Who would have imagined my ambition would be fulfilled.
As we make progress with our creative lives it is very easy to dismiss the progress we do make.
I remember standing at work, hugging the radiator and watching the tree that was planted right bang in the centre of the grass in the quad outside my window. I used to envy the tree. As I stood moaning about deadlines, expectations, the amount of work that had to be done I wished I could just get on with the things which were important to me instead of wasting it on tasks I didn’t much care for. I had a mad idea of running a retreat for writers but never imagined I would ever fulfil that ambition.
There were times when I became angry with everyone and everything, the frustration was too much as I never had time to write, let alone paint. The strange thing is I kept taking more and more tasks. I was writing educational materials for schools, contributing teaching ideas for websites, writing article for the education press . Guess what? I had no time for my own work. Living a creative life was so far away I could barely imagine it, let alone work towards it.
It’s funny how so often in life we do the things we think we should be doing rather than the thing we know we want to do. Old habits die hard and if you grew up with people telling you things like, ‘If reading is all you have time for then go and peel some potatoes for lunch.’ or ‘ you couldn’t possibly support yourself from being a writer you need to find a proper job.’ Or perhaps, ‘you write like a tabloid journalist’ then it’s going to be hard to break out and retreat from everyone else’s expectations.
I remember thinking life just wasn’t fair and I found the misery compounded itself. I eventually decided to make the break. I designed and built a house in Portugal and had it in mind to run a writing retreat for creatives who needed to get away, just like I had done. But I couldn’t trust my ideas and soon enough scuttled back to London to work in a series of temporary jobs. If you like, my writing block was money.
Three years later I returned and did it for real. The writing retreat functions and guests arrive from all over the world. I love it when they come to work and settle down; it’s nice to know someone else is doing exactly the thing I enjoy doing most and the silent companionship (it’s a rule no one disturbs one another during the day, unless it’s for lunch or a mentoring session) is really special.
I look back to those afternoons watching that tree and if I was to write down each step I have taken from then progress really has been profound but slow so that you hardly notice. These things don’t happen overnight, a search for the creative life is like a championship game of backgammon – you can have a strategy, you can have knowledge and skill but sometimes the dice just roll in a different way. The only thing for it is to place all the pieces back on the board and try again and again and again. As Beckett said, ‘Fail, try again, fail again, fail better.’
The book covers are three children’s stories I wrote for MyStorio and are available as Kindle downloads on Amazon in a variety of languages..Tags: writers retreat, writing block