The Diogenes Writers Retreat

A Cure for Procrastination

For the apparently incurable procrastinator, we are pleased to offer the austere and inhospitable accommodation known as The Diogenes, a small and minimally appointed dwelling provided with occasional lighting and running water. Remotely located in the Cilento of southern Italy, the dwelling is offered to suitable individuals on very favourable terms.

Some prefer luxury, others seek bounty, but as many of the great writers and artists have at one time discovered, only a few are at their best when destitute. For those who know in their deepest self that they must suffer to flourish and produce anything of worth, and need separate themselves from comforts and privilege to achieve this, The Diogenes is probably the answer. Unsurpassed by none save the eponymous barrel dweller of ancient Athens himself, the Diogenes brings to life the meaning of destitution. Without temptation or distraction, and certainly without an internet connection (visitors are searched before being abandoned), little will stand in the way of producing your opus bonum from under its naked timbers.

The beauty however, is the assurance that this will not be forever, nor indeed your end. An assurance the likes of Thomas Paine, William Blake, Fredrick Nietzsche and others suffering hardship or being unprivileged, were unfortunate not to possess. For them, solitude and hardship were supposedly part of their natural and irrevocable lot, cruelly imposed “by that Being whose ways are inscrutable to us, and whose dispensations, it is conceived, we ought not to look in to”, to borrow from the 1792 Commons speech by Pitt the Younger, a rousing and impassioned call for the abolition of slavery.

But unlike the lives of these great thinkers, and indeed of slaves, the deprivations of poverty at the Diogenes are those of one’s own volition, masterfully designed for the needs of the most inveterate procrastinator. As every procrastinator will have bitterly learned, though creativity stirs in their loins and must out, they are nonetheless rendered impotent by trivia and petty concern, and even sometimes mesmerised to the point of creative paralysis by the enduring achievements of others.

“I must create my own system, or be enslaved by another man’s” wrote Blake, and at the Diogenes there is no other man; or machine, to hem the human mind so easily captured, so easily subdued and enslaved, whether by sloth or through fear. Distraction is the enemy of creation, and liberty from its clutch, for procrastinators at least, is found only in austerity and asceticism. Victor Hugo is said to have ordered his butler to lock away his clothing, so that naked, he might be forced to remain where he sat in his equally bare room, compelled by his own design to produce.

The second beauty in all this is that should your endeavour fail, take heart, no one will blame you once they discover where you’ve been staying. Though the truth will certainly be that your procrastination is incurable, you could very well make the case that the conditions were intolerable, and as such could never inspire anything but a desire to escape. That in itself may be something worth writing about.

Applicants are invited to submit their interest, but are kindly made aware that not everyone is found suitable. Requisite qualities include good physical health and a relatively sound mind, capacity to endure silence, and a hardy disposition towards drafts under conditions of inclement weather and atmospheric disturbance, rare though these may be.

Preference will be extended to those competent in the use of mechanical typing machines and/or paper and pen, though an exception may be granted those willing to demonstrate that any electronic computing machines they carry are unencumbered by games, music and image rendering media, other than those directly required for the production of novel work. This last condition will be assiduously determined.

The abode is clean, without lose timbers and floor, and is generally safe. Though beyond a meagre bed, desk and the lighting bulb this is all in terms of the little comforts.

As means of communication a large bell is provided, to be rung only when absolutely necessary, but the use of which, even in such extreme circumstance, will not be looked upon kindly.


Castelcivita is a remote hilltop village somewhat devastated by the flight of its populace in recent times, principally as consequence of its isolation and resilience to change. 600 metres above sea level on the Alburni Mountain Range, it was Established during the Norman era in the 11th Century, and boasts a magnificent Norman tower and many a building and wall still apparent in original construction. Donkeys can occasionally be found carrying their burden along the narrow, steep vicoli, and once your sufferance is complete, you may enjoy the purity of local wines, cheeses, meats and olive oils. World famous caves are nearby, though are strictly off bounds during ascetic periods. Nestled in the Cilento, the entire surrounding could be a temptation, and therefore the utmost self-discipline is required if one is to be here for productive work.

The facts are that despite its sorry present state, Castelcivita was once and may well again be, a living example of a thriving medieval village set in splendid Nature. A restoration, perhaps, will depend on external interest and the resulting income, which, if sufficient, just might encourage some of the younger inhabitants to return and revitalise their ancestral lands. A bonus then, to all that creativity born of your suffering.

We look forward to receiving your enthusiastic and courageous application for this unique writers’ retreat.

Creatively Sharing a Writers’ Rental

We are looking for property owners who have accommodation suitable for sharing among writers in need of a writing retreat. Sharing would be for 4 to 10 people at a time, for periods of a week or longer.

If you have such a property, message us on Facebook or Twitter or contact Inga Skaara: rental at scriblum dot com (the anti-spam way of writing an email!).

Or call on +32 (0)478 196 542

Hand Written Code Versus Auto Generate

The pages of the Scriblum web site are not generated using templates or WYSIWYG software programs, but written using coding editors such as Dreamweaver or even sometimes Windows Notepad.

Is this a good thing?

It’s a good question. Which is better, for example, the old style ribbon and percussion typewriter, or a snappy word processor running on a lightening computer? Come to think of it, extending that idea back a little, are hammer and chisel better than pen and paper?

One would think the arguments for or against any of these writing technologies would consider more than just the relatively superficial factors. Factors such as speed and ease of correction. Starting a new sheet of paper if you make a mistake is quicker and vastly more convenient than hauling out another slab of stone from the corner of your cave.

The same applies to comparisons between paper-and-pen and the ribbon-typewriter, and also, it is clear, between the ribbon-typewriter and the computer-word-processor assemblies. Typewriting is faster than handwriting if neatness and legibility are considered. And cutting and pasting from one section to another rather than re-writing, that is certainly an advantage of a word processor over pen and paper.

Each new technology has brought superior benefits to the writing process, and without such advances we would be literally stuck in the stone age.

Can a similar comparison be applied to software tools? Specifically, coding editors such as Dreamweaver and Notepad on the one hand, and template/WYSIWYG applications such as WordPress, Blogger and Weebly on the other? Coding editors preceded templates and WYSIWYG, and indeed are much “slower” and take some skill to master. So it would seem that using templates and WYSIWYG is an improvement.

But someone who is coding using Dreamweaver, and possibly even just Notepad if they are inclined towards masochism, may like to argue that what they lose in speed they gain in flexibility and power of creation. Templates are limited they might say, because they are fixed both in diversity and individual design, and to alter them you do need to know something about raw code. WYSIWYG tools are also limited, since you can create websites only using the features that have been programmed into the software. Things are set to improve that is true, as the technology advances, but currently, creating dynamic and powerful websites using templates and WYSIWYG without programming knowledge is very difficult, the hard coder will argue.

However, for most of the time and for most people, what they are creating is not the actual website. It is the content, the majority of which is text and images and perhaps other media such as sound and video files occasionally. For most people all they want is for the website to work reasonably well, and for this, templates and WYSIWYG serve the purpose. They are not interested in being the world’s best website creator, just as a novelist doesn’t care to be the world’s best typist or indeed how to repair a typewriter or PC. Likewise, beyond a competent grasp of how to use them to write down or display your ideas, nothing more needs to be known about template software and WYSIWYG tools.

As such, and especially as they evolve and become more powerful, templates and WYSIWYG tools represent a real advance, enabling the majority to use media that was once only accessible to the “scribes” and “high priests” of the programming elite- just as writing was the preserve of an elite in ancient and medieval times.

But with all these advances down the ages from one media to another, and now from one form of a single media to another (that is, advances among different kinds of software), has something been lost along the way? Is something sacrificed with gain in speed and flexibility, and in overall convenience?

Possibly. One could argue that stone tablets are not simply information-carrying media, but also sculptures with some aesthetic value in addition.  Engravings on temples and pyramids certainly look impressive, and they last a long time as well.

But realistically, there can be no argument over whether the advance to paper was an improvement. The first novel would still lie unfinished, surrounded by a wasteland of botched tablets and blunt chisels, with probably the author’s own gravestone in among them somewhere, had pen and paper never been invented. The gain then, in transitioning from stone to paper, is clearly greater than the loss.

Unlike stone tablets, the argument in favour of “older tech” appears at first glance to be rather stronger in the case of pen and paper, as compared to print and typewriters. Hand scripted works are certainly more attractive than type, and, extending the comparison, printed matter is certainly more attractive than a flickering word-processor screen.

Yet, if need be, or if we simply feel like it, can we not print or write by hand that which is speedily written on-screen? And even carve it in stone if we so wished?

Probably nearly everyone would like to see their works on paper and without doubt engraved in stone, but given these media are laborious and more crucially, time consuming, the fact is we are quite content with getting our works out and in circulation by the simplest means available.

But perhaps there is one reason for valuing the laborious, or shall we say, more challenging method of creating a website using hand written code. Simply, that one knows the personal effort and work that has gone into it, like a da Vinci or Rembrandt if you’ll permit, and for that reason it is more a product of the author, and somehow more genuine.

So perhaps something could be said in favour of a roughly hewn website, one that spectacularly fails to sing and dance in front of your eyes. Though it doesn’t sing and dance, it is at least unique. The sentiment is akin to the turnaround in the prestige of mobile phone ownership, wherein these days a person without one is to be admired and their company sought rather than be scorned and looked down upon as they would have been a decade ago. And if you are lucky to know anyone without a mobile device of any kind, and perhaps also without even a clunking desktop-PC at home, you’ll also know they are thankfully not given to singing and dancing.

Though of course this could all be an apology for the Scriblum website, and employing a clever programmer who can do the singing and dancing for you is could be a better option.

Creative Share – Joining a Retreat for Writers etc.

On a Creative Share organised by Scriblum, writers, academics, journalists, artists and composers are isolated when they need to be, yet in touch when they want.

The very good thing about sharing a creative retreat, apart from the affordability aspect, is both the solitude and rewarding company. Remember emerging from hours of solitary hard work, and yearning for just even a few moments in which to bounce an idea off someone? Or get some feedback on a particular theory or plot? The opportunity for this contact with other creative people – as and when the desire or need arises – forms the idea behind Scriblum’s Creative Share initiative. And as far as we can tell, Scriblum is very pleased to be the first to be working on this idea.

All those seriously engaged in creative work will immediately recognise the need for solitary work in isolation, as you can’t produce original work without it. Yet they’ll also have experienced that sense of yearning, desperation sometimes perhaps, for some kind of social contact. But not just any old contact one can find at a pub or dinner party, pleasant and rewarding though that may sometimes be. It’s contact with others who’ll gladly engage in discourse quite specific to what you’re doing, and won’t instead start making polite excuses to leave just after they’ve mistakenly asked you what you’re working on. That’s tough when it happens, because some kind of discourse relating to your work is essential if you’re to avoid being delighted by it for no reason other than you think it’s great; or, just as unforgivable (and usually more often the case), to be completely disenchanted by your creation, because it reads or looks terrible to that little internal editor and uncharitable critic, who’s continually looking over your shoulder and tut-tutting.

Maybe your work is entirely delightful, or maybe it’s completely disenchanting. Or perhaps it’s somewhere in between. But short of actually publishing or exhibiting it, in the absence of dialogue with others it’s nearly impossible to tell. To produce a work that will reach publication or exhibition requires not so much the judgement of others, but the exchange of ideas, the testing of theories and plots, and the gathering of new information and techniques. All this should be part of a natural dialogue surrounding both your own work and that of others.

In short, you need to engage in creative feedback and reconnaissance, and not simply sit there creating in the solitude of a back bedroom or attic, to then either fall in love with or loath your creations. Inventors are a particularly poignant example in this regard, and many have been laughed at and scorned simply because they wished to further develop – by way of propounding their great idea – a revolutionary potato peeler or toilet flush (having of course patented it first). The world is poorer for it no doubt, but one cannot blame those not creatively engaged scurrying at the mere mention of “my new ball cock design”, and “guess what this is?” before whipping out a potato for a demonstration. Though if only people would think about it, such situations would make for fascinating listening.

Understandably, it’s usually only creative people themselves who can provide such succour. And so, to share accommodation with other writers, yet retain the option of retreating into solitude whenever those demons start clamouring, is a very good idea.

For those contemplating a week or two spent on a Scriblum creative share, just note that these are not to be confused with writing courses and workshops. There is no tutor or group leader, and indeed no “group” as such. Effectively your presence is among others getting along with their work just as you are, who when the mood takes them, will chat or dine or take a walk with whomever happens to want to do the same.

Are you a Procrastinator?
If you are a procrastinator however, a creative retreat is probably not for you. Instead you’d be better off at the Diogenes “hardship” writer’s shack in Italy, or something equally ill equipped with either distraction or comfort. If this is the case, perhaps have a look at some of the (often austere) retreats famous writers have secluded themselves in.

For a list of Scriblum’s shared retreats taking place in 2014 visit our page on Creative Share Retreats for Writers and Artists.

Scriblum down and publish

Well, what’s in a domain name?

Quite a lot, and it’s not just that it should sound snappy and memorable. What’s meaningful about Google (it has been asked many a time), apart from being snappy and memorable. Ah, well, if it didn’t mean anything before, it certainly means something now. Just google it and you’ll find out.

And so with Scriblum. If you’ve got thoughts and ideas, and you believe they’re of interest to someone, don’t procrastinate, scriblum down and get’em published.

Naturally, you can scribble down your mind anywhere. On a bus, in bed and on the loo wall. But if you fancy a holiday as well, then Scriblum probably has a place for you…

And so on and so forth with more promotional and sales hype.That’s how one is supposed to promote and sell a business apparently, in particular using blogs such as this and registering memorable and hopefully evocative domain names.

For the record, we actually thought of the “scriblum down” pun after we’d registered the domain name, so that was quite a lucky though admittedly cheesy act of inspiration. But how far do you go in purposefully promoting an activity, particularly one that is supposedly aimed at the elevated pursuits of writing and other creative occupations?

Probably the line can be drawn somewhere between getting the word out so people know you exist, and hyping it up. Naturally we are of the former inclination, but there’s nothing especially evil about hype, despite the dictionary definition of “blatant or sensational promotion” and “publicise in an exaggerated and often misleading manner”. Lets be clear on that at least.

Yet there is a problem with hype. First, it’s soul destroying if you have to produce it, as try as you might, you just can’t believe it. Second, the sort of people who can’t see through it are precisely the sort of people you don’t want. That’s the bottom line.

Therefore, that’s it for the hype. We have launched Scriblum, in particular the writers’ and artists’ Creative Share, and hopefully we’ll get it well off the ground without too much hype and mostly on the merits of this idea for sharing accommodation with other writers or artists.