The Time to Write workshop at Westbury Arts Centre is a gloriously simple idea. Often in our busy lives we feel unable to justify time spent on writing because there are all sorts of other everyday tasks we could be doing. How many times have you promised yourself you will do some writing this morning, but you simply must empty the dishwasher, hoover the stairs, or ring the bank before you allow yourself to sit down and begin the indulgence of putting pen to paper. That scary blank page can be put off with all sorts of endless trivial tasks.
The strong mixture of guilt, and fear of not being quite good enough, can easily stop you nurturing your inner writer. Time to Write is the perfect antidote to this creative stagnation.
Our fellow Flourisher and accomplished poet, Karen Littleton runs Time to Write at Westbury Arts Centre situated in Shenley Wood just outside Milton Keynes. Karen is Writer in Residence at Westbury, and provides a tranquil, supportive space for you to get on with whatever writing project you are currently working on.
I have often fantasised about going on a writers retreat to some gorgeous remote location with nothing but my laptop and notebooks. I think to myself, if only I could spare the time and money to lock myself away in a beautiful landscape for a week, then of course I could produce my first novel in no time. This is clearly, absolute rubbish.
I see Time to Write as a much more realistic, useful and productive mini retreat for my writing. The group arrives at Westbury at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. There is a warm welcome from Karen who gives a brief introduction to the workshop and the facilities in the building to anyone new. We then have a very brief catch up to discuss the projects we are planning to tackle in the next few hours. A table is laid out with a giant urn of hot water, coffee and all sorts of teas to help yourself to, along with plates of cakes, biscuits and sweets for a mid session sugar hit.
We each have our own desk-space to work on and that’s pretty much it. You just get on with it and write. Being away from the distractions of home is invaluable. There are no more excuses. You must give the blank page your full attention.
The atmosphere is also key. Everyone else in the room is writing. It’s an ideal creative cluster , a room full of like minded writers, supportive and productive. There is no talking, or reason to talk. Everyone politely respects the need for minimal noise and so is mindful whilst making coffee or leaving the room for a rejuvenating walk around the grounds.
The beautiful Westbury Arts Centre is based in a 17th Century, Grade II listed farmhouse building. It’s perfect for literary inspiration. As well as the room where Time to Write happens, there are permanent and temporary studio spaces, rooms for hire and exhibition spaces for a wide variety of local artists. Everywhere you turn there is something thought provoking to inspire your writing.
Within the three hours spent at Time to Write, there are moments when you can’t type / scribble fast enough as your writing flows and thoughts come thick and fast. But often this wonderful feeling of flow ends abruptly and 20 minutes of staring out the window follows, trying to catch your next spark of creativity. It is in these moments I value Time to Write the most. At home if I had been sat doing nothing for twenty minutes I would start some housework or do some admin. This wouldn’t be so bad if I returned to my writing afterwards but I rarely do. Once I have begun these other everyday jobs, it is all too easy to find more of them to do, and avoid the tricky business of putting pen to paper.
Time to Write allows you the small breaks that you need whilst writing but always draws you back to your desk because there is simply nothing else to do but write.
Karen stops the session at around 4.45pm to give us time to reflect on how our writing went and the projects we have been working on. Each person is given a turn to speak. You can say as much or as little as you like. Two of the group choose to read out what they have written, but I have not yet been brave enough!
There were five writers participating in this months Time to Write workshop. The work produced was wonderful. Pieces that were read out included a very moving account of a family tragedy, and a thought provoking poem about an abrasive but likable work colleague.
Those of us who chose not to read out our pieces still spoke for a few moments on what we had been working on. One lady who I shared the large window desk with, was writing articles on nutrition for her blog. Another woman was at the editing stage of her novel. All very inspiring stuff.
I first worked on my journalling, which I have fallen behind with, despite trying very hard to stick to my three Morning Pages as the wonderful Julia Cameron suggests. Once I had exhausted my inspiration for journalling , I turned to the areyouflourishing blog and started the outlines for a couple of posts.
Then sadly it was time to pack up and go home until next month. The time had flown but I had two and a half hours of solid writing practice under my belt, which felt very good.
I will put links to the next few Time to Write workshops on the Flourish Calendar. Sessions cost a very reasonable £10 and should be booked in advance as spaces are very limited. Go direct to the Westbury Arts Centre website to book and find more details for all of their courses.