Elaine Kingett, widowed at 50, found relief in writing. Now she runs her own writers' retreats on Lynne’s abfab Mallorcan estate – and wants you on the guest list
Stuck in the dismal days of March, we’re all on our hamster wheels. Whizz, whizz, whizzing, racing the clock. February has faded and New Year resolutions have morphed into guilt trips, only to be added to the Must Do Some Day list. Every week we promise ourselves that we’ll stop, get off, slow down, breathe deeply and relax.
We’ll start that novel, wake earlier to write down our dreams and our fears. We won’t have that second or third glass of wine in the evening, so we can coherently write down our day and discover these therapeutic writing benefits everyone keeps banging on about.
We’ll leave stories of our lives in notebooks for future generations and empty our minds of the chaos we’ve collected along the way.
We promise that one day we’ll find the time to follow our thoughts for longer than two minutes and allow ourselves to escape into our imaginations. We will learn to meditate, we will walk through wild mountain landscapes, follow peaceful paths through pine forests and olive groves, down to secluded coves with clear blue seas.
We will go on a retreat but we are not going to rough it. No draughty northern mansions, no deprivations or sharing of the household chores. We need to be treated well and return refreshed, intellectually stimulated, with a bit of a tan and possibly half a stone lighter.
A few years ago, aching for adventure and a bit of fresh air, I went on countless walking holidays but wished I could stop for a day and write it all down. I went on writing retreats then stared out of the windows, wishing I was on top of the distant hills. And always, I wanted to learn to meditate but never had the time.
Blame my career (as a journalist, PR and creative consultant). Or motherhood. (I have raised three children.) But when I was 50, my husband Jerry died and everything changed.
In the 13 years since, I have always kept a notebook. And ranting, raving and recording in it have undoubtedly saved my sanity. They provided an income, too: those scribblings turned into articles about all aspects of my life, which – I hope – have entertained, informed and inspired countless thousands of women’s magazine readers.
But such jottings also work at an intimate level. After my parents died, I found their diaries and letters and learned more about my family history than they had ever explained, and came to understand them so much better.
Now, my 25-year-old daughter learns about me from reading the diary I kept when I met her father, the journals I escaped into when her brothers were younger and the notebooks I filled when Jerry was terminally ill.
Recently, I decided to embark on a writing MA, which actually confirmed what I thought when I started. Namely, it is a myth that creative writing is only for the intelligentsia who know long words and how to spell them; or that writing courses are only relevant if they are angled towards eventual publication, preferably the novel.
I believe that we all have a voice and we should all write down our lives, even if only we can read our writing. It is liberating, therapeutic and free.
This is why I began my writing groups and salons in London, and the children’s creative writing mentoring that I do as a volunteer for the Ministry of Stories (which are not only among the most rewarding things I have ever done, but have proved it is never too late to reinvent your life).
This is why I designed my Writing, Walking and Mindfulness Meditation Retreats for Lynne Franks’ Bloom Retreats. (Plus the all-important comfy beds, fab food and massage sessions.)
I am lucky to run my retreats – open to men and women – in Lynne’s beautiful home in Mallorca. It’s part of an old monastery, full of charm and Bohemian style, nestled in the foothills of the limestone Tramontana mountains, just outside the artistic community of Deia.
The village and its surroundings, which once inspired Robert Graves, Anaïs Nin, countless other writers, artists and musicians (and Richard Branson) now inspire my groups, too.
Lynne’s terraced estate is an abundant paradise of citrus, olive, plum, apricot and persimmon trees. Vines and bougainvillea overflow the long stone walls. And with two pools, a hot tub, a yoga platform and a myriad of secret writing hideaways, it’s the ideal location for rediscovering your soul.
The food is delicious, healthy, nourishing, locally sourced and mainly organic. And local bars and cafés provide alternative delights, including live music.
You don’t need previous writing experience to join me, only the courage to put your heart out on the page and a sense of fun and adventure. You may not even feel ready to join me at all – and that’s OK, too. The main thing is, just write it down.
For information on Elaine’s writing groups, contact email@example.com
For information on the Mallorcan retreats, contact her at the same address or firstname.lastname@example.org