Five Go On A Writing Retreat

Last week several members of the Books and Borrowing team (Matt, Katie, Josh, Cleo and Maxine) attended the University of Stirling’s annual Eighteenth-Century Writing Group Writing Retreat in the lovely surroundings of Alexander House, Auchterarder. We all used the time to make significant progress on writing projects. Collectively, the participants managed a whopping 60,000 words across a variety of different subjects.

The structure and principles of the Writing Retreat are based on those of Dawn Hollis and the idea is to use the techniques of generative writing alongside the pomodoro technique to try to write as much as possible, switching off the critical inner voice and thus getting through common problems such as writer’s block and lack of confidence. We started each day by setting shared goals and collectively committing to writing, and we ended each afternoon with a debriefing session where we shared the results of each day’s writing over suitable libations.

Katie and Matt used the time to work together on putting together a book proposal for the Books and Borrowing monograph, tentatively entitled, yes, you guessed it, Books and Borrowing in Scotland, 1750-1830. We also put structures in place for the chapters for that book. This was a very helpful exercise. At the moment, we are considering a structure in which the first part of the book presents an overview of the data and answers our research questions relating to the Enlightenment and Romanticism, while the second part is divided into chapters on time, space, access, instruction and amusement. The majority of the number crunching will happen in Part 1, while more qualitative analysis will take centre stage in Part 2. We enjoyed writing together, and are very pleased with the progress that we made. Maxine completed the book proposal and a sample chapter of her own book, on the Royal High School of Edinburgh. Josh spent the time on revisions to an article that will soon be published, on the topic of political reading in the early nineteenth century, and Cleo wrote the bulk of a conference paper on Adam Smith that she will deliver at the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society in St Andrews in July.

Lambs in the field outside Alexander House

In the evenings we embraced the traditions of eighteenth-century sociability with wine, delicious food and wide-ranging conversation. We also made the most of the wonderful facilities including swimming pool and hot tub, and enjoyed some relaxing walks, runs and cycles in the beautiful countryside around.

The Swimming Pool at Alexander House

We were inspired by the wonderful views and the delightful company. Thanks are due to Alexander House’s generous owner, Mrs Jo Lewis, and to the whole Housekeeping Staff, who do a wonderful job of looking after the property and made us feel very welcome. Particular thanks to Lesley, who made us a delicious vegan carrot cake.

The View from Alexander House