This is a kind of ‘you know you’re a writer when . . . ‘ type of post.
Like most of us lucky enough to have a job I’d reached that stage when it was time to think about what I wanted to do with my time off. Would I go somewhere and lie on a beach, though in my case and genetic makeup that would involve dousing myself in sunblock and moving my seat every half hour to ensure I stayed fully under the shade of whatever tree or umbrella I could find to avoid bursting into flames? Would I take some time to explore a city I don’t know and wander around aimlessly trying to look worldly and sophisticated without effectively having the word TOURIST scrawled across my forehead?
No. I’d go to west Mayo and live in a little cabin for a week and see how much, if any, writing I could get done.
After some googling I settled on the Old Rectory Retreat outside Westport (http://oldrectoryretreat.com/) as it seemed to have what I wanted, close to the sights and sounds of Westport and west Mayo yet just far enough away so I couldn’t easily decide to take a wander down to the local pub of an evening and stay there until I crawled home. Initially my plan was to stay in the main house, use the desk that would be provided in my room and see what I could get done. But the owner, Roisín, then suggested that they had a cabin on the grounds and asked whether I’d be interested. Of course I said yes.
So I found myself on a wet and windy Sunday afternoon pulling in to the grounds of the rectory, meeting the lovely Roisín and collecting my keys.
The cabin was very comfortable, electricity, shower, kitchen, all the mod cons, even Wi-Fi if and when I needed it so I was hardly Thoreau disappearing into the wilds. But it had what I needed, a sense of privacy and solitude, just me and what I might write.
You see, this wasn’t a guaranteed thing. I’ve almost always worked better with a gun to my head. On many occasions while I’ve been at home I’ve thought about taking some time off to just stay in and write, only to find that the time I take off is just pissed away in doing needless household chores that suddenly become vitally important, or just lazing about the place and wandering off to go to the cinema or something. Essentially I thought there was a very strong risk that I’d take one look at my laptop propped up on the little table in the little cabin and decide, sod this, and head out to sample the delights of Westport in the summertime.
For those who don’t know it, Westport and the surrounding countryside is a lovely place to spend some time so it was definitely a risk.
But thankfully the reliable Irish weather came to my rescue. For the first couple of days the weather was absolutely manky. Absolutely pissing it down, and the clouds had that look of permanence that didn’t suggest things were likely to change.
So I started to write. And I wrote. And I continued to write. I’d had a project in mind for the month of August but after a week in the cabin I found I had it completed. Roughly twenty four thousand words in a week.
Naturally I now have to go back and edit what I did, but I’m really happy that I got it all done. I’m also delighted that I stuck to my plan and worked for the week. And the best thing was I didn’t have to live as a complete hermit to do it all. I tend to write in quick bursts, when I sit down to write I don’t like to stand up until I’ve done a thousand words, any less than that and I don’t feel I’m trying hard enough and if I start to wander to far beyond that it does tend to turn to shite. So a thousand words a go. It seems to work for me. So my day in the cabin would usually begin with breakfast in the main house, to try to keep some semblance of human contact, then work, then maybe a drive somewhere for lunch, then back to the cabin to work, then out for a walk (rain permitting), then work, then a drive again for an evening meal and back to the cabin to work again and finish out the day. Like I say it worked for me. Of course I don’t know what would have happened if I’d stretched my stay into a second week, could I have maintained that pace or would I have given up? I don’t know, and don’t really want to press it at the moment, just to say I’m delighted with how the week worked out.
So yes, my summer holiday 2015 involved me taking myself to a little cabin in Mayo to lock myself away with nothing but my laptop and the mumbled witterings I try to turn into stories. Writing friends I know have smiled and agreed that it sounds like a great thing to do, while others, those in the real world, have given me their best ‘for fuck’s sake Colm are you right in the head?’ look.
Thing is, I may well go back again next year.
So naturally after finishing my work in an almost Simenonesque fashion surely all I have to do is just sit back and wait for the equally Simenonesque women and money to arrive, . . . ., anybody, . . . . , anybody?
Anyway, to finish off here’s a snap of me enjoying one of the nearby beaches of a summer day
Much prefer that kind of holiday to the alternative, but are you now wrecked? Writing is hard work ..
You may need another holiday!
The funny thing is I’m happy at having written so much that that seems to override the effort put in at the moment, but yes I could definitely do with a proper break but time is the factor there and I doubt I’ll have very much of that between now and the end of the year so I’ll have to suckling it up and keep going
I am so very pleased for you that your writing holiday worked out so well. The retreat looks beautiful. Well done – do it again next year!