Where I Write: Cove Park

Cove Park image by John Lord from Flickr Creative Commons
Category: Writing

A week that's just for writing

I’ve been crossing off the days, like I’m ten again and Christmas is coming. Thirty sleeps, twenty sleeps, ten sleeps away, a bright light shining up ahead. Suddenly it’s here and there’s a huge and magnificent gift under the tree, waiting to be opened.  

I feel like the bad fairy at the christening, I really shouldn’t be here.

Cove Park. Retreat of writers, artists, thinkers and me. How did I get in again? I feel like the bad fairy at the christening, I really shouldn’t be here. I’m not a full time proper writer, I’m part-time and the part is smaller than I’d like. I squeeze it in between work, family and the tide of washing spilling from the laundry basket, multiplying when I look the other way. Most of my time is spent not even thinking about what I should be writing. When I finally, finally get a chance to sit in front of a computer and start to think I hear a shout as something urgent happens. I know when I am beaten and I put down my pen. It might be mightier than the sword but it’s no match for children.

So what will it mean, a week that’s just for writing? Days stretched out with peace and space to set down thoughts and plan and cut and edit, time to sculpt instead of blurt. Unimaginable, fathomless depths to explore. 

A shoebox made of tin

When we arrive it’s not so much Christmastime as Easter, the fields an impossible green, a clutch of buildings clinging to the hillside, two pods like Teletubby domes, a string of cabins turned towards the dazzling loch. My home for the week is a shoebox made of tin.

I told friends beforehand that I would spend the time in a shipping container with a view onto Loch Long and saw them frown and look at me with pity. They’re thinking, really? Who are you kidding? You signed up for this?

Of course I’ll miss the frantic buzz of life at home. But am I looking forward to it, really? Cove Park. The space, the quiet and the whiteness of the page? Yes. Take me to my shoebox, lock me in and throw away the key!

Splendid isolation

It wasn’t like that really. There was no pressure, no deadlines and definitely no key. There was no splendid isolation either, unless you felt you wanted it and had reached a point where going out was just a waste of time. It took a while to unfurl, put down roots and work out what the week could offer. Everyone was different, glued to their desk for hours or spread out, working, walking, gazing at the sky.

The landscape there was beautiful and vast. I had not expected that. I came ready to work and found myself seduced by blue-green mountains, water at my door. I was quite the bold explorer, phone held out and reception faltering. The first morning, I opened up the curtains and found a handsome Highland cow four feet away. Sometimes my thoughts would drift off, staring at the trees. But they would come back with the gift of a word or two or some new idea, some cutting back of brambles that had tripped me up. 

A little band of writers

all we had for company was the hum of laptops and the slow footsteps of explorers across the Arctic page.

We met most evenings, a little band of writers looking at the mountains. We talked about our work, what we had done that day and how precious this little bit of space was to each and every one of us, a time where paper could unfold and words run on, with time to edit and refine. We would have a glass of wine or cup of tea and phone home before we went back to our bunkers. Then all we had for company was the hum of laptops and the slow footsteps of explorers across the Arctic page. It was enough.

Moving my writing on

I had packed my bags to go, convinced that I would finish one book, complete another draft and start another nagging at my mind. It wasn’t quite like that, but what I did was move my writing on. I had time to think about what needed fixed and to work out what to change, cut out or rearrange, to draft a whole new plan and embark on that direction more confident of why I chose it, sure that it was right. I brushed the dust from my book Lily Wicked and managed the first half of a new draft.

Cove Park was a start. I write more often, even in short bursts, and when I do, the time is better spent.

Going home, it wasn’t easy sticking to the plan. The washing, shopping, work and children just don’t go away. Lily Wicked isn’t finished yet, but she is growing. Cove Park was a start. It helped me focus on the job and work out what needs done. I write more often, even in short bursts, and when I do, the time is better spent. That stepping back has made me see things clearly. 

I brought a souvenir home from Cove Park, a rock that sits on the kitchen table where I write. It makes me think about the week and the peace and self-belief it brought. Treasure, really, a small stone that means a lot to me.


Reach Cove Park writers' retreat by applying for our New Writers Awards. Read more in the Where I Write series here.

Lindsay McKrell

Lindsay McKrell is the recipient of a 2014 New Writers Award. Her first novel, Crow, for children aged 9 to 12, was shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize for new Scottish fiction in 2008. That year, she was also awarded an Apprenticeship in the Adventures in Fiction mentoring scheme, which gave her the opportunity to work with teenage writer Brian Keaney. She is currently working on her novel for children aged 8 to 12, Lily Wicked.