On retreat

I’ve been to the seaside. To the stunning Welsh coast. Yes, it was cold and wet and windy at times, but we had some sunshine too. And it was wonderful.

I was with a group of writer friends. A week in a rented house by the sea. Each day spent writing, with breaks to walk on the beach or look for shells. Evenings were spent sharing our work, which can always be scary, especially when the writing’s so fresh, but we’ve been doing this for a while now and trust each other and feel invested in each other’s work. It was Hemmingway (I think) who said that ‘writing is rewriting,’ and being able to take feedback is an essential part of getting that right. And, yes, feedback can sometimes hurt but, after the emotional bruises have healed (some take longer than others), your writing can only be better for it. And I’d forgotten how valuable it is to hear and discuss other people’s work. I learn so much from other writers.

Our last ‘retreat’ was in February 2020 in the middle of Storm Dennis, gales lashing sea and beach. Sand stung our faces, the air thick and yellow like a London pea-souper, figures looming out of the gloom like Victorian serial killers. It was exhilarating. And, of course, there was an altogether different type of storm also heading our way.

There was no storm this year. We just missed Eunice. And that other storm felt calmer too. Although the waters may still be choppy, and perhaps we shouldn’t be stowing away our lifejackets just yet, it was so lovely to be able to spend time with people again. And, if I’m honest, I was a little scared that I might have forgotten how. That, after almost two years of little social interaction, I’d feel overwhelmed.

I needn’t have worried. It was so wonderful to be amongst a group of friends. And, in that sense, I suppose, it wasn’t so much of a retreat as an advance.   Nicola Jones

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