I’m just back from a week long writing retreat on my own in a caravan on the coast. Well, it turned out to be three and half days rather than the planned five days. On Monday my son had his Viva for his Masters and wanted a bit of parental support. Actually, what he really wanted was someone to take him for celebratory cocktails afterwards.
Not being one to pass up the chance to drink a cocktail or two with my son and his boyfriend I thought I’d leave early on Tuesday morning instead. Then on Monday night the painter and decorator who was going to paint our vestibule six weeks, ago before he emigrates to New Zealand, but failed to do so as he’s signed a contract with a record company and had to work on the material they’re recording, private messaged me on Facebook. He could do the job this week if I still wanted it done. He arrived just after 9.30 on Tuesday morning. I always loved the fact he wasn’t one of those workmen who arrive before 8am but this week I’d have welcomed an earlier start. I made coffee while he fed the cat treats. The cat originally belonged to him but we adopted her when he said he was going to New Zealand. The cat – called Bandit – had totally ignored him when he visited her a few weeks ago so he resorted to bribing her with treats. It worked. She’s the greediest cat ever. After coffee and a brief discussion on paint colours I left him with a set of keys (he already knows where the coffee is) and took off on my retreat.
By the time I’d picked up some supplies, unloaded the car at the caravan, set up my laptop, collected the tiny shards of broken glass all over the bathroom floor, reported the smashed bathroom window I was exhausted. I had a glass of a very nice Pinot Grigio I’d picked up in the Co-op – and that was the end of day two of my writing week. Honestly, I don’t understand how Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker, Hemmingway and all the many other writers who liked a drink managed to turn out such stunning work. One glass, and my brain is too fuzzy to focus on writing. Went to bed, fell asleep reading and was awakened by the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard.
Day Three, which is actually Day One of proper writing, was bright and sunny and I kept thinking about how much needs to be done in the garden and what a perfect day it would be to be working in it. I’d mentioned to some of my blogging friends I’d be away from all social media for a week so I didn’t feel guilty about deleting notifications and wasn’t too bothered when by late afternoon the internet connection had disappeared. I was writing. I didn’t need to be connected.
I wrote about three and half thousand words – then I started to become frustrated by the lack of internet connection. I needed to know what shower panels are called – not because I’d drifted off on to something else, it’s necessary for what I’m writing – but there was no connection. Okay, a row XXX to mark where the research is needed. Carry on. Four thousand words. Time to go for a walk. My desk is the wrong height, my back is aching. Come back; finish the Pinot Grigio and go to bed with a book. The caravan is a kindle-free zone so it’s a real book. Fall asleep again with the light on.
Day Four, or Day Two, I re-write most of what I wrote yesterday. In the middle of the night I woke up (probably because I feel asleep with the light on) knowing there’s something fundamentally wrong and it really had to be sorted before I could move on. By the afternoon I am furious about the lack of internet connection. It’s one thing telling people I’m not going to be online but to be forced offline by a dodgy connection is quite another. I’ve only started to sort the problem with the book. Am also cross because the sun shone for most of the day. I want dull weather when I’m on a writing retreat.
Day Five, or Day Three, I wake late. Have chicken broth for breakfast. Should have had it last night and don’t want to have to transport it back home. It seems to work its magic and I sit at the laptop and work. The fact that it’s grey and miserable helps because I don’t think about sitting in the sun or working in the garden. I finish re-writing the first three thousand words and I write another couple of thousand. I stop. It’s time to stop. I may not have a huge chunk of work but I do have the first two chapters and I know where I’m going but if I see one more ‘server error’ sign appear I’ll quite possibly throw the computer through the, as yet, un-mended bathroom window.
I’m thinking now it might be better if there is no possibility of an internet connection then I might finally feel free to write all day. Or, maybe I should stay at home and take a few days away from social media? I think, though, I’ve realised I need to have a better system in place. Work first in the morning, then take an hour for blogs and Facebook before getting back to work with another hour for social media in the evening. That should work, shouldn’t it?