My Arvon Week: Jessica Eve Watkins | Arvon

My Arvon Week: Jessica Eve Watkins

15 Apr 2024 / My Arvon Week

Jessica Eve Watkins

My personal slice of heaven

A preview of Jessica Eve Watkin’s experience on a week-long writing retreat at Arvon’s writing house, The Hurst.

‘The thing a writer needs is drive,’ Helena says, as we face each other in the Snug. ‘What will get you to your desk everyday and feel exciting – not like a chore?’ One-on-one, we pull apart the whirl of ideas around me, including the one that I won’t even admit: I want to write a book. But here my secret world of words is taken seriously. The shame of having ambitions is dispelled. How magic it is to have accountability and support! Deadlines and dreaming kinfolk! There is such power in stating our desires out loud to others.

Before long, somewhere amongst the classes on authenticity, tone, and accuracy of character, something happens that I didn’t dare to dream would. I find my ‘idea’. The words begin to flow. Conor sends me off with a two-hour assignment to write a ‘shitty first draft’ of a chapter and I find I can’t stop, scribbling at my desk late into the night. Hunched under a lamp with red wine and biscuits. Everywhere I am, new words and scenes unravel and release. A project emerges as I put my pen to paper, following any breadcrumbs the Muse hands me. It feels almost like fiction, although it definitely isn’t. ‘Auto-fiction,’ Helena called it. The hinterland of memoir and imagination.

One morning I awaken in a cascade of self-doubt and comparison. It seems everyone else has the ability to perpetually believe in themselves – but I like to knock myself down with the hammer of insecurity on the regular. I walk around in a dismal fog. I don’t feel envy for others’ talents or words or brains. I feel envy for those who complete things. Those disciplined enough to stay the course. This has always been my pattern: to dive in deep with inspiration and enthusiasm, only to second guess myself, beat myself up for daring to be vulnerable, and change course, a string of unfinished work left in my wake.

When Conor asks how we’re all doing I can’t help but express my morning (/life) of self doubt. He seems relieved to dive in. ‘Do you really think you’re the only writer to have experienced self doubt?’ he asks. Slowly the rest of the room shares parallel experiences. We dig into the droves of inflicted famous writers, too. By the end of the session I am buoyed again. And a new awareness is with me – so much of being a writer (or a creative) is about believing in an idea and then sticking with it, even when it seems preposterous and self-indulgent. So much is simply hanging on to the bull horns as it tries repeatedly to buck you off.”

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