What’s your idea of the perfect place to write? Would it be a cottage in the country or a summer house at the bottom of your garden which only you had the key to? Well, I think I’ve just found my perfect place and it’s in the little village of Sheepwash in Devon.
Deborah Dooley runs Retreats for You with her husband, Bob. When I arrived, feeling somewhat frazzled from the drive, Deb welcomed me in and gave me tea and cake. Not a bad start I thought. Then she showed me round the house, a seventeenth century thatched cottage, and to my room. Once I’d unpacked and had another cup of tea I thought I might as well open my laptop. I wrote a thousand words before dinner that evening.
‘Productive’ is one of the words that people use most at the Retreat (probably only slightly less than they say ‘wine’ and ‘coffee’) and I was incredibly productive while I was there. I wrote over 10,000 words. Usually that would take me between 2 and 3 months!
I know that part of the reason I was able to achieve that was because I had nothing else to worry about. Fabulous meals appear on the table at regular intervals, my bed was made and there was a kettle on my desk so I didn’t even have to walk to the kitchen for my next cup of tea. Deb even brings a glass of wine (or for me a cold beer) to the guests’ rooms at 6 pm every evening!
There were also fewer distractions. No TV or radio in my room. There was broadband but I mainly used it for research and spent far less time on Facebook than I normally do. I did become rather fascinated by the comings and goings of Sheepwash and loved sitting in the window seat in my room watching the world go by. It was a bit like The Archers but without any dialogue!
Those are the practical reasons why it was great. The thing that’s much harder to define is the creative vibe that the place has. The other guests were all working on novels or writing poetry. Deb has had a successful career in journalism but is now concentrating on the retreat and finishing her first novel. Her husband is a craftsman creating wonderful items from local wood in his workshop in the backyard. But we didn’t just talk about writing. We talked about everything from Scottish Independence to sheep racing to Cath Kidston frocks. And we laughed a lot!
Deb clearly knows that nothing but writing can make your brain hurt because one evening we had a barbeque on the beach. It was a beautiful evening and I loved being able to paddle in almost warm sea.
If you’re thinking you want some time out to work on your book, then I’d definitely recommend Retreats for You. But make sure you go for more than a couple of days the first time. Allow yourself time to find your rhythm and settle into the creativity of the place. It speaks for itself that of the people who I met while I was there, 3 of them had been at least once before and 2 of those had stayed many times and were planning to come back as soon as they could.
In the sitting room there’s a shelf of books written by people who have stayed at the Retreat. I really hope that one day Beltane will be on there. But, whether it does or not, I’ll definitely be going back soon for another taste of writing heaven.
If I’ve inspired you to find out more then check out the Retreats for You website http://www.retreatsforyou.co.uk/