I recently ran a survey about creative writing retreats, in order to find out what people prefer. Over the years I have run more than 20 weeks of retreats and I’d like to do so again. But things have changed around here – the venues I have used locally have either changed hands or are running things differently – so I wanted to get a feel for what people might actually want so that I can go looking for the ideal location.
I asked five questions, basically when, where, how long, likes and dislikes, and here are the results. There were 84 responses altogether, so hopefully this gives a pretty representative picture.
- When is the best month for a retreat? More than 40% of you say May, and the next most popular time is September (38%). Only 5% like December retreats, and July and August are also deeply unpopular (I’m guessing that has something to do with the midge count). Best answer: ‘I would alter my calendar to accommodate a retreat to breathe the same air as the golden eagles.’
- What kind of accommodation do you prefer? An overwhelming 81% of you go for middle-of-the road country house. Hardly a bunk-house-baby or luxury-lover among you. Best answer: ‘A comfortable cave, with a table and chair, and plenty of chocolate.’
- What’s the ideal duration for a retreat? This is really close: It’s a pretty exact three-way split between long weekend, short week and 5 days. So that gives me a nasty dilemma! Best answer (thanks for the flexibility): ‘Virtually any combination of days works for me. Will just need to build travel plans accordingly.’
- What does the ideal retreat include? Solitude was probably the most sought-after ingredient, closely followed by sociable evenings, so not too much solitude, then! Cake seems to feature a lot, as does a tutor and the sea, and teddy bears. Best answer: ‘Pen, paper, plonk, people. ‘ Got it! This answer made me smile. ‘A guided walk or two to get me started, if I don't know the area. I like to compose walking, but I have a terrible sense of direction.’ Don’t worry, we’ll try to make sure you don’t get lost.
- What does the ideal retreat exclude? Midgies, obviously. Compulsory yoga is also deeply unpopular. Noise gets the thumbs down by lots of you, so it’s a good job Assynt is very, very quiet. Many people agree with me that having to cook is a terrifying threat. The best answer summarises all of these, and, well, just read it! ‘Any form of compulsory activity, importunate fellow guests, loud noises and midges. However, I would not hold the midges against the organisers, either literally or metaphorically.’ Much appreciated!
I offered five lucky people 10% off a retreat, based on the most creative responses, and so if you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be hearing from me soon, if you haven’t already.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed thought to this, as it gives me a much richer picture of what writers want and don’t want from a retreat. So I’ll have some discussions with local accommodation providers and see what I can come up with. Watch this space, as they say.