|The Glenveagh Room at Arnolds Hotel Dunfanaghy|
I am on mid-term break, the Mock exams are over, and I am on an artists' date with Garden Room Writers and our more experienced writing friends, the Errigal Writers. I defer the opportunity for a lie in for the opportunity to spend creative time together with these writers in the hope of generating new work. Friendships overlap between writers in the two groups and Deirdre from our group and Averil from Errigal Writers have suggested an Artists' Date. In each group we feel the need for a bit of energy, for some stocktaking and are curious to see if sharing creative dates together might be useful.
We chose to come to Dunfanaghy, to Arnold’s Hotel, for the best part of a day. Over coffee we discuss what it is that brings us together for this date. Optimism is strong and we all believe the good and bad habits we’ve developed will benefit from a reflecting process, and that there will be distinctive energy we will achieve together. I say how the chance to stretch our group into new territory but in the ‘safe’ company of the Errigal Writers, who we already know, appeals to me.
I know also that something important for me is respecting my writing by allowing time to it distinct from family life and the day job. I am fascinated by writers’ days and love interviews in which writers of all genres talk about their process. I know I can write at the kitchen table after the tea or in the car while waiting for the boys to come out of jiu jitsu, but I like the flow I can achieve when I set time apart.
We leave the comfort of the hotel for forty minutes walking, during which time we hope to find something to write about on our return to the hotel.
I walk up the street, and into a shop or two, not drawn to the beach or the fruit market as some of the others are. I walk mindfully, try to soak up the physical experience in the moment. I practise some insight meditation as I go and wait to see what happens. I take some photos and I am drawn to the skips and the peeling paint and splitting plywood boarding up a broken window. Not the pretty, thriving, gallery, craft shop, coffee shop and Jazz festival face of Dunfanaghy that I am more familiar with.
When I get back to the hotel to write and look at my images I feel I’ve betrayed the town a bit, it's one I visit a good bit to meet friends in one of the lovely spots to have a cuppa here. Then I realise I’d never stopped to look at the fabric of the town in this kind of way before. I’d race over, dash in to meet my friends and chat for hours over coffee and buns then drive off in the car again, radio on. I begin to write and soon the focus is on fabric, on recycling and re purposing. On my walk I’d also spotted a vintage dress shop and a second hand furniture shed, a sweet shop closed for maintenance and painting. I just hadn’t photographed them. We free write for forty minutes upon our return and I fill four pages on the themes of upcycling and renovation.
We break for lunch and decide another forty-minute spell of writing for afters and the opportunity then to share something written on the day. Well, generous to a fault, Dunfanaghy yielded the groups the drafts of several poems, a short story and a children’s story featuring a woolly mammoth!
Will we try again? The conversation as we leave for home is of the next time, the energy we hoped to tap into is evident enough in that for me.
For ideas on artists dates, which are essentially time spent on solo well filling, read The Artist's Way Blog item here
The excellent Guardian series My Writing Day is a good place to start reading about other writers' practice.