Going away and coming back again: how to refresh your writing

I haven’t been blogging lately because I’ve been away. I was in Arctic Norway for three weeks in June, then home again and away again for a spot of camping on Bodmin moor, then home again and away again to Oxfordshire for the summer gathering of the Scattered Authors’ Society.

I always find it difficult to leave my work-in-progress, so I work right up to the wire and often take some notes with me, half planning to do a bit of writing while I’m away.

That never happens. It didn’t even happen in Norway, although the combination of wintry weather (in June!), bright daylight round the clock and really rugged walking meant I completely overdid it and got worn out by the end of the first week. (Someone on a travel site suggested the guide books should translate ‘Easy’ in the Norwegian descriptions of walking trails as ‘Hard’ in English, ‘Moderate’ as ‘Difficult’ and ‘Difficult’ as ‘Don’t even go there!’)

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‘Moderate’ walk in the Lofoten Islands – sheer drop, massive rock, helpful chain to hang onto

I did hang out in cafes for a couple of days at that stage, scribbling in my notebook, but I was just jotting down random thoughts and ideas that had nothing to do with anything I’d been working on at home.

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Great cafe in Lofoten – the artist makes you coffee in her lakeside studio!
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Cool cafe in the ‘Paris of the North’, Tromso. Strong coffee, Leonard Cohen, everyone reading.

I scribbled some thoughts down in my notebook when I was camping too, but on the Scattered Authors’ retreat, although I took my computer and current work in progress and really thought I was going to crack on with it, I wrote absolutely nothing at all.

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Empty site with fire pits on sunsoaked Bodmin moor
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Children’s authors at play in rural Oxfordshire

I sometimes take work, but I never stress about not doing any, because I know from long experience that going away always means I’ll come home full of new creative energy, enthusiasm and ideas.

I think one of the reasons my trips are fruitful is because I do focus on my work in progress right up until I leave, and hold it in the back of my mind even when my main focus is on the new places I’m seeing and people I’m meeting.

By the time I sit down at my own desk again, I’m coming to my writing completely renewed – a new me, a different me, made up of the old me plus the experience of my adventure. And my work in progress, somewhere out of sight but never entirely out of mind, has been growing and developing too.

I was going to blog about the Scattered Authors’ summer retreat but my friend Sheena Wilkinson has written a great post about it, and I couldn’t do better – you can read it here.

 

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6 thoughts on “Going away and coming back again: how to refresh your writing”

  1. The walk in Norway looks terrifying! But all the travels sound such a fantastic retreat. So important to clear the mind – and so hard to do amidst a daily routine. Perhaps the answer is to make a daily abit of breaking away from routine!

  2. That walk looks terrifying, Jen! I don’t think I would even contemplate it. Beautiful, though. It’s so refreshing to know that you find it difficult to continue working when you’re away – I’m glad it’s not just me! But I think perhaps something filters through in our subconscious. It’s fascinating isn’t it?.

  3. Jenny what an amazing trip. I completely hear you about best intentions with writing whilst away. I have recently started to move away from bringing work even when I take the train to London as I never get work done and I am just carrying it with me. What I find now is that when I go away with just my notebook, I return energised and ready to work. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. How lovely to hear other people have the same experience – that’s one of the reasons I enjoy blogging. I always feel a bit in awe of writers who bring their work-in-progress to a conference/retreat and get a load of writing done, but I’ve learnt to accept that is not me!

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