Beautiful bush setting

7 benefits of going on a writers’ retreat

It’s winter here in Western Australia and there was no better place to be than with a group of friends in front of a log fire! Tess Woods recent Winter Writers’ Retreat in Geographe Bay in the south-west of Western Australia was the perfect escape! Here’s a snapshot of  what I gained. I could rave on for several pages but I know I’d lose you!

(i) New friendships

This is the most amazing benefit. Making new friends and creating close bonds with one or two was the first and most amazing thing that happened. An added benefit is that one person lives in a nearby suburb so we continue to see each other. Others are online friends. I can’t write in a vacuum and gaining social contacts who really sharing about writing is beyond value.

Friendships were formed
The delightful group we shared the week with.

(ii) Manuscript Assessment

Feedback on several pages of my manuscript has set me on the right path and cleared the way forward. Tess’s comprehensive assessment is invaluable. In a one-to-one discussion Tess’s honest comments about what worked and what needed changing were delivered in a kind, encouraging manner and gave me a lot to work with! Tess openly shared her insights and knowledge about writing and getting published. Even though I’d completed my first and second drafts long before the retreat, I knew my current draft needed lots of work and I gained a clear way forward.

Beautiful gardens to sit and write in
Beautiful gardens to sit and write in

(iii) Writing tips

Heaps of writing tips were shared!  Workshops in the mornings covered a broad range of topics. During the sessions we shared our experiences and bounced ideas around. Hearing others’ journeys gave insights which confirmed my own path or gave me food for thought. I came away with a range of great tips from the following topics –

  • Twelve ingredients all page turners have in common
  • How to write convincing sex scenes
  • Ten biggest mistakes since becoming an author
  • Marketing (all about websites, newsletters and facebook)
  • Editing
  • Eye-opening tips from great authors
  • Stephen King’s rules for writers
  • Hints and tips about Time.
Bike street decor at Cowaraump
Bike street decor at Cowaraump

(iv) Sharing with others

When we met each other we had no idea what was happening in each other’s lives. It was a privilege to get to know Tess and her lovely family.

As strangers we came together in a supportive microcosm in which we shared the gamut of life from the joy of a newborn grandchild to the deep sadness in the sudden passing of dear friends. It reminded me of our commonality and highlighted our strengths.

Mudcake for dessert
Delicious dessert! On our the final night we shared dinner at a local restaurant.

(v) Time to write

Writing opportunities were interwoven into the fabric of each day. We could sit outside and enjoy the beautiful location, curl up in bed or on a lounge chair or find a spot in the sunshine to sit and write. I culled words, wrote more and generally moved my manuscript along. With the assessments given on the first day it meant I had a focus for the whole week ahead. This was definitely a huge benefit.

Views to write to
Stunning southwest gums to look out on while writing

(vi) Optional tours of local sights

We visited a mere handful of the plethora of options available in our stunning south west. The Margaret River Chocolate Factory was a definite hit.

Margaret River Chocolate factory
Margaret River Chocolate factory was a hit!

We chose to pack two workshops into a morning so we could all scramble into the van and head to the Cowaramup festival!

Cows oin Cowaraump
Cows strolled, rested and grazed in the tiny town of Cowaramup! It didn’t matter that they were fibreglass or wooden!

Some of us were caught heading into the famous local fudge shop for a sweet treat.

Cowaramup Street
A quaint entrance to the fudge shop.

We were also privileged to meet local author, the lovely Lily Malone.

Lily Malone at Cowaramup
Lily Malone hammed it up for us!

(vii) Being spoilt!

Yes, that was a fantastic benefit! We arrived to a wonderful spread for lunch and the food continued to be amazing! No meals to cook! Thanks, Tess! A lovely gift bag filled with special treats waited for us in our rooms. We also had no beds to make and fully serviced rooms, (optional and courtesy of the venue). All of this meant we had time to focus our energies on writing.

No beds to make
We  each had a comfortable room with its own ensuite.

Respite from the daily grind and from a month of craziness (check out my previous blog post!) in which life took on a major change restored that quiet space inside. I would have loved two or three more days to settle into that space, but I know it’s there.

In conclusion

It’s hard to know what to expect from a retreat. Each one has its own focus. Apart from anticipating feedback on my manuscript and gathering insights from workshops, I know I came away with unexpected benefits. Writing is an isolating profession. The sense of connectedness with others will stay with me for a long time.The reminder to slow down, to be in the moment is ever-present. Inner peace is priceless.

Beautiful sunsets in a rural setting
Beautiful sunsets in a rural setting

 

 

Susan is a writer based in Perth's Darling Range, Western Australia. Her love for writing began as a child and is a life-long passion. Susan is also passionate about reading and attributes much of her learning to the wonderful world of literature. She enjoys photography and art and loves to write the occasional poem.

6 comments On 7 benefits of going on a writers’ retreat

  • Just loved reading this, Susan. Sounds like a wonderful retreat, and one you were ready for. COW town is one of my favourite places, and I related to people sneaking off to the fudge factory.

    • Susan Dunn

      Thank you, Maureen. I certainly was ready! I had to be strong with the fudge I bought. I chose to wait till I came home before eating any and shared it with my husband!

  • I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a week – although, I may have got distracted by those fabulous outings and not made it back onto the bus!
    Tess’s enthusiasm and warmth is so contagious, I can imagine how inspired you must be to keep working on your novel
    Lucky you! 😊

    • Susan Dunn

      Hi Marie,
      It was a fabulous time! Tess is so open and warm, it was a privilege to share so much time with her and her family.
      I feel really inspired! It is encouraging to have clear direction on how to move forward with my writing.

  • Hi Susan

    We had a wonderful week and you’ve picked out some of our highlights. I met some wonderful writer friends and had respite from the real world. One of my highlights was our chats around the fire and Tess and her family were very special features of the retreat. The downside was that it ended too soon.

    Cheers Nicola

    • Susan Dunn

      Hi Nicola,
      It was certainly special sharing a week with Tess and her lovely family.
      We had a good few laughs around the fireside and heart warming chats.
      Like you, I wish it could have been longer!

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