Ashleigh Hardcastle: I have reconnected with my writing in a way I wasn’t able to at home
KSP has a magical way of being exactly what you need it to be, right when you need it.
These are words I wrote after my previous KSP Fellowship in 2020 and they continue to ring true two years on. This is the fourth time I’ve had the privilege of staying at KSP and this year the retreat was needed more than ever. After a major life upheaval at the end of last year, I had completely lost focus on my writing. I’d made a few half-hearted attempts to pick it up again, but nothing had stuck. I had no enthusiasm for it. In fact, I’d begun to wonder if I would ever write again, or if it had been a passing phase that had simply run its course.
It was not a passing phase. In the past two weeks at KSP, gifted with time and surrounded by other writers, I have reconnected with my writing in a way I wasn’t able to at home. It has been an unromantic reunion: a tumultuous, emotional journey that has, at times, been quite confronting. There have been days where I’ve spent more time walking or staring out the window at the bees than I’ve spent writing, and it has been a struggle to be okay with that. My previous stays here have been hugely productive. I knew it wasn’t fair to expect the same of myself this time, so I tried to start small and let go of expectations. I began by working on a short story.
I stumbled upon a personal essay I’d started a long time ago and spent a morning working on that, until I felt the buzz of having completed something. When I felt able to, I shifted my attention to the YA thriller manuscript I hadn’t touched for a year. I was not far into the project, so my focus was on examining and re-jigging the plot. I brainstormed ideas on the whiteboard, ran them by my wonderful writing group, and wrote out a detailed plot outline, problem-solving the many issues I spotted along the way. When I got stuck, I’d do something else: read, walk, seek out human contact, turn my cabin into a disco party for one, watch a bandicoot digging in the leaf-litter. Bit by bit, I rediscovered my enthusiasm for my project and for writing more generally.
My stay at KSP has been the perfect reminder that although life might get in the way at times, I am still – and always will be – a writer.
Top 10 Tips for Reconnecting with Your Writing After a Life Disruption
Let go of the ‘shoulds’. Cast aside the word-count goals, the writing to-do list, and the pressure you place on yourself to achieve. Allow yourself to just be and embrace what you feel like working on in the moment. Maybe all you feel like doing right now is staring out the window at the bees. That’s okay! Stare at those bees for as long as you need.
Read. Immerse yourself in someone else’s words. Soak in an old favourite or delve into a genre that’s outside your comfort zone.
Talk to other writers. Even if you haven’t written a single word for months on end, having regular contact with a group of trusted writing friends will help you feel connected, provide you with encouragement, and remind you that you are a writer, even if you’re not writing right now.
Start with something short. If you haven’t written for a while, it can be daunting to dive into a novel-length project. How about beginning with a piece of flash fiction? The thrill of completing something can be hugely motivating.
Recall a time when you used to enjoy writing. What was it about it that you loved? How can you reconnect with those aspects now?
Use a whiteboard for brainstorming ideas. Something about the impermanence of a whiteboard brainstorm seems to inspire a different way of thinking.
Walk, swim, dance. When your head is stuck, move your body.
Play with writing prompts. Set a two-minute timer and write whatever comes to mind in response, even if it’s nonsense. Exercise those atrophied writing muscles!
Re-read a piece of writing you’re proud of. Revisiting old work can be a confidence booster: a reminder that you can do this.
Remember that writing is not simply about putting words on the page; it’s about doing things that inspire creative thinking. It’s about reading, researching, attending workshops. It’s about travelling, meeting people, having conversations. It’s about daydreaming, drinking tea, and reflecting on your experiences. In short, it’s about living. So, as long as you’re doing that, you’re already writing. Perhaps you’ve been writing all along.