We asked one of our lovely writers about her experience with us at writer's retreat - we thought it better you heard it from the horse's mouth...
Here is what Zoe had to say... and yes, Zoe is a Greek name ; )
“Writing is the act of discovery.” ― Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
And oh how I discovered on the writer’s retreat. The discoveries I made about myself, the beauty of my surroundings, the value of change, human and spiritual connection and the stories of the people I spent my days with will never be forgotten and have a place in my heart that means I will always remember to continue to write. Writing has split me in two and opened up a part of me allowing me to ‘discover’ the best of me and make use of my intrigue of others.
I have always enjoyed to write and have often been complemented by others ‘you write well, you should write more’. It’s never something I have really thought about as more than something that I like to do. Once I get started I can find myself completely away with it. As an introvert I have recently been lucky enough to find great expression in my own personal writing and journaling. But I approached the writers retreat as a complete ‘newbie’. Reaching a huge personal turning point in my life, I attended the retreat with a whirlwind of emotions surrounding me and a lot to process personally. I had toyed with the idea of a relaxation or spiritual retreat but stumbling across the writing retreat and the amazing location, it seemed like it was meant to be. I can honestly say it was. The writer’s retreat gave me so much more than tips for my writing and the space and time to write, it was an unforgettable trip and I will continue to take so much of it with me into my future life and self.
Whilst there were (actual real life) writers on the retreat - people who actually write for a living, I never felt intimidated or undermined. We were so lucky to have an intimate group of strangers who encouraged each other, who listened, who inspired and who were a valued part of the experience.
“We walk through so many myths of each other and ourselves; we are so thankful when someone sees us for who we are and accepts us.”
― Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
They accepted me as the newbie, and encouraged me to write and express and be in the moment, and as I listened to their work and their stories they became part of my learning experience.
The great thing about the entire group is that we very much all felt at one and at ease, there was no hierarchy between teachers and students and writers and non-writers. We ate meals together, shared drinks at sunset and there was the perfect balance of being part of the group and being allowed our own time – we were free to slip away and it wouldn’t be noticed. We were part of something special and unique but could contribute and take from it as much or as little as we liked.
As for the teachers, well I am truly honoured to have spent time with both Charlotte and Daisy, who I felt incredibly at ease with from the start. Charlotte is an inspiration, she appears to float through life, and has the voice of an angel and a mind which spills words that intrigue you and keep you mesmerised. She shares her writing and personal experiences openly which allows you to connect with her and gives you both a better understanding of each other, allowing her to help you with your own writing. She understands the struggles, the procrastination, the writer’s block, the mess of words that is sometimes too hard to transfer from mind to paper. She is able to guide you out of this, sweep you up and get you back on track with understanding and encouragement. I opted to attend classes during the retreat as I needed the guidance and knowing that just loving to write is never going to be enough, I needed help with structure, plot, character development and dialogue and I received that and more during the retreat. Classes were held on a decking overlooking the sea, it couldn’t be a more relaxing and inspiring setting. Nothing was too hard, but our minds were challenged and opened and creativity and ideas were given space to breathe and flow. Tasks were simple but very effective and sharing our work with others, whilst sometimes daunting, gave us great insight. We were set small homework tasks to do each day, which was great at keeping the focus for the rest of the afternoon, keeping the writing flowing and the mind buzzing. Being right by the sea you were able to just jump in and cool off and allow yourself breaks to regroup and see things from a different perspective whilst bobbing in the clear blue water surrounded by the beauty of this special island, and then return to your writing, or not if you didn’t want to. It was both a retreat and a holiday with no pressure to conform and keep up, but you did, because you wanted to. It was great for everyone to have the opportunity to have an hour long one to one session with Charlotte where she was dedicated to your own writing projects and goals and be able to offer guidance, advice and insight. I started writing 3 years ago when a friend committed suicide and I wrote about it to try and understand this decision and the affects it has on everyone who is part of that life that is lost. I knew what I wanted my story to tell but I didn’t know how to structure it or how to interlink and connect my characters. Charlotte helped me to do this, especially in our one on one session when she could offer me more bespoke guidance and as we had already had several opportunities to discuss the story during class and down-time, by the time we had our meeting she already understood a lot about what I was trying to say. This meant she could help me in a more structured way, and one that was personal to me.
I learnt so much about writing and structure that will make me a great writer, but also a great person. But I also learnt about the importance of both opening and calming your mind to allow those thoughts and creativity to be unleashed to their fullest potential. Having Daisy on the retreat allowed us to all explore our minds and our own spirituality with meditation first thing in the morning and before dinner at sunset, and we valued her snippets of wisdom and courage picked up generally in her company. I immediately warmed to Daisy when I first met her, she has smiling eyes and she shares her own hardships with you which shows you that she understands yours. I am by no means ‘a meditator’ nor someone who knows how to, or enjoys relaxing! In fact within 5 minutes of meeting Daisy I told her I struggle with meditation because as soon as I have to focus on my breathing I feel like I can’t breathe – “I just can’t do the breathing thing.” Her response? – “You’re breathing now aren’t you”? And she was right, and that’s the way I had to look at it. As the days went on Daisy taught us several different ways to meditate, including both standing and walking meditation – who even knew that was even a thing, or possible!? And because of her I became a meditator. I became someone who understands meditation and the importance of clearing your mind, being in the present, appreciating the moment and your surroundings and breathing it all in to give you nourishment and clarity in your life. Having that time and space makes you a better writer, it makes your thoughts process better and puts you in better touch with your heart. I’m so lucky to have had the chance to be opened up to that by Daisy. We also had our own one to one sessions with Daisy where she put her life and career coaching skills into practise. I had an emotional meeting with Daisy, partly because of where I am in my life, facing transition and new challenges but also partly because Daisy is easy to open up to and she has all the right things to say.
I take away so much from the writer’s retreat, I fell in love with Greece and particularly Agistri, an island I had never heard of before this trip. What made Agistri even more special for me is Rosy’s Little Village, it was the perfect location for the retreat and we were looked after and made to feel like family by Rosy and her team. Rosy is a story to write within herself as you watch her run her beautiful hotel, dip in the sea and spend time with her pet baby turtle. She is a special lady and she has created a special place. The food was delicious and I have several food intolerances which were catered for above and beyond what I could have asked for. Everyone remembers your name and who you are and that means something in this fast paced world. Rooms are simple but clean and have all you need, the typical Greek décor and the pristine white and blue details with flowers everywhere and a few wandering cats. All this overlooking the sea which is only a few steps down a ladder away and reminds you how good it is to be alive!
"I can honestly say [that writing] is the best life there is, because you get to live within the realm of your own mind, and that is a profoundly rare human privilege.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert
Writing has become a part of me and the writer’s retreat has allowed that to develop and be taken to a higher level. I will continue to write and would return to the next retreat in a flash. Where do I sign up!? The experience taught me to write, taught me to structure my words and taught me to open my mind and my heart. It has also taught me to listen – to others and to my own inner voice, and to have patience. I come away from the retreat with new skills and a new sense of spirituality and inner peace. I’d say I got my money’s worth! Hope to see you there next year.
Thank you so much Zoe!
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