to the beginning again and remember how much I love the world and the characters I’ve created. I’m terrified by the prospect of getting feedback from a professional, but I believe I have something of merit, and I want the push and the guidance to get it into publishable shape.
In between times, I wrote a couple of articles for an online magazine and worked on a theatre review for a print magazine. The combination of quick wins, interspersed with editing sections of the novel, worked really well to keep me motivated and energised all day.
Hurrah for days like this!