I seem to have a growing desire to hide in a dark room, or more likely a quiet library, for a year or so and write something mammoth. To take a journey into the far reaches of imagination and see what is out there. Right now the world is keeping me more than a little busy, but I think maybe sooner rather than later I might just have to put everything on hold for a while take a real writing retreat. Should writers retreat from the world to write, or should we always be engaged and reactive to the world in our writing?

In less existential ponderings…

Ms. Parker reaches my top 10 favourite ever bloggers with this brilliant analysis of the structural flaws in the narrative and subtext of Iron Man 2 (Bird? OK! Why not!…indeed.)

Neil Gaiman writes about Ray Bradbury for The Times. Wunderbar!


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

3 thoughts on “Retreat

  1. Should writers retreat from the world to write, or should we always be engaged and reactive to the world in our writing?

    I don’t have a very well thought out answer for this. In a way my answer is in many ways a compromise and a cop out. This annoys me.

    I think that writers should always be attempting to be engaged and reacting to the world that we share. I think that a lot of good fiction comes from looking at the ‘real world’ and mirroring this. Also engaging in the world in activities other than writing is good for the mind and personality.

    I have no pretense that a writer can work in a sealed vacuum of objectivity. The world keeps on moving forwards no matter what anyone does to try and ignore it.

    But on the other hand I recognize the desire to shut one’s self of from the rest world is valid. I mean I have the same desire often; if not daily. I’m writing this comment after a day of being interrupted by random annoyed shouts of frustration, and that my cat is currently in her ‘active period’ of the day. So, yeah, I get that desire.

    But even if you’re writing in the middle of a mountain range camped out in a shepherds hut distractions are always going to creep in from somewhere..

    Maybe just, somehow, learning how to deal with the rest of the world shouting at you is the way forwards. Even if that is incredibly hard.


  2. What Will said really – there’s a balance somewhere.

    I just had a month off work in which I did little but sit before my laptop and try to write; wasn’t very successful – the cabin fever kicked in, my brain got sluggish, I got lazy.

    I think locking yourself away to write would only work if you had really good self discipline and if you already had a huge store of ideas to draw from. I’d say writers do need to engage with the world at least periodically to ‘top up’, even if they need isolation in order to put it all together.

    Having said that, I did come up with two new story ideas which I absolutely love. I wasn’t looking for them, but I think somehow having a brain-idle month allowed me some mental space – and somewhere in my sub-conscious I guess those ideas had been churning away but I’d been too busy to see them.

    If you can find more time to write, then do it. Maybe total isolation isn’t what you need – just a bit more time and space.

    (And thanks again!)


  3. On the one hand I think of William Gibson, who hid from the world completely towrite his early books. On the other I think of Neil Gaiman, who has been on a constant publicity tour for the last 20 years. Both ways have their advantages.



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