The gift of time to write is a peculiar thing.
It’s an astonishingly precious gift: time away from the routines and stresses of everyday life; an opportunity to be immersed in a calm environment that’s purpose-built for writing; normal work cleared to give time to concentrate on one project; time for the things that are most difficult to find – silence, calm, thoughtfulness.
But it’s a gift that comes with a huge helping of reality. Being given time to write hasn’t suddenly made me a creative genius. It hasn’t made my work any more profound. It hasn’t removed the doubts and struggles.
This week I’ve had the tremendous privilege of working at the Rosie Scott Writer’s Studio at Hazelbrook in the Blue Mountains. While the outside world becomes increasingly chaotic, I’ve been inside a word-cocoon with access to everything a writer can need, and then some.
For me, the biggest benefit has been the luxury to focus on just one project, with no diversions and no deadlines. When I’ve felt like writing, then writing is what I’ve done. If I’ve felt like thinking or staring into the distance, then I’ve been able to choose whether I prefer the comfy couch, the cushion-covered daybed, or the garden. When I’ve needed to read for inspiration or diversion, I’ve been spoiled for choice. When I’ve wanted to walk outdoors, I’ve had access to the Blue Mountains National Park just a few paces away (unfortunately a very wet National Park with rain-rutted paths), and the cute village of Hazelbrook.
Yet even in this incredible environment, my writing experience isn’t all that different from the experience I have writing at home. My concentration still comes and goes. I still wonder whether I’m wasting my time trying to write fiction (what makes me think I can do this!). I still have my little routines, my self-talk, my meta-analysis of what I’m doing. I still set daily targets and get cranky with myself if they’re not achieved.
For me, the biggest benefit of this gift of time is the ability to focus on just one project for an entire week. I’ve deliberately put aside all client work, and I’m not at home to be distracted by household and family tasks. I haven’t been able focus in this way since I was a full-time student in the UK, 20 years ago.
I’ve written a lot of words this week, and I’m very close to having a workable first draft of my novel. I still have no idea whether I’ll eventually write a publishable piece of fiction. As I see it, I’m writing this story for my family – particularly for my mum – and that’s good enough for now. It’s a story I feel compelled to write.
My heartfelt thanks to the Rosie Scott Writer’s Studio for giving me this opportunity, and to Danny Vendramini for being such a magnificent host.