Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why I have started a writers retreat? Guest Blog by Margaret Jennings

Charlotte asked me to do a guest blog. I’m a technophobe so my first question was how on earth do I do that? Charlotte reassured me that all I had to do was write down why I wanted to run a writing retreat and send it to her.
So why do I want to run a writing retreat? I thought about it and slowly came to realise that I wanted to do for others what Charlotte had done for me. Encourage. After all she could have said yes, it’s really difficult and you must be a right idiot if you don’t even know how to blog. But she didn’t, she made it all seem easy, and thus reassured I’m having a bash.
I took a Masters in Creative Writing at Chichester University. Many people doubt the worth of these courses saying that writing is a gift that cannot be taught. That might be so, but I believe that everyone has a talent for writing and that with the right encouragement everyone can explore their full potential and say those things they have always wanted to say. The trouble is that in our society we are expected to be ‘good’ at something before we can venture out into public and share our work, before we can even begin to think of ourselves as writers. This demand that people should be ‘good’ writers also presupposes a norm, a knowable standard that ought to be reached and this has the effect of restricting people in what they write. Surely, they all think, subconsciously or otherwise, if I want to be ‘good’ then I should write the sort of stuff I read.
My answer to that is no, in order to be a ‘good’ writer you have to be prepared to expose all your individuality, all your peculiarities, to crash into all those taboos so inculcated into you by society that they are virtually invisible to you. This is not easy. It is about being more naked in front of other people than you possibly ever could be with all your clothes off. And this ability to be who you, and you alone, are as a writer takes the confidence that is knocked out of us from early childhood by those who demand that we should be ‘good’. So this is what I want to do. I want to encourage people to write. I want people to treat words like play dough or paint is treated by small children. I want them to feel free to explore without unwarranted criticism.
I am aware that there are things that work in writing and things that don’t. I am aware that there are rules. But I am also aware that the best writers break these rules, the best writers write from their hearts, the best writers are happy sploshing in the metaphorical mud and don’t give a stuff what others think of their work. Not because they are arrogant but because they are enjoying learning as they play. Too much criticism, too much damnation, too many demands that people keep their clothes clean as they play in the giant sandpit of words we are blessed with, means that they stop writing altogether. And that means they will never succeed.
So when you come to stay at my retreat you will be treated like the writer you are. I will point out ways of improving your work if that is what you want. I will shut up and keep out of your way if you want. I will provide regular meals and space that you can work in free from the usual distractions of everyday life.
Look on my website, for further information. There are two examples of my writing there. The Lovedean Writer’s anthology “Keep calm and keep writing” available on kindle has other examples. My email address is
And whether you decide to come to my retreat or not, please believe in yourselves as writers. We all have something to say. Don’t let those who only know how to criticise harshly shut you up. Find a local writing group where you feel comfortable and supported and write your socks off.

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