Places For Inspiration by Trevor Thorn

Launde Abbey, Leicestershire
Photo credit Peterborough Diocese

This last weekend, I was privileged to join in a retreat at our local retreat house, Bishop Woodford House in Ely. Although it is not nearly so photogenic as the above house in the heart of Leicestershire it is a place that makes visitors very welcome and it proved a very special place to be - with two new poems emerging. As these short poems grew, I was reminded of just what excellent places Retreat Houses are for authors if there is space when you want it. 

In my earlier career as a fund-raising director, together with my management team we would travel round the country meeting our local supporters, which, whenever we could, we arranged to hold in one of the Christian Retreat Houses, so for a while I could have undoubtedly produced a ‘Good Retreat House Guide’. It was that experience that resonated with me as I thought about this ACW blog entry.

There are very considerable benefits  that such places offer to a writer. It is the aim of these houses to provide a place apart in an atmosphere of peace and calm. Most have a chapel and rooms to encourage reflection. Many of them have sizeable gardens which, during a warm spell can be just about perfect for ruminating on stubborn pieces of text. That might, for some, sound enough, but in addition the guests are fed by the staff, so it is possible to spend the maximum of time on the thinking or writing task in hand.

Perhaps one of the biggest decisions to make is how far to travel. Is your preference a short journey or would you prefer to find a place deep in the heart of beautiful countryside? Both options will be available to most people in the UK and if you are particularly well placed, you may get both in one centre. Some run short or week long courses on creative writing

Prices vary but some houses have bursaries to make the experience of being there within the reach of as many people as possible. The practical details of most of the UK’s houses can be found in the annual ‘Retreats’ booklet published by The Retreat Association or calling up their website. There are some overseas options too. All of them will have someone to discuss your hopes of such a place and describe how individuals are welcomed. In some, individual retreat ants eat alone, in some eating is round a common table which, of itself might prove a place of helpful ideas.

Many houses have optional prayer-times led by their staff. These can be very helpful in establishing a gentle routine for the duration of a short stay. If you felt joining a gathering of other writers the Creative Arts Retreat Movement offers excellent opportunities in various locations.

From this entry, it will be clear that I am an enthusiast for taking short breaks in retreat houses and I am grateful to our local Cursillo Group for allowing me to join in their weekend.

If you decide to take time out in this way, you might also like to read Embracing Silence, a short prayer I have written which will give an idea of how you might prepare to spend time in such peaceful places. And if you do decide to explore any of these options, may you be richly blessed as I have been in such places.