A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending a week, up near Inverness, writing and doing almost nothing else. At a place called Moniack Mhor, writers gather several times a month to attend tutored or non-tutored writing retreats to finish a project, improve a particular skill, or find some creative inspiration in the midst of the highlands.
I spent the week working with Michèle Roberts and Romesh Gunesekera, and twelve other eager writers, where we discussed writing short stories, what we were all reading at the time, and what troubled us most in our creative endeavors. The layout of the week was split between the two authors and their different workshops they had planned for us each day. We spent the mornings in workshop, doing various exercises, having interesting discussions, and then spent our afternoons writing, editing, sharing, reading, and sometimes taking a walk through the highlands.
For me personally, it was a concentrated week of creativity. I've never really experienced anything like it. All we were meant to focus on was writing with the least amount of distractions possible. It was amazing. I tried to get in a routine in the short time while I was there. Each morning I woke up, had tea, read, went to the workshop, took a walk in the afternoon, went back to my room to write, and then joined the group for dinner.
I can't say enough good things about getting to spend concentrated time with other writers. For one, there was a distinct understanding between everyone about how nerve wracking it is to share new work or to start a new project. Everyone was kind and thoughtful to one another but also really pushed each other to think about our own stories from a different perspective. Almost every time I've gotten into a room with a new group of writers in a classroom setting, I get a bit nervous that my writing will be too similar to someone else's. But each time I am reminded that every voice is so distinctly different. We all were native English speakers working from a similar education level, but each person approached the same writing prompts with our own, unique perspectives that always resulted in a distinctly different story.
During the week we each got a one on one feedback session with Michèle and Romesh, which was wonderful. They were each very thoughtful in their critiques but approached my stories from a different angle which gave me a very thorough and well-rounded understanding of things I got right and areas of my writing that I needed to work on.
I'm so grateful to have had such an experience in such a beautiful and relaxing setting. I look forward to my next trip up there in January.