I wanted to get a few days’ intensive writing time but didn’t have the money for an expensive writing retreat. I didn’t need tuition or advice, I just needed peace and quiet and space. I found a five day offer at a holiday camp in North Wales for just £60. Had a few misgivings about whether peace and quiet and space could be found in a holiday camp environment, but asked for quiet accommodation and thought hey-ho nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Good as their word, they gave me a one bedroom apartment on the edge of the camp, and all the rest of the apartments in the block were unoccupied. I booked self-catering so I could eat whenever I felt like rather than being tied to set mealtimes. The apartment was basic but quite spacious and well-equipped, there was no wi-fi but that was quite an advantage as it stopped me wasting time on social media etc.
I didn’t get much done on the Monday as I couldn’t check in till 4pm and spent the day dawdling along enroute and having lots of coffee stops and then by the time I got unpacked and sorted myself out, I didn’t feel relaxed enough to do any work.
The next day, I got stuck in, writing three hours in the morning, taking a break for lunch, doing another two hours then going out to the town to shop for food, then another three hours in the evening before supper and relaxing with the TV.
Wednesday I didn’t go out at all, but just alternated writing with breaks for reading. By the end of the day I felt a bit claustrophobic so made sure I went out on Thursday, heading for a local car boot and then having breakfast out, before getting back to work for the rest of the day. Knowing I had to go home the next morning proved an incentive to get the the end of the section I had set myself to complete and I got there about eleven o’clock at night and went to bed feeling pleased with myself and looking forward to rejoining the social world the next day.
Being alone with no distractions enabled me to focus strictly on the work in hand and made a welcome change from struggling to fit writing into daily life but it’s a short term thing. Loneliness eventually sets in and might in time actually prevent creativity. I guess it depends on what kind of person you are to, I’m an only child so am always fairly comfortable with my own company. Other people might work better in a structured retreat where there is the opportunity to talk to other writers or have support from a facilitator.
It also depends on when you can go and what kind of accommodation you would be happy with. Holiday camp accommodation is pretty basic. You won’t get the comfort or guaranteed privacy of a rented cottage but rented cottages are expensive for one person. Also, holiday camp apartments are only cheap at times when the camp has few bookings, early and late season and you don’t want to go in midsummer or at weekends when the place is full of happy families with umpteen kids.
It worked really well for me, I came back bursting with energy and feeling very good about the short story collection I was working on. The plan was to completely revise and edit the work which I did but a new character emerged in the process and I now have to write another story in order to complete the collection.