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Take a Break

April 13th, 2015

Castle.Rigg-blogHow’s the writing going? Sometimes I love that question – not always though. Take the past few weeks. Since early March I’ve been working on a story for the V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize (closing date 22 June.) Putting together the first draft was great, but it ran to 7,500 words and the competition maximum is 4,000 so when I started editing, things got tough. I lived under a little cloud for the best part of a week – ask my wife.

But then we went on holiday, just us and the kids, to the English Lakes. That’s where I got the photo over there in the corner – Castle Rigg, a stone circle in the Cumbrian mountains that’s been standing for over 5,000 years. Phwaaw! That’s our kind of trip – hills, monuments, galleries, loads of good food. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea though, I know. Some prefer the beach, big cities, or white-water rafting … and that’s fine. The important thing is to break your routine because, like Kenneth Grahame said: “The best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself as to see all the other fellows busy working.” And that really is a pleasure.

As writers though, we don’t ever really stop, do we? Even on holiday, I always have a notebook in my bag and, much as I love my family, I do relish those moments when they’re all dozing so I can just gaze at the view and … imagine things. It reminds me why I started out in this writing game in the first place.

Actually, I’ve always fancied one of those ‘Writers Retreats.’ Here in the UK the Arvon charity’s residential weeks look really interesting, though at £600 – £750 a shot, they’re a bit out of my reach (Arvon offer grants to English teachers and people on low incomes, but I don’t qualify for either.) Looking round on the net, there’s loads of places offering breaks for writers in India, South Africa, Thailand, Iceland … all over. One that caught my eye is the Writers Retreat Spain in Andalucia, where you can stay, self-catering, for just £500 a month. Sadly for me though, it’s only available to women (interestingly, in researching this blog, I didn’t find any retreats in either West or East Africa. So if any of our African friends are looking for a little extra income, it may be worth thinking about – doesn’t look like there’s much competition at the moment.)

However you do it though – lying back in the sun, climbing a mountain, or as part of an established retreat, you have to get away every now and then. It’s not only me who says so either. This is from Maya Angelou: “Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future … Each person deserves a day in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” – And don’t you just wish you could write like that?

Well, I took my day away. For a little while I withdrew from my cares. And how do I feel about that V. S. Pritchett story now? Can I get it down to 4,000 words? Course I can.

Keep on writing!phil-blog-sig

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