Retreat and Advance


Close your eyes and picture the scene, if you will. A cottage in the middle of nowhere. Three writing buddies arriving for a week of intensive writing.

Bliss, do I hear you say?

Well yes, it was, absolutely…with one fly in the ointment, to use a delightfully graphic cliche. We all arrived, laptops ready, pens and notebooks ready, propelling pencils poised. No Internet access, no mobile phone signal. Couldn’t be better, but…

We didn’t pack the muse.

None of us

Due to various health problems, work stresses, family dramas and other assorted creativity drainers, none of us had written much for a while, and not one of us was raring to get started.

It’s like riding a bike: ‘they’ say you never forget how to do it. Maybe…but just try jumping on and starting to peddle after a long lay-off, with the bike at the bottom of a very steep gradient…see how you get on peddling uphill.

So, after looking round the cottage, delighted to see all the potential writing places: a cosy living room, sunny conservatory and a delightful patio complete with table and chairs, we unpacked, settled ourselves in and made our first meal.


Unable to justify further procrastination, we decided we’d start with a free-writing, timed exercise: ten minutes to warm us up, get us back in the mood. We picked a prompt, started the timer and…

Less than one minute in, Jane lays aside pen and unscribed notebook, shakes her head and leaves the room. Sharon writes on studiously.  I filled the time by trying my hand at sketching our conservatory. As you’ll see from the above attempt, I’m no artist…but at least I was being creative. But, hey! One out of three is good. Well done, Sharon, for getting in the groove, I thought as I wrote a silly little ditty:


I’d like to write a happy poem

To celebrate this week

We’ve come to this dear cottage

Our writing muse to seek

The journey here was lovely

The scenery so sweet

Our genial hosts are kindly

At our welcoming retreat

Today the sun is shining

Tomorrow it may rain

We’ll write whate’er the weather

And we’ll come back here again.


Then sat back to enjoy Sharon’s effort:


Blank blank blank. Pen writing, letters forming. Autumn colours, green lamps. Tea lights flickering, the clock ticking. Chocolates calling me from the fireplace. Bright lights – too bright. Comfortable green velvety chair. The black television screen. Clock still ticking. Slippers scuffing – opting out. I give it five more minutes no more, and its not funny. It’s really not amusing at all yet. It’s not thinking, or stream of consciousness, it’s escaping, it’s leaving the room, it’s sitting watching my pen, moving my pen on the page and its feeling better, it’s feeling a smile of how funny, ridiculous, to be sitting here appearing to write, appearing to have something to say that takes all my concentration and, good – there’s only a minute left, a whole little wiggly circuit of the blue watch face, sparkling, ticking, relieving me of words.


Ah, well! Good job we’ve got a week to get our act together…

14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jennieorbell
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 17:40:06

    Ha ha. What are you like Christine! It does sound lovely though. x



  2. Vashti Quiroz-Vega
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 21:02:53

    Oh, that’s too bad. I always wanted to go to one of those. I hope my muse is with me when I finally get to go. 😉



    • cicampbell2013
      Oct 10, 2013 @ 21:13:09

      Do you have any writer friends you could meet up with, Vashti? The three of us get together regularly and we decided to hire a cottage for a week, split the cost and just go for it. We all felt we needed it. It was great for finding the muse as the week progressed.



  3. Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin
    Oct 10, 2013 @ 22:00:18

    Sounds like a lovely gathering, writing or not. We have all been there aaaargh!!! The muse has a mind of he/she’s own lol



  4. John Baryn
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 04:26:06

    I am not one normally for these media sites but I have read a couple of your posts and found them interesting.
    This brought to mind a poem, rough as it may be, I wrote sometime ago.

    The Muse (24/6/3010)

    A muse is such an elfin thing,
    Who hides and likes to play.
    An inspiring wisp so hard to catch,
    An elusive, evasive fey

    You will often find the words will sing,
    And think “Oh clever me!”
    But forget who really pulls the string,
    Blank sheets is all you’ll see

    Give a thought to your elfin friend,
    Remembering when juices flow.
    When at last, you write, ‘The End’.
    It belongs to someone you know

    John Baryn



  5. petercwhitaker
    Oct 11, 2013 @ 15:37:38

    It’s not just me who puts their muse down and then can’t find it. Thanks for a very entertianing read!



  6. Katie Cross
    Oct 12, 2013 @ 02:54:42

    I would have never thought about it, but you know, that kind of thing would set up a great short story 🙂 All the makings of a fantastic, inspiring weekend, and everyone draws a blank because they’ve stressed themselves out getting there. Ha ha! I LOVE IT!!



  7. glenperk
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 13:46:50

    This is great. To see how each of you handled the warm up.




  8. cicampbell2013
    Oct 15, 2013 @ 02:33:10

    It got better as we did warm up. Thanks, Glen. 🙂



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