A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
This week’s suggested topic is ‘your dream writing retreat’, and while I wholeheartedly ascribe to stepping away and making space for creativity and shaking up your process (in fact, I’m running away to write in just a couple of weeks) what I really want to talk to you about writing itself as a retreat (if retreat, here, means ‘escape’, or a space in which to shake things up, to play, to unlock your creative juices).
Writing is hard. It’s work. There are deadlines, rules and expectations and negotiations and so, so much work goes into getting the books love onto the shelves. It’s absolutely work.
But sometimes I think that when writing becomes work, we forget some of its power.
Story lets us explore possibilities and grapple big ideas, it lets us play and learn and grow and feel, to forget the world and make sense of it, in turn. Sometimes, it’s all that saves me. But I want to talk about the deeper magic. I want to talk about the joy.
Remember when you were a kid, on the playground, telling stories? Playing stories? Stepping into worlds and roles a million miles away from learning how the alphabet worked? Remember ‘mummies and daddies’ or that scene from Star Wars which you knew the dialogue and steps and feelings of as though they were your own? Or stepping out for long, winding adventures that would last a week or two or three?
The pride when you wrote your very first story in huge and wonky letters?
That ‘one more chapter’ bedtime story feeling, when you just can’t sleep because you have to write or read or watch that film to find out how it ends? Remember the first time you lost track – forgot your coffee, missed your stop, stayed up late – over a story that you had to tell?
Story – play – is built right into us, as natural as picking up the language everyone around us speaks. It is language, in its own way.
Sometimes, as adults who make business out of story, we dissect that language, trying to explain it, to find a formula and bend that to our will, to assign worth to it. And among the rules and outlines, the ‘how do we sell this?’ and ‘will I keep a roof over my head?’ it’s easy to forget the joy of it.
But it is there.
When’s the last time you said words aloud just to feel the glorious, delicious shape of them? Wrote a sentence you’d be proud to pin up on your fridge?
Discovered a creature so outrageous that you couldn’t wait to share him with somebody? That snarky villain or plucky hero or a bumbling purple grobblesnunk?
Took a leap of faith and wrote, just to see what happens?
Stories. Are. Amazing. And they’re yours, and waiting. Sure, a cabin in the woods with a well-stocked kitchen, log fire and my closest writer friends would be amazing. Yes, I love a good retreat. But I have words. And I just want to write.