Going on a field trip

This week’s posts arrive at Panic Station ahead of schedule. That’s because this is a special weekend. It started earlier than normal (today) and it takes place away from home (on England’s southeast coast.)

I’m holed up here in a place called Lattern Cottage.

Right now I’m seated at a wooden table at the back of the house looking out this window. It’s not the clearest picture but that’s because it’s not the clearest view — the windows are glazed with the fine mist of wind-flung salt and sand.  And you can’t see the beach, because it isn’t there right now. Just over the garden wall (that white thing with the circles) the tide is so high that a huge expanse of coast has been temporarily wiped out.

The waves are practically banging on the back door of the house and I can barely hear the click of my keyboard above all the racket that wind and water can make. It’s perfect.

I’m here with 5 others. Usually we meet on Wednesday evenings in the squashed back room of a pub near the City — where there’s a low-hanging bulb, a window which opens out onto the alley below and just enough space for the group of us to squeeze our chairs ’round the table.

We are a writers group. One of those magical, communal inventions like carpools or AA meetings — where people with a similar problem band together.

We share dinner (3-4 packets of crisps), drink red wine and listen to each other read our latest work aloud. And then we critique it. Some of us say a lot, some of us say less. Some of us are better at fixing dialogue or grammar and some of us go big picture. We do what groups do best — we bring different things to the table.

And because it works so well we decided that we should organize a writing retreat where we string together several evening meet-up’s.  So that’s what we’re here to do at the shore this weekend.

That and to do whatever it is each of us do when we write (stare out the window, surf the net, flick through the paper, get up and make more coffee, go for a walk, send a few emails, do the dishes and here and there make some progress on our novels and screenplays and short stories and songs and podcasts and blogs) — except that for this weekend each of us gets to do that in a house full of other people attempting exactly the same. With the rise and fall of the tide as our clock.

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5 Comments

Filed under Not in London, On writing

5 responses to “Going on a field trip

  1. … and read other members’ blog posts of course ; )

    I wrote a pre-retreat post . I’ll write a post-retreat post too and link back to yours, if that’s OK. I like the idea of a network-style chronicle of the weekend.

    That last line, by the way, sums it up perfectly.

  2. nathaliehourihan

    Thanks for the link! How can I sign up to receive notifications to your blog? Re your pre-retreat post about doing this with people you know already. Yes, yet another blessing in belonging to this group.

    I have done get-aways involving strangers where I was there to write. Like my yoga trip to Sweden this year and a trip to Greece a few years back. You’re so right – meeting new people, making small talk with strangers! and getting into the groove of a forming group’s dynamics are definite distractions from the writing process. Which is fine if the company of strangers and fresh ideas are the sort of distractions that help your writing but plenty of times I need a little less stimulation and a little more concentration — and for that we need to be familiar enough with the people in our company to be ourselves and crack on with it. Now — how come you’re reading my blog and not working on your novel, eh?

  3. Good question… er… research?

  4. Pingback: Combing the beach | Panic Station

  5. Sounds like an awesome weekend.

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