Writing in Isolation

As mentioned in my previous post, I recently spent five days taking part in the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program. We were taken to one of my favourite places in this little corner of the world we call South East Queensland; Lamington National Park. I’ve been to the O’Reilly’s site many times, camping for a few days or just spending an afternoon, but I’d never before stayed at the O’Reilly’s Guesthouse and I’d certainly never imagined I would have my toast prepared by a member of the O’Reilly family, but these and many other exciting things happened during the retreat.

Of course, the idea of a retreat is to be somewhere both inspiring and separated from the distractions of normal life. I’d always imagined a retreat would be a monastic experience, tucked away in a small, plain room with just a desk and a power point, a blank wall and a furious determination to write until my fingers bled. When I write at home, I have to shut the door of my office, excluding husband and cats and ignoring their piteous cries (the cats, you understand). I did try to share my writing time, but I’m too willing to procrastinate. TB laughs at a joke on the telly and I want to know why. A furtive rustling beneath my table is just a cat finding mischief, but I have to make sure they aren’t about to eat something dangerous, or valuable. This breaks into my thoughts, dispels momentum.

Isolation works for me.

In learning to love being alone then, I was surprised to find the retreat wasn’t about isolation at all. It was about being part of a community, a network. It was having friends to share your misgivings with, and your excitement; of realising you’re not alone at all. I discovered the pleasure of sitting in a room with other writers, working quietly but in company. We were all so very different and all amazingly familiar, instant friends. It’s been a week since I’ve seen them and I miss them, but, as in the shared room, I feel like we still have a connection. We’re sitting in the remembered room, with its shiny, timber tables and crazy cold air conditioner, bowls of sweets and bottles of water as sustenence, working quietly but in company.

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