Writing retreats – a waste of time

I have no opinion one way or the other. I’ve heard great things about the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, which I would attend this year had I not already been booked for something else. But that is a course, with tutors, speakers, wifi and structure. This article discusses retreats, which are a different beast. So I take Max’s point.

So what do you think? I am genuinely looking for opinions. Should I sign up for a course or a retreat? Tell us all about your experiences and opinions.

Max Dunbar

From Joel Rickett’s Guardian Bookseller column:

Writing retreats are now wildly popular. On any given week there’ll be small groups of budding scribes strewn around the Lake District, Wales, and even Tuscany, searching for that elusive blend of solitude and writerly companionship. Now they can go further afield with the launch of “writing adventure holidays” from the Literary Consultancy, which promises “the company of some of our best-known writers and artists . . . in a stunning setting which will open mind and senses”.

I’ve always been suspicious of writers’ retreats and my gut instincts tell me that they are a waste of time and money. This isn’t a popular view – after all, who could object to the idea of writers from all over the country getting together to work in a tranquil environment?

These writing adventure holidays are a new thing. But as I’m discussing writing retreats in…

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About Lance Greenfield

Blog: lancegreenfield.wordpress.com email: lancegmitchell@outlook.com I published my debut novel in December 2014: Eleven Miles. My second novel went live in February 2016: Knitting Can Walk!
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7 Responses to Writing retreats – a waste of time

  1. I think the answer to that is probably very individual. And depending on how things go between you and the rest of the group. That applies to structured courses too though. Good luck. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. scskillman says:

    Hi Lance, here’s a quote from my website: “The farmhouse location for Mystical Circles was inspired by … Totleigh Barton at Sheepwash, near Beauworthy in Devon where I once attended a five day Arvon Foundation poetry course: it boasted a monk’s room, as does the farmhouse in my novel. Also the diverse group of students on the course inspired me for the group dynamics of my story.” As an answer to your query, I’d say this: closely study the diverse opinions of those who’ve commented on Max’s blog. There’s truth in all of them. If you’re fascinated by group dynamics, one of these ‘retreats’ could be an ideal way to further your studies. Remember all the conversations around the dining table in the farmhouse in my novel? They were inspired by Totleigh Barton. Among my group of people was a fine selection of those with relationship problems, personal insecurity, emotional instability and many other idiosyncracies (as is often the case with creative people); go on a writing retreat if this interests you. It could be a tremendous inspiration, but not necessarily in the way you expect!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a wonderful insight, so thank you.

    Taking my memory back to the time that I was reading Mystical Circles, a question springs into my mind: Weren’t you a little scared?

    You don’t need to answer that. I know. You took the characters that you met in Totleigh Barton, and used your creativity to weave the characters of your book around what you observed.

    So I totally understand what you are saying, and how you are setting my expectations. I feel that I might benefit from attendance at one of these retreats, but I feel that I may not get value for the money that I would pay for an Arvon Foundation event. They seem rather expensive, and Max points out some of the flaws.

    However, I feel that I might get value for money from a residential course with experienced tutors and practiced structure. Maybe I should aim for Swanwick next year.


  4. I’ve never been on one of these things so perhaps my comment isn’t so pertinent. .. There seems to be a paradox in that writers retreat from busy environments and people and yet have each other in their faces. ..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Creative Power of an Intense Group of People in the Hothouse Environment of a Writers’ Retreat | S.C.Skillman Blog

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