This week, I am running the very first writing retreat here at www.inspire.ms I have started small with just three guests, to see how things go, what needs to change, what works, and so on, but as I write, the three writers taking part in an early morning yoga practice led by a local teacher, before they set out to work on what they want to work on while they are here. The yoga element won’t be present in every retreat, but I want to offer the combination of the two from time to time, as well as writing in combination with other healing modalities and ways of re-integrating the mind and the body.
Relationship between creativity and health
There are lots of reasons behind this goal, but one thing is this: as writers it is dangerously easy to live in a purely intellectual way, in a fantasy head space, in ways where the mind floats away from the body. I did this, over a period of many years, and it did me no good. My body finally rebelled, and I broke down into a many-year-long chronic illness. Since then I have been investigating, in a very personal way, the relationship between creativity and health, and am slowly coming to some thoughts, but one thing I am now fairly sure of is that true health involves the re-integration of spirit and matter, and yoga and other lesser known body techniques is a way of attempting this.
Being comfortable with aloneness
The other danger of being a writer is the call to become a hermit. You have to be good at being by yourself as a writer, it’s far too hard a way to earn far too small an amount of money if you don’t actually enjoy the process of sitting by yourself and trying words out in different orders until they please you. You really do fundamentally need to feel comfortable with that process, even if it’s hard at times (sometimes very hard).
Maintaining a social network
One question you often get asked as a writer this this: isn’t it lonely being a writer? My answer to that is a fairly firm, ‘no’, in the sense that, as my job goes along, day to day, I think you simply have to be good at working by yourself. I am not lonely at work. For one thing, I am kept company by the books I am making, by the stories of the characters developing within, and by my seventeen alternative personalities. (This is a joke. Maybe.) But I think it’s more fundamental that as a writer, you have to enjoy working by yourself, on your terms, or at least, be able to cope with that. If you need to work with other people, there are other jobs available and they almost certainly have better hours and pay more.
Therefore, given that you’re good at being by yourself, and can ‘happily’ sit in a room by yourself for hours on end making up stuff, the call to be a recluse entirely is all too real. I know this can happen to me and I also know I am ‘better’ when I get some sociability, which is another reason why it’s such a delight to have the house full this week, full of people, ideas, creativity, laughter, and joy.
Finally, since I’m writing this on May the fourth, Stuart would not forgive me if I did not wish you a happy Star Wars day, and it seems appropriate to close with that story of the power of community; writing can be lonely, but that’s why you’re here with WriteMentor; you don’t have to be alone ALL the time.
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Author Marcus Sedgwick is 2022 Novel Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.
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