Foluke Taylor attended our Greece Writer’s retreat in June 2015 and took up the offer to share her experience here on the blog. It’s timely given what’s going on in Greece right now to recall the wonderful experience we had nestled into the mountainside of the great Mount Pelion for a whole week focused on our writing.
Foluke’s transformation during the week was like watching the eruption of Mount Pelion, she gave herself wholeheartedly over to her writing. Read her story in this week’s guest blog post.
Before I arrive at the writer’s retreat on Mount Pelion I think a lot about sun and sea and about how, once the morning workshops are over, I’m going to relax. I know it’s primarily a writing workshop but I refuse to feel guilty that writing isn’t at the top of my list. It’s been a tough year and I’ve survived. I deserve relaxation and that’s what I’m going to have. Once I’ve booked the trip, I develop a mantra to carry me through the weeks of waiting – Sun, sea, sleep. Sun, sea, sleep.
As the date gets nearer a handwritten card arrives from Jackee, the workshop leader. It’s decorated with butterflies. She asks me to let her know what I want from the retreat and to identify my specific writing goals. I send back my mantra (sun, sea, sleep) and because I don’t want her to think that I’m not taking this seriously, I add that I’d also be happy to write something as well. I’m careful not to say exactly what that something might be.
I give myself a pat on the back for managing expectations – for snapping some reins on those butterflies before they can get carried away. I sound cynical but know that in truth I’m just being realistic. Anyone expecting transformation in this situation is simply headed for disappointment. Transformation and disappointment are both on a long list of things that I’m way too tired for.
A few days prior to departure Jackee emails with last minute instructions and to suggest some writing practice in preparation for the retreat. My preparation involves throwing a bathing suit, sunglasses, flip flops and a couple of holiday reads into my suitcase and shaving my legs. I have my laptop with me, as a writer should, but inside I know that this is more about Netflix than anything else. I’ve yet to watch the new season of House of Cards. It’s not until I hit the departure lounge at Gatwick that I decide to pop into WH Smith and buy a notebook and pens.
Twenty four hours later and here I am, on the afternoon of day one, floating in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea, gazing up at the mountain, soaking up the sunshine as planned. Suddenly I’m not tired anymore and I can think and all I can think about is writing. The first morning workshop has left me buzzing with ideas – what I want to write, what I need to write, how excited I am about writing it and when exactly I can get started. I feel like I need to start now.
So, that dip in the water ended up being my first and last, not because it wasn’t divine – it was, totally – but because another road to recovery had opened up before me. A road called writing myself back to life.
Each morning we’d wake up to birdsong, stunning views and a nourishing al fresco breakfast. Afterwards we’d come together in our writing circle and find that Jackee – the writer’s Mary Poppins – had pulled yet more, lovingly prepared materials and thoughtful activities from her bag. Our writerly selves received stimulation, nourishment and support in abundance. Where I’d imagined that I would be reluctant to ‘work’ and craving time on the beach, I found in fact that I relished the spaces to write, reflect and share. More importantly I found that, far from adding to my weariness, the process of writing energised me until I hardly recognised myself.
I wrote more in those six days than I had in the whole of the previous year and was especially delighted (and surprised) by what I was able to produce in the 24-hour period of the retreat during which we remained in silence.
I feel very blessed to have been a part of this retreat and I’m thrilled to be able to say that I’ve made significant progress with a writing project that had been stalled for some time. It’s part of this project that I would like to share here (thanks for the invitation Jackee) in a short story/chapter titled ‘The Stain’ you will find over at my blog here https://foluketaylor.wordpress.com/short-stories/the-stain/
The writer’s retreat dates set for 2016 ( June 3rd –June 10th 2016), are already ear marked in my diary. Thank you Jackee for channelling your experience, industry, humour and wisdom into such a wonderful week. I would recommend the retreat to anyone (and everyone), but a particular shout out to people who write or who think about writing or who like me, are sometimes too tired to think or write. I’d just like to add, in case you’re wondering, that the sunshine was also glorious.
Foluke Taylor is an Independent Social worker Counsellor/Psychotherapist BACP Accredited, DipSW and prolific writer who you’ll be hearing more from in the coming months.
Contact: UK 07450 051 155