Why People Love Write It Down! Writing Holidays

We thought you might like to read what guests are saying about our holidays this year and see some of the beautiful photos taken by one of our writers from Canada, Darlene Chrissley. Maybe you will take the leap and join us in 2019?

‘Finca Buenvino is beautiful, spacious, gracious, welcoming. I’ve never had better food anywhere. Such attention to details that make a difference, like great beds and bedding – it felt like home. What was missing in my life was the daily writing habit, daily walking habit, a wonderful group of companions on the same journey, a thoughtful guide and to be surrounded by nature and beauty everywhere I looked. Thank you for being, Elaine and for providing all of this.’ Darlene, Canada.

‘Thank you for a great week, thank you for sharing with us and for wanting to help others find their voice. You are definitely right when saying we will leave here different people.’  Sylvia, UK.

‘The walks were amazing! I am so glad I was able to do them. I found them exhilarating and very fulfilling, as well as the wonderful scenery, variety of animals, flora and fauna. I would recommend this holiday to anyone, wonderful, delicious meals, swimming and meditating at the infinity pool. Thank you for encouraging me to come out of my comfort zone and take a leap into writing and reading it out to others. I feel more relaxed, fulfilled and confident than I have for a long while. Long may it continue.’ Anne from Scotland.

The teaching methods were top notch! Totally inclusive and sympathetic to individual needs, while keeping the bar high so everyone felt challenged and encouraged to do their best.The meditation sessions were just the right tone. Not too long and easy to resonate with. As a non-practitioner I thought they were pitched the right level. Not too long and not too deep. You have a great voice for it.’ Julia, UK.

‘Elaine’s Write It Down! holiday is the perfect antidote to everyday life. A chance to take your foot off the pedal, recharge, refresh and get a new perspective. The writing exercises are top notch – but there is so much more – walking, nature, meditation and amazing food! Totally fab in every way, I am so glad I came and so grateful to Elaine for making it happen!.’ Mary, UK.

Finca Buenvino is a heavenly finca and if you love nature, beauty, art, antiques, sherry, swimming, walking, writing and exploring your personal stories, you will love this.’ Jo, UK.

 

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2019 Writing, Walking, Meditation Holidays – Spain

‘‘Elaine’s Write It Down! holiday is the perfect antidote to our hectic lives. A chance to take your foot off the pedal, recharge, refresh and get a new perspective. The writing workshops are top notch but there is so much more – walking, nature, meditation and amazing food! A perfect balance of different activities, still with personal time off. Never felt over-extended, nor bored. Loved the variety and surprises of each new area/ subject of writing that was introduced. Totally fab in every way!’
Thank you to @mary_weaver_interiors who joined us at Finca Buenvino in June 2018.

We are very happy to be returning once again to the fabulous Finca Buenvino in Andalucia for our creative and therapeutic writing for well-being, mindfulness meditation and walking holidays.

 Our dates for 2019 are:

18-25 May, 7 nights

15-22 June, 7 nights

7-14 September, 7 nights.

Prices will stay the same as 2018:

Shared room with private bathroom, all-inc: £1550

Single room with private bathroom, all-inc: £1800

All-inc means pick-up and return to central Seville at midday on first  and last day of holiday, three gastronomic, home-cooked Andalucian farmhouse meals and tapas everyday, all drinks, all outings to local pueblos, two writing workshops and mindfulness meditation sessions per day, guided walks everyday, hammam and spa visit, visit to largest grotto in Europe and intro tapas tour of Seville.

For more info, go to http://write-it-down.co.uk/spain/ or email me elaine@elainekingett.co.uk…and, if you are considering joining, we already have bookings for  2019 so please, be aware and remember NO PREVIOUS WRITING EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED, only shoes with a good tread and a sense of  adventure.

 

 

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How I Saved My Life

Creating my own happy ending

 

 

 

Portrait by Rachel Vogeleisen
I fell for my Prince Charming when I was a teenager. But when I found myself widowed after a long and happy marriage, my childhood demons resurfaced with a vengeance. It was time to look within and rescue myself from the sabotaging patterns that were threatening to derail my life. With no shortage of drama, I’m now not only living my own happy ending but extending it to others on my writing holidays  mindful and creative writing  workshops

At 17, I would have run away with anyone, I was so desperate to escape the conflict and abuse at home. Luckily, my husband Jerry Kingett was a good man. His death from leukaemia after 32 years together was definitely not what we, or our three children, had on the menu.

Without my cornerstone, I fell apart. I took up drinking as an active sport, threw myself at any available man and moved house down-market, feeling unworthy of a big des-res in a ‘nice’ neighbourhood. All my insecurities came back to haunt me. Within a couple of years, I hit rock-bottom and decided that the kids would be far better off with their happily married and financially secure guardians, rather than their waster of a mother. I’d even worked out that if I hit the central reservation of the M25, it wouldn’t be classed as suicide and they’d still get the insurance.

Then one cold, grey day in Brighton, along came Hoffman, shining off the page of a free mag I’d picked up in the local wholefood shop where I was buying some milk thistle to sort out my liver. ‘Are you repeating negative patterns of behaviour you’ve inherited from your parents?’ sang a strapline. It seemed to have been written just for me, the failure who seemed hell-bent on screwing up her kids in the family tradition. It was on New Year’s Day, with only the dog and a hangover as companions, that I Googled and signed up. The location was near enough to Brighton in case it all kicked off at home, Florence House looked suitably comfy and middle class and the testimonials were from well-known people I respected. Plus the cost seemed to indicate a certain level of full-on experience and involvement.

What I did not expect was how long-lasting the benefits would be. Or how much I would learn about tools and techniques I could use in the future, to cope with whatever life might throw at me. Or how, instead of only seeing myself through my parents’ eyes as the crazy, unlovable and ‘just not good enough’ child, I could see what my husband saw – the strong, beautiful, intelligent and powerful woman hidden inside. The difference for me between the Process and other counselling, workshops and therapists, was that I finally empathised with my parents’ childhood. I wept for their childhood traumas, loneliness and the lack of love that had thrown them together to make a family of four children without positive family experiences of their own. I physically released the pain in my body and that’s what made the change. When I wrote the eulogy for my mother’s funeral and visited my parents’ graves – they died within three months of each other – instead of anger, rejection or a feeling of failure, I felt compassion and love.

What reassured me and encouraged me to participate fully in the course during that extraordinary, exhausting, exhilarating and life-changing week on the Sussex coast, was the impressive way the leaders so gently and intuitively facilitated the daily workshops. They always ensured that the dynamics were well-balanced, acknowledging the needs of every one of the participants. They allowed us a safe space to each find our authentic voice, gaining confidence to express ourselves more clearly and openly – but group therapy this most certainly was not. I never felt exposed or diminished because everything progressed at my own pace; there was no pressure to share anything I didn’t want to. Unlike my childhood, I always felt that I was the one with the power and if I wobbled, someone would catch me if I fell. The diversity in ages, backgrounds and financial status of the people on my Process was refreshing and added to my feelings of acceptance and support. I felt safe, respected and able to be honest with myself and others without fear of ridicule. The leaders’ patience, professionalism and attention to each and every one of us taught me so much about managing and achieving success for the participants on the therapeutic writing workshops and retreats that I now run.


Infinity pool at Finca Buenvino in Spain where I run my Write It Down! writing, meditation and walking holidays.

Today, it’s more than 15 years since I completed the Process, and since then my life has not been without drama or sadness. I’ve learnt from an abusive relationship – leaving with greater self-awareness, no anger or resentment and with confidence to try again. I’ve survived a heart attack and then surgery and treatment for breast cancer. I have also completed an MA, launched a new business and supported my children and my friends in ways I am proud of.

In my work as a writer and workshop and retreat facilitator, I’m grateful to share with others what my time with Hoffman inspired in me. I teach those who doubt their creative abilities and their self-worth to value their lives and the importance of sharing their stories. Together we can learn from one other and find cause to celebrate. We can let go of the past, stop panicking about the future and live in the now – with confidence, gratitude and joy.


To book a Write It Down! visit: http://write-it-down.co.uk

For more information on the Hoffman Process, visit: https://www.hoffmaninstitute.co.uk

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The Orgasm Tree

Finca Buenvino, deep in the sweet chestnut woods. Photo by Jenni Bradbury.

Very often, we begin a conversation with a friend on one subject and progress rapidly to something completely different, discovering on the way the most illuminating information.

This happened to me last week. I was describing the climate at Finca Buenvino in Andalucia, where we run our writing holidays. I explained that whatever the temperature in the summer months, we can always walk because of the shade of the cork oaks and sweet chestnut trees that cover the dehesa - the wooded landscape of the Sierra de Aracena National Park.

‘Oh!’ my friend exclaimed, ‘That’s why the atmosphere is so beneficial for writing and meditation up there! That’s why your writers find it so empowering to stay there. Sweet chestnut’s a well known Bach flower remedy for encouraging new beginnings, transformation into a new and much better life. It’s a treatment for the “dark night of the soul,” the despair of those who feel they have reached the limit of their endurance, it’s for a time when old beliefs and patterns break apart and make room for new levels of consciousness. It is the perfect treatment for when you are ready to open up to the light at the end of the tunnel, the light before the new dawn.’ Buenvino certainly has a magical aire, everyone remarks upon this. When I told her that the flowers of the sweet chestnut purportedly smelt like semen, she laughed. ‘Ah yes, it’s known as the orgasm tree because it produces such a surge of transformative emotions!’

The trees blossom in June, we’re there from the 16 -23…do join us and experience the benefits for yourself.

More info about the writing holidays here: http://write-it-down.co.uk/spain/

Book now: http://write-it-down.co.uk/booking-form

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Why Spending Time And Money On Yourself Is Essential

Often,  the responses I get from writers on my workshops or retreats are, ‘This feels such a treat, such an indulgence, having time to myself, being given permission to write.’

In these frantic, challenging and guilt-inducing times when we can feel powerless to affect the bigger picture, nurturing our bodies and feeding our minds is even more important. And writing it down, bearing witness, leaving a written record on paper is a duty. Not an indulgence; far, far from it. This is a piece that I wrote recently  for Alyson Walsh’s blog That’s Not My Age, for older women with style. Hope to see a lot of you on my writing retreats in Spain at Finca Buenvino this summer, writing down your lives and enjoying the indulgence! We now have extra spaces on all weeks. Write It Down! Spain.

I’m at my favourite hairdresser’s, in charity-shop top and jeans, spending a ridiculous amount on a cut and colour.  The guaranteed boost to my fragile self-confidence will be well worth it. Tomorrow I will pay to have my toe nails painted, even though my bathroom needs re-grouting and the tap has a terrible drip. My saloneyebrow maintenance ritual is a non-negotiable expense, I love the therapist’s gentle attention. Last night I booked a three-week runaway to Crete in August, after weeping buckets at the Charmed Life in Greece free exhibition at the British Museum about the friendships between writer Patrick Leigh Fermor and artists John Craxton and Niko Ghika. God knows how I’ll pay for the care home now. What I once believed were indulgences have become essential mental maintenance.

My kitchen blind is held up with drawing pins and I really must paint my bedroom walls but tell me to invest in a new kitchen bin and I glaze over and buy another novel. I’ve been to the cinema more times in the past month than in the past year and my addiction to Eventbrite is causing concern. My membership of the Tate costs a bomb but visits are intellectually invigorating. So many places to go, people to see, lessons to learn.

Is it my age that is causing me to fast-track through life, sucking up sensual experiences, ignoring practical concerns? Is it the global political uncertainties? Fear of impending climate melt-down? Or is it the realisation, at 68, that it is not selfish to nurture myself? That feeding my brain, my creativity and my self-esteem may pay dividends in the fight against dementia, helps me in my work and in my relationships? Yes, I must attend to the mundane, pay the direct debits and remember to eat more fruit and veg but worrying about the what-ifs in five, 10 or 15 years hence seems a pointless exercise if I don’t cherish myself today.

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Swallow Your Pride

 

Photo: Ingrid Sofrin

I’ve never had a bucket list but I’m 70 next year and that concentrates the mind wonderfully, as Samuel Johnson reputedly said. All those ‘regrets of the dying as told to nurses’ lists that pop-up on Facebook have been creeping into my head. Regrets, I’ve had a few but none I can do very much about these days and my mindfulness training reassures me that the Living In The Now approach is the best recommendation for mental health.

But…

I’m writing this in Cornwall, a place I’ve avoided for seven years after a long-term, live-in relationship with a local dissolved into dust. A place I avoided, despite the fact that I have family and friends here – some going back nearly 60 years. I just could not bring myself to return. Crazily, I held a whole geographical area of the UK responsible for my misery.

But…

Now, as my idols drop around me at a rate of knots, I see that what is most important to me is you. Not me; not how I feel or my fears of the salt spray raking open my old wounds. Children have been born, friends died, there are marriages and professional achievements to celebrate with shared laughter, reminiscences and sometimes, tears. Before it’s too late, I’ve swallowed my pride and come home.

Elaine Kingett runs creative writing holidays in Spain and workshops in London; for more information check out Write It Down. 

This post was originally shared on That’s Not My Age  - The Grownup Guide To Great Style

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The Power of Writing It Down

Because I’m far too often attached to social media, because I sometimes have a rubbish diet, drink too much and exercise too little, because I live too much indoors on my own and not enough outdoors – especially at this time of year – my brain is often a muddled mess of incoherence with an inability to prioritise. But, writing it down is the only way I know how to sort it all out…

I don’t need a room of my own, the ‘right’ chair, desk, notebook, pen or  scented candle to achieve this.  I need room in my head; not in a house or flat or hotel. Years ago, I came to the blindingly obvious conclusion that I write best when I finally get ‘round to actually WRITING – on paper with a pen. Usually, I don’t evaluate my own writing, any attempt is good enough for me. I am like a hungry child chomping up white bread jam sandwiches, when I write down what’s inside my head.

The metaphor that sits most appropriately with me is, that when I write best I am like a wave surging over the horizon, crashing onto the shore, tossing forth pebbles, seaweed and dead fish. I am a wave that pulls you under but then, spits you out. I am the cold, angry seas of Cornwall that scare me rigid. I am the massive surf of Costa Rica that astounds, delights and entices. I am the clear waters of Greece that relax and revive. I see the birds that travel with me, dipping their wings in my dancing reflections. I see the birds that feed gratefully at my feet, the oystercatchers and curlews racing in my shallows. I am so much more powerful that I thought, so sure of who I am and why I’m here. When I have written it down.

But before I reach this place my stomach sinks, my eyes widen and my pen quickens, sliding and leaping across the page. It comes from my subconscious. From the feelings I had as a child on a beach in Hampshire, alone at the end of a day-trip, willing my parents to stay a little longer. All my life I have run away to the coast, maybe I should live there again – in Cadiz? In Palma? In Falmouth? In Hastings? Immediately I click on Skyscanner, on Rightmove. Is it possible? Can I do this in January? Can I do this alone?

Stop running, Elaine. It’s not the sea I need but more actual writing.  When I write I can conquer anyone, anything. I’m Boudicca, Cleopatra and Oprah rolled into one. I need to listen to my own advice, my own teaching that has empowered others on my workshops, holidays and retreats in Mallorca, Wales, Andalucia and London for over six years…for more info on those: http://write-it-down.co.uk/

Here’s some advice on how to start…

Brain dumping: The importance of free writing, the spill-out onto the page that relaxes you, frees your head, clears your brain. No worries about spelling, punctuation or grammar. As Anne Lamott describes in Bird By Bird, ‘The Shitty First Draft.’

Give yourself permission to write: In a notebook, any old notebook, on the bus, on the train, waiting for the Doc, the Dentist, kids to come out of school. Put that phone away and get out that pen. Even a one-liner is helpful.

The unpredictability of writing: Surprise yourself with what turns up on the page. Shock yourself now and then! You can always tear out that page and therapeutically burn it!

Personal writing is not being indulgent: We need creativity, imagination, flights of fancy, day dreaming in our lives and a rant on the page is far more constructive than a rant on Facebook.

 

 

 

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How To Survive

 

Morning meditation on Write It Down! writing holiday at Finca Buenvino in Spain: time to breathe, time to relax, time to dream…

New Year’s Day is meant to be a time for celebration and resolution, forward into the  Brave New World of whenever. But the BNW of 2018 looks a bit damn scary to me and I bet my last slice of [homemade, Delia Smith] Christmas cake that I’m not the only one. So, here’s the practises that worked last year for me and kept me off the Citalopram, Tinder, hard liquor and digital diatribes.

1] One Day At a Time

Like a dismissive pat on the head by a well-meaning but rather unbothered friend, who’s just caught the eye of someone rather less needy over your shoulder at a party, this phrase can stick in the craw but three years of living with a terminally ill husband initially taught me the value of this one. As my mother used to say, ‘You’ll never get this day again, Elaine. Don’t wish your life away.’

2] Live In The Now

That’s another that jangles uncomfortably against all the forward planning we feel we should be doing today. What about what we didn’t do last year? What about what we’re meant to do tomorrow?  But take a moment and be grateful for what and who you have. Right now.

3] Concentrate on Your Breathing

Oh yeah, like I forget to breathe? Well yes, forget to slow it down. Forget to count for four breathing in, six out. Forget to relax my shoulders and relax my jaw. This exercise sorted out my years of panic attacks.

Repeat as required. Happy 2018 everyone, there will be good times!

NB: You know all that stuff around ay the moment about, ‘New year, new you’? Pshaw! Just how you are, is perfect right now. Believe it.

 

 

 

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The Importance of Good Eating for Good Writing


Ever since my school home economics lessons when, to my utter amazement, I got an A for cookery in my senior school exams, I have felt strangely empowered in the kitchen. Now, in the hectic run up to Christmas, I indulge myself. I love the mechanics of baking; mince pies, spicy cakes and fruity puddings are hidden away in sealed containers, all over my apartment ready for the festive gatherings. The days have grown shorter, the nights colder and soup bubbles on the stove, lasagne tans in the oven and a wholemeal crust, spinach and goat’s cheese quiche sits cooling quietly on the work surface. All ready for the home coming of my family.

When I started my writing workshops and holidays for Write It Down! six years ago, I immediately decided that providing nourishment and delight for the ‘corpo umano’ – by treating my writers to the very best food and drink – would be as important as feeding their hearts, souls and brains with creative and therapeutic writing  exercises.

Cooking has always been my form of therapy – whether it is for myself or for others. As soon as I put on my striped blue and white cotton apron, with numerous stains and one string  ‘temporarily’ pinned on with a safety-pin, my blood pressure normalises, my shoulders relax and I am back in my childhood kitchen in Basingstoke. Despite a less than perfect relationship with my mother, I fondly remember her home cooked dinners [had at lunch time] of vegetables from our garden and meat from my grandfather’s shop. With gravy, always with gravy. Good food, cooked with care and attention and served with pride is a silent expression of love.

In London, I make cakes every week for my Mums, Babies and Bumps Creative WritingWorkshops. In Spain, at Finca Buenvino for my writing, meditation and walking holidays, Jeannie Chesterton and her son Charlie cook up a storm in their Andalucian farmhouse kitchen. They also run cookery courses there and have published a fantastic cookbook filled with their own recipes – beautifully illustrated with photographs by my friend Tim Clinch – so we are privileged indeed to share their table.  And share we do, all of our meals, eating outside in the spring and summer, under the wisteria in the kitchen courtyard watching nut hatches, tree creepers and geckos or in the candle-lit Moroccan courtyard where, as we eat, we hear owls calling, watch the small, black bats flying high between the cork oaks and see the sun dipping over the Sierra De Aracena, flooding the sky with an astounding pink and purple hue which I have never witnessed anywhere else in the world.

Sharing food, taking time to taste and relish what we’re eating, talk about what we’re eating, listening to each others life stories and not having to worry about the washing up when we leave the table is bliss and it bonds us closer together as writers, sharing our journey, planning fresh adventures, forging new friendships and discovering new strengths and directions in our work.

It has been so important to me to find somewhere to run my retreats that has the same ethos about eating and enjoying food and cooking that I have, and that I try to bring to my own home and family. When we write, we must use all of our senses. We note the scents, the sounds, the touch, the sights, the tastes – in a setting, in a dramatic episode imagined or in a memory retrieved from our past.

Holidays should be a time to embrace the good things in life – in summer and in winter. We give ourselves a hard time enough during the year, juggling so many aspects of our lives. Snacks and meals are snatched hurriedly between work and other fundamental obligations. We stand, we perch, we rush from A to B. We grab the Pepto Bismol and always mean to write, to meditate, to go for a walk in the countryside and learn how to breathe again.

My aim with Write It Down! workshops and holidays is to give you that space, to give you that time and to feed you well. Only then, can you relax and truly write down your life…

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The Benefits of Silence


Recently, I spent two weeks on my own in Mallorca. I went for one short business meeting but decided to stay on for a bit, to get my head together on an island I love and first visited 45 years ago.

Every day I would take myself off up the hills or down to the sea, armed only with a notebook, pen and factor 20. On rugged, well-marked paths I would pass earnest hikers in top of the range, performance sportswear and there was me in my old black kaftan, a bum-bag and open-toed Tevas.

I pride myself in my minimalist packing but my head was stuffed with confusion, worries and unresolved life-changing decisions. Walking on your own for hours, without the distraction of a partner, means that your subconscious is free to crawl out and stare you in the face. You can’t ignore it. Especially if you have no phone reception…

Far too nervous to eat out on my own in the evening – fearing that I either looked like Billy No-Mates or like I was waiting for some ‘action’ – every night I retired to my room to read everything I could find in my Airbnb and then when that quickly ran out, to write down what was inside my head. In silence.

By the end of the first week I was staring at Skyscanner, desperately searching for an early flight home. But I stuck it out. And my God, it did me good.

Alone in the Tramontana Mountains, away from my comfort zone of work-work-work and with no kids popping in or neighbours to bump into, I eventually found clarity. I use periods of silence, for an hour or so, on my writing retreats and I know by experience how they help us all to slow down and become aware of our place in the natural world, but this was the first time I had forced myself to listen to what I was thinking for an extended period of time.

There’s a pink neon sign in my favourite bar in Mallorca – ‘Silence Is Sexy.’ But it is also scary. I didn’t want to know what was in my head. Silence can be used as a weapon, too: being ‘sent to Coventry’, the silent sulk in a relationship that can kill love. But by unplugging our distractors – phone, computer, radio, TV – by spending time in an unfamiliar location, away from friends and family, we give ourselves space. Space to reconsider, to re-create. And we can return to our noisy, everyday lives a little stronger, a little more confident in our own abilities and a little more determined to try again.

For more information on my writing retreats in Spain, click here: http://write-it-down.co.uk/spain/

This article was originally published on That’s Not My Age.

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