This weekend just past I threw what little clothes that still fit me into a suitcase, remembered my ugg boots, and skedaddled off to Lake Mulwala for a writing retreat. In a move that will haunt me for the rest of my living memory, I forgot my camera. Luckily, others didn't.
The lake is actually a dammed-up river, complete with a vista of drowned trees lifting their death-spindled limbs above the water. It's home to a healthy fish population: I never saw any, but late at night when the water was still I heard them, quick and thick and heavy through the air and straight back into the water. It's also home to quite an array of bird life, including pelicans, ducks, cormorants, seagulls, sulphur-crested cockatoos, the tiniest of chittering, swooping swallows,1 and a lone black swan who knew that humans bore bread.
In between contemplating that view (and eating, and chatting, and napping), I worked on the cherry crow children story, and I managed to wring sufficient words out of my brain to call the weekend successful in terms of progress … but I've now also spent all of yesterday and today mulling over where the story's going and what I learnt about Haverny Wood through writing those words, and I think it's time to ditch them all and start a new draft. Truly, counting words is one of the worst, or at least most meaningless, ways of measuring progress on a story. It's just that, often, it's all there is.
It's been far too long since I've indulged in a writers' retreat. Writing can be such an isolating and time-hungry activity — so much so that of late I've taken to spending my Saturdays in a local cafe with some writing friends, in an attempt to combine socialising with productivity. A retreat gives me not only time and space away from the pressures of the dayjob world, new and interesting scenery2 to jog the braincells but also, most important of all, a chance to hang out with people who know what it's like to pound away at the craft of writing simply for the sake of it.
That sort of understanding and camaraderie is priceless and refreshing. Especially since the first person I spoke to on returning home to Melbourne3 summarily dismissed my writing as a hobby in which I indulged "sporadically" in order to "get some alone time". I think I will never cease to be amazed at how much people like jumping to simple, single-reason explanations that let them label and judge others.