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.

Location

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.

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.