I am married, and like most married people, I have a home life that is something of a compromise. I have removed all cushions from our bed, and in return my husband tolerates four on the sofa. Generally he confines his bike maintenance activities to the garage and garden, but on big match days (Cup Final day, Wimbledon men’s singles final, last day of the Tour de France) he is permitted to bring a bike indoors to be polished in the lounge, as long as there is a thick protective sheet on the floor. And our daily timetable is a compromise too: we generally go to bed later than I would like and earlier than he would – that’s what happens when a lark falls in love with an owl.
However, I am now a fortnight into my month-long solo writing retreat, and my own preferred natural timetable has reasserted itself. I wake early – usually by about 6am – and start work almost immediately. At about 8am I break for, well, breakfast, and then work for another hour. By then I am a bit written out, so I spend the final hours of the morning doing less intensive but still writerly activities – proofreading, or research. After lunch I have a walk to stretch all the muscles that have tightened after a morning at the keyboard, then it’s writing again from 2pm to 5pm. Then I’m done: by 5pm my brain is mush, and the most I can manage in the evening is reading a knitting pattern. I often plan to watch a movie, but by 9.30pm I’m nodding off, and it’s bed at 10pm, a bit of reading, and lights out by 10.30.
I knew that a writing retreat would give me more time for writing, but I hadn’t anticipated that another benefit would be that the quality of that time would be better because – selfishly and wonderfully – I can write exactly when it suits me. Perhaps that is the real luxury of the writing retreat: not just more time, but better time. Having realised that, I shall make the very best of my remaining eleven days of utter selfishness.