Wednesday, November 7, 2012


By Jenny Hilborne, author of mysteries and thrillers

Many writers juggle their writing career with other obligations; chores, family, and often a full time job. We are always distracted. For those of us lucky enough to work at our writing full time at home, the distractions still exist in the form of the mailman, telemarketers, noise from neighbors, missionaries knocking on the door. The list is not exhaustive. Then there's social media - possibly the biggest distraction of all, and far worse when you have all day to use it.

I need solitude and silence to focus, a place away from home and everyday distractions. A writers retreat. I've dreamed of it for ages. Last week, I went on such a retreat, although not alone. I was invited by my sister to spend a week in a remote part of Wales, with an ocean view. Couldn't get better than this, I decided, and went along. Here's the view I enjoyed.

I set up my writing desk at the dining table with the ocean in front of me. On my first 2 days, a ship was positioned right at the end of the rock jutting out from the mainland. I spent 2 days watching the water and wondering about the boat. Who was on it? What were they doing? I imagined pirates, spies, and fishermen. When a smaller boat sailed out and joined it, my imagination went wild. Hostages, loot? Who knew?

I'm sure it was nothing so interesting, but while my imagination was fired up by this view, my writing suffered. I actually found this view distracting; so beautiful I couldn't stop gazing out of the window. I might have done better looking out at the countryside, but I doubt it. I'm beginning to believe I might do my best work within the confines of four walls with no view to distract me.

What about you? What is your favorite writers retreat? Do you find the views distracting? Does it work to go in a group, or do you do better alone?


  1. I retreat to the spare bedroom. No noise, no views and especially no cats. I don't own a land line, so no unwanted calls.

  2. Sounds ideal, especially the no unwanted calls.

  3. I write at my desk, which is in the living room, and I look out a large window at my pretty backyard. Yes, the view (birds, squirrels, raccoons, and rabbits) distracts me sometimes, and so does the internet. And so do all the family members who come and go from my house with regularity. And call and text me at all times of day. But that's my life. I write in it and around it and I'm used to it. Who knows? Without all the chaos, I might not be able to write at all.

  4. I write best at my computer in my home office. When I'm away, even though I always take my laptop, I'm too distracted and stimulated by all the new sights and sounds to focus properly on editing or writing.

  5. I agree, Jodie. New sights and sounds are far too interesting to focus. I do agree with LJ that some distractions (ie people) are good and help with creativity.

  6. I find that for me it's mostly a mental state, but that's not to say the physical space doesn't have a lot to do with where I love to write.

    Right now I have my Favorite-Lamp-Ever lit, as well as a candle. My work area is organized and, to my mind, inviting. But my mental state is way off and I haven't been able to jumpstart it.

    I can tune out just about anything. In fact, as a kid, my mom used to have either the Hal and Charley radio show going (or Pete Smythe before them) or the television—and it just sort of became background noise to me. In fact, I get a sort of comfort from background noise when I'm writing. Of course, I love to write to Norah Jones or Seal.

    One of my dreams is to write with other writers at a retreat. I think the quiet energy would be fabulous, but so far I've only written alone. And that pretty much works just fine.

  7. How funny! I just had two missionaries at my door yesterday! Unfortunately, we can't see who's out there until we open the door, so, not being one to want to miss Ed McMahon as he delivers my million dollar check (is he still alive?), I went to the door. As soon as I saw who it was, I basically said, "Talk to the hand," and closed the door.

    I find that I work best in places where I can see new people, but not necessarily new sights and sounds. Starbucks or a library make great places for me to go.



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