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Ullapool & the Writing Retreat

Ullapool and the writing retreat

Writing Writing Writing  …. I love it, what can I say? 

In the Summer 2014, I started a novel inspired by the events that transpired between me and my friends in 2012-2013 in St Andrews, Scotland. It’s the first time a story has stayed with me for so long and now I’m on a path to finishing this novel and getting it published. 

Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and it truly gave me the kick in the butt I needed. I’d write every day, from a few hundred words to a few thousands. And after 30 days I had reached 50,000 words! It felt like my biggest accomplishment in years!

The amazing thing about November though was that a few weeks earlier I’d signed up for a writing retreat – a dream of mine – in the highland region of Scotland. It was such good timing that this was set for November – it meant I was fully immersed in my month of writing!  

So one Friday morning midway through November, I headed out to Ullapool in the Wester-Ross region. That’s about 1h30 North West of Inverness if you want to know. It is truly bare and rugged up there. 


The Writing Retreat

DAY 1:

On the Friday, we had a few hours of ‘class time’ and I got introduced to the other members. This was smack in the middle of storm Abigail so the weather had deterred and stopped (literally as ferries weren’t working on those days) many to reach Ullapool so we were only a small class of 6. They were mostly middle-aged and elderly people – which was absolutely fascinating. They all mostly lived in the North of Scotland and were fascinated that I had travelled from the central belt for the weekend, especially during the storm. 

The person leading the workshop was a poet and writer, Stephen Keeler, who recently won the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award in 2015. He was a generous and kind workshop leader and mentor for those few days.

We started the evening by having to write pieces about each other – which was as hard as it sounds to write about someone sitting next to you! We did 1-minute challenges – which sees you writing about a given theme for 60 seconds. Fascinating what can be written in a minute! Everyone else was just so amazing and I was truly inspired!

I was exhausted from the travel, the weather and the writing class by the time I got back to the B&B, but we had some homework, so I worked on that before crashing (probably face first) on the comfortable bed. 


DAY 2: 

Day 2 started a bit rough – I was still so exhausted from the day before and we had to start with morning pages. I like the idea of morning pages, but it just wasn’t doing it for me at 7.30am on a Saturday.

Then, as I was about to leave, I put my hand on the door handle of the B&B and boom a downpour started. I thought I’d wait it out, but I didn’t want to be late so I ended up walking the 10 minutes to the community centre and being completely drenched in the process – so much so I had to dry my shoes and socks when I got there. Thankfully, I was travelling with multiple pairs of socks in my backpack! 

The second day of workshop started with some exercise, 1-minute challenges and reading out our homework. By midday we were breaking for lunch and for our individual sessions. We had in total nearly 6 hours of individual writing time. This was a time I had been waiting for and yet I had a hard time getting through it. I may or may not have laid down in the middle of my room in the dark for 30 minutes, doing Savasana and hoping for inspiration to strike me like lightning. I did end up writing nearly 2,000 words that day, which I was quite happy with. 

During that time we were also allowed some ‘mentor’ time with Stephen and this was brilliant! I discussed my story with him a little and my insecurities as a writer and he was still very generous, kind and constructive in his comments. Every time I doubt myself, I think back on our chat together and it puts me at ease. 

Once the group came back together later in the day, we read some of our day’s writing to each other. I got some great feedback from them and I admired everyone else’s writing. Again, it was truly inspiring. 

ullapool 3

DAY 3:

Day 3 started much better! I woke up rested and did my morning pages with a lot more focus (literally as my eyes were open this time), before getting up and ready to get back to the workshop. The weather had cleared up as well, making it a splendid morning on the northern west coast (all the photos in this post are from that day as you may expect. Pictured below was my B&B.).

The day started again with our homework and also with some quick challenges and themed writing. I don’t thoroughly enjoy themed writing, but I let myself go to these and I was surprised by what came out – a lot of it being about my family and heritage actually! 

We finished the workshop with some tips and advice on writing and how to get your work out there. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but I know I’ll probably be back.

ullapool 2

All in all, I think it was a great weekend and I would definitely do it again! Even though I’m sure in much better weather circumstances, it would be an even better weekend – for both Ullapool and the writing retreat. 

The retreat was hosted by the Macphail Centre in Ullapool. This was not a sponsored post – I just thoroughly enjoyed my time there and definitely would recommend it for anyone who loves writing!

Have you ever been on a retreat or would like to go on one?xx

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