Cove Park was like a dream. I can’t believe it happened to me.
As part of the New Writers Award (aside: applications have just opened for 2016! Go go go!), I got to spend a week in my own converted shipping container pod at Cove Park, with nothing scheduled except unlimited time to write as I felt like for 7 days. It. Was. Immense.
I’ve blogged recently for the Scottish Book Trust on ‘Where I write‘ (<– click click!), talking through my current writing method, which mainly includes using my phone to take down snippets and notes while I am in transit. But the root of the problem for me is that I devote very little dedicated time to writing. Very little time to ‘finish’ work, or edit or send material out. So I had/have a huge backlog of half-finished pieces and the Cove Park retreat proved a perfect opportunity for me to get down to work and get these pieces polished up and finished.
It turned out to be a really good way for me to work. I think the prospect of unlimited free-time with yourself can be a bit daunting – left to your own devices to mull over your own thoughts, it can be a bit easy to go down a path of negative thinking, derailing. Also, without my partner for a week, without internet (or phone signal even), I was really worried I’d be lonely and idle and distracted. I knew (knowing myself) that I needed to keep my schedule full, and come with lots of material to work through.
So I did! I write so slowly normally – maybe completing one poem a month if I’m lucky? But I managed THIRTEEN poems in the week. A year’s worth of writing in a week! Again, it was immense. So #amwriting, which is a massive relief.
I started the week by slogging through a sestina I’d been meaning to work on for ages. It was pretty hard-going but I finished it, which I am happy about (even if it never sees the light of day!). And then I whittled away at a few other bits and pieces I had been near completing for some time, reworked a few older poems, and bashed out a couple others inspired by the idyllic surroundings. There are a few magazines and competitions with themes I’d been wanting to write for so I worked on these too.
I came back from the week totally zen, and really untouchable-feeling for about a week after (and still really quite calm and happy now, if I’m honest!). I think the pressure of so many unfinished pieces was weighing on me and the sense of completion has been really good for my poetry-morale.
I think I also maybe place too much pressure on myself to only produce ‘perfect’ poems, since I spend so little time in my normal life just-writing. So it was nice to free myself to write, exercising the muscle, and hopefully this will carry forward into my back-to-normal life too.
For example, I added a poem to the Journeys project the Scottish Book Trust is running right now. They’re still taking submissions! Get your stories, poems, etc to them quick smart!
The poem I sent was about our ‘journey’ driving our pet chickens home, called ‘Bringing the Hens Home‘. It was stressful. Can you tell?
Other notes / Top tips for Cove Park
- The weather in late April was fantastic. The walk to the Nature Reserve and down to the water was perfectly serene. Bring a thermos. I made myself a massive thermos full of coffee every morning, and took this with me for impromptu coffee & snacks on a bench watching chaffinches and blue-tits, on a driftwood log beside the sea loch, on my balcony admiring the highland cow. Brilliant stuff.
- Bring house slippers. Creature comforts! (Cold floors)
- The kitchen was really well kitted out – microwave, toaster, mini-fridge/freezer, 2-hob stove, sink, kettle, french press!, and loads of pots and pans and dishes, etc. I could have probably packed more complex foods if I had known. But there’s nothing wrong with pot noodle!
- It was really nice to meet up with my fellow-New Writers in the evenings up in the communal area. Hearing about what other people are working on, listening to them read their work, and generally speaking to other human beings after 10+hours on my own was really satisfying. Also, Claire makes a mean ratatouille. Saving up all my things-to-google until 7pm each evening was also a new experience. Power-interneting in full effect.
- It is totally unscheduled the entire time. Bring something to do – I brought 8 books, audiobooks, movies to watch, hiking boots, and a pretty clear idea of what poems I wanted to work on and complete over the course of the week. The library in the communal area is good, but I had a lot of my own stuff to read. Go for walks and bring a lot of snacks. Don’t let yourself get cabin fever!
All in all, I feel like I’ve made a great push towards one of my new year’s resolutions:
5. Invest more time in writing
I’m looking forward to hunting out further residencies for the future. If you have any top tips of residencies that sound up my street, please get in touch!
- My Chicken Behaviour and Welfare MOOC is over now and was AMAZING! I learned loads (like did you know you can clicker-train a chicken? Operant conditioning!) and was so excited/proud to see the interesting research coming out of University of Edinburgh. (It also inspired me to buy a bigger run for my chickens and set up some perches, which coincided with an Omlet sale. VERY excited about this…). In other chicken-news, we got our first double-yolk egg which was MASSIVE (and kind of gross).
- A colleague at my work did a charity bake sale for a group called Shelterbox who is helping in Nepal. I contributed some cookies for the sale but just wanted to leave that link there for others to check out. I hadn’t heard of this charity before and it seems pretty cool!
- Celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary with Handsome S. Still handsome as ever, still my very best friend.
- Basketball season is over for the year and my teammates kindly picked me (and Minnie) for co-MVP! Thanks grannies! (We also had our team night out on the town – glad to report no injuries there!)
- Sad to pause volunteering at the wondrous Scottish Poetry Library but excited as ever for their refurbishment! Think the refurb donations are still open: Go go go!
- Turned in the last paper for the CIM marketing qualification I’m taking. Sweet relief. Painfully interesting content honestly.
- Our garden looks GREAT! Garlic, potatoes, spinach, mangetout. Strawberries, blueberries and gooseberries. The magnolias just finished, as did the camellia. The rhododendrons & azaleas are nearly there. And the peony buds are holding out until my mom comes; I’ve asked them nicely.
- Parklife in Manchester
- BBQ season!
- S’s birthday!
- Can’t wait for my mom’s visit in June. Her tickets are booked. Now we’re just trying to see if we can fit in a cheeky trip to France, around visits from transatlantic pals, a family wedding, roadtrips, etc. So much to get excited about!
Norman MacCaig – Many Days
Mark Doty – Theories & Apparitions
Frank Bidart – Watching the Spring Festival
Junot Diaz – This is How You Lose Her
Audiobooked Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which was great. And Andy Weir’s The Martian, also great! Working my way through Necronomicon, which I am not liking at all…
Astr – Operate
Hudson Mohawke – Very First Breath
Tove Lo – Talking Body
Sander van Doorn, Martin Garrix, DVBBS – Gold Skies (ft. Aleesia)
Nick Leng – Inside Your Mind (feat. Carmody)
Ghost Loft – So High
Little Daylight – Overdose (twice as nice remix)
Vanbot – Perfect Storm album is AMAZING!
See you soon!