I decided in 2018 one of my new year’s resolutions was to try at least one new thing each month. To my delight my first opportunity arrived within the dark old days of January. I attended the writing retreat at the Hurst. This was a retreat with a difference though.
There were both blind and partially sighted attendees, one of whom was me. As well as sighted writers, newbies and published authors. So no pressure! I was still fearful. After all access to some people means “unable” not “enable”. From my arrival I felt welcomed and wanted. I was shown around the large rather wieldy building. Able to locate a room which gave me both access to the stairs and lift and small enough to get around. So all the practical things solved for the moment.
On to the retreat itself! Well, if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure what I had let myself in for. I understood the concept of a retreat, isolating oneself from everything. But a writing retreat? I always felt writing was an isolating experience in itself after all it is often just the computer and your own thoughts and ideas. Throughout the week I discovered it wasn’t all about isolation. It was sharing. Realising we all have stories to tell and share. That we can learn from each other, renew old friendships, and make new friends and, more importantly, increase my understanding of the complexities of the publishing world, perhaps awareness too? So no small learning experience, I guess.
But for me it wasn’t all about the big moments, there were some special small moments too. Recognising we can do anything, even cook together. Often people don’t think blind people can cook, again I am not the world’s best but negotiating in a kitchen with other people is a feat in itself, but pleasurable. Those hours in the kitchen gave me new ideas for my writing.
Then, the scary yet joyful moment of sharing what I had worked on during the quiet afternoons in my room. I thought I would miss the internet, and the phone. If am truthful to some extent I did. It is my main source of research. Although it did give me the chance to concentrate on writing and not be one more distraction.
Would I do it again? Yes! What advice would I give to anyone who was blind or partially sighted, who wanted to attend a retreat in the future? The Hurst staff are kind and helpful, so be clear as far as you can about what you need. Be prepared to take risks in sharing and talking and remember to get the right footwear, in particular, in the winter months!
For me I now really just want to get on with that book. Tell my story and find that next new experience to try out! Thanks to all the staff for their kindness and help and to all my fellow writers and tutors for all their care, compassion and advice. Till we all meet again.
Photo by Natalie Doig