Not for me one of those writers' retreats in a venue shared with Other People. Yuk! For a start, I'm a nutter-magnet, so judging by past experience I'd probably get someone following me around saying my surname was making them channel visions of the Norman Conquest or something.
Not only that, but I'd be sick with fear at having to get together with everyone else in the evening and “voluntarily” read out the day's work. No, my ideal writing situation would be to become a hermit, in an isolated cottage. All I want is a bit of space and quiet. Plus an attractive man to bring me pizza and wine at appropriate intervals. Oh, and broadband, obviously.
All this would do wonders for my productivity. The work in progress would all come together and be finished in no time. I'd also have the leisure to read as much as I wanted, wander along the beach and attend the on-site beauty parlour (all isolated cottages ought to have one) for a relaxing massage.
Or, more likely, I'd turn up and find that it was a bare, dull apartment smelling of cigarette smoke and tacky air freshener, and I'd footle around for a week failing to accomplish anything.
I find it too easy to feel that writing would be simple if only external circumstances arranged themselves around it. It'll be easier once finances are more stable, once the next deadline is out of the way, once the summer's here and I can write outside. It will be easier once my toddler is at playgroup, once other people stop making demands, once I feel less under the weather, once my book is out, once I get a big advance for the next one, once book twenty-three is made into a mini-series...
Writing will always be easier sometime in the future when there's more time, more money to buy that time, more sunshine and more energy.
But, although the external difficulties are changeable, sometimes looming and sometimes receding, they never go away. Perhaps we can shoot a few down, but they always bounce back ten-fold, like aliens in some crappy 1980s Atari game.
A writing retreat or a sudden influx of cash or a new mahogany desk aren't going to make me into a perfect writer. Wherever I go, I'll still be me, worrying that my book is rubbish, wanting to check my email or Facebook one more time, wondering whether I'll ever really be good enough to fill that blank page.
The only solution is to stop dreaming and get on with it, regardless of the imperfect circumstances of noise, tiredness and pressure. A few words written during the clamour of the day are better than no words written while waiting for everything to be perfect.
Because that would be a heck of a long wait.
Thank you to Václav Pastucha for the photograph.