by Elizabeth Conte
Over the Fields and Through the Woods…
I recently returned from a writing retreat in Scotland. Located in the Highlands, the non-profit writing retreat, called Moniack Mhor, is dedicated to helping writers learn, develop, and grow. A once working farm, it’s now a communal house where writers from all genres—poetry, music, plays, fiction, non-fiction, etc.—get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and daily pressures to harness their creativity. The only distractions are the Highland coos (cows) and maybe a sheep dog that wants to play.
It’s A Wonderful Life
I was honored to be gathered with literary writers from all over the world as we took our notebooks and pens and were pushed to new limits. Spear-headed by two international authors, Tim Pears, author of the newly released, The Horseman, and Louis de Berniéres, the noted author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, who shared with us their experience and knowledge on how to develop character, and hopefully become better, more successful writers.
‘Twas the Night Before Writing . . .
At first, I was overwhelmed with the quality of writers I was among. The initial meeting of my peers left me horrified that I was not good enough. I lay in my bed the first night, tucked under the quilt, frozen like a child, waiting for the boogey man to pop out. Or at least a message under the door requesting I leave. I planned my retreat as the others fell asleep. But then I realized that I had a fifty-pound suitcase that took two people to carry up steep and narrow stairs. I couldn’t carry it down all by myself! (Note to travelers: Scotland is old. Very old. Elevators are not a regular occurrence in old farm houses . . . or most hotels, come to think of it.) I had to stay and face my fellow writers the next day, as ill-equipped as I was. I braced myself for the challenge soon to come.
I could pull it off . . . make them all believe that I, too, deserved to be in their presence, I said to myself as I grabbed my self-confidence and joined the other writers gathered at a communal table, our bodies tightly squeezed together along a bench. There was no space to hide, and no easy escape route. And so it began. Lessons on writing. Deep, hard, pushed-to-the-limits writing! We shared. We laughed. I cringed. We wrote some more.
Then something happened. Something I hadn’t expected. Something beyond my words, writing, skill, and talent. Faith! Faith in myself. Convictions in my style. Trust in my writing.
Star of Wonder
Was it because I realized I was a better writer? No! God, no. My counterparts were brilliant writers! I do not have their talents. I should have been laughed out of there, by all comparison. But something happened along the way, as I was forced to dig deep, write in ways I had never expected, and seek beyond my own understanding of my capabilities. I discovered that I had a talent unique to me. I wrote differently than almost everyone in that room. Everyone did! Each writer had a their own voice. They all had something to add to the writing world. I had something to add to the writing world! I came to know that not only my skill of writing, but my style, my goals, and my unique talent define me as a writer. Ultimately I realized . . .
Writing doesn’t define you…you define writing. (Click to Tweet)
Joyful & Triumphant
Being surrounded by talented writers can be intimidating. Or, it can make you realize the extent of talents is a blessing. Each writer has a gift to offer the world. I, being one of many. I shouldn’t compare myself to other writers, or seek out some kind of format that is deemed successful. There is no set pattern to follow. No right way. There is my way…and that made the holiday writing retreat quite jolly!
When I am not writing books, tormented with poetry, or inspiring others with my blog at Writerdeeva.com, you can find some of my work published in Lost Coast Review and PennWriters, and I am a regular editor/contributor to Industry News for Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).