This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I live in a lively household. This is a very good thing, unless you’re trying to write books. In the school holidays, I find myself carrying my laptop from room to room in a desperate search for peace. Often I hide in a café; every waitress in town knows the nutter who sits typing in the far corner. When I start yelling at the family, I know it’s time to head for my writing refuge.My retreat feels like another world: a friend’s cottage, perched on the edge of a cliff, high above the ocean. It’s up a long track and an hour from the nearest shop, so I take a coffee plunger and a box of groceries. I always feel a surge of happiness as I turn off my engine and listen to the endless rumble of the waves. There’s no telephone, no internet, no distractions at all. If I want cell phone coverage I have to climb a hill and sit among the sheep. Power is provided entirely by solar panels; water comes from a rainwater tank, so you don’t leave the tap running.
This is isolated hill country, on New Zealand’s east coast. Last time I was there for five days and I didn’t see another human being – unless you count the glint of ships on the horizon. At night the sky is a blaze of stars, unpolluted by man-made light. In summer, the hissing of cicadas and the sea breeze make me euphoric. Sometimes the tin roof is battered by winds and I huddle, imagining the little house flying off the cliffs and into the night.
I dare say I go a bit funny as the days pass. I get up, I write. I drink coffee, I stare at that stupendous view, and I write. I go for walks during which I think about the story, and then I write. I can’t access a newspaper. I can’t put a wash on, or read narcissistic Facebook posts. I can’t drive teenagers to music lessons, or have anxious conversations about relatives with dementia or the funny noise the car is making. I have nobody to talk to except my characters, and time to listen to them properly. In five days here I can achieve as much as I would in five weeks in the real world. This fact has saved me more than once, when deadlines have loomed.
When the time comes to leave, I stop my car at the highest point of the track. I get out and look back. My writing place looks tiny. It’s just a grey dot, facing the immensity of the Pacific. I always wish I could have stayed for one more day.
The Son-In-Law by Charity Norman is out in paperback now.