Tomorrow marks Charles Dickens’ 204th birthday. He’s a definite hero of mine, his stories are timeless and I have to admit to finding the current series of Dickensian a little bit addictive. All those fabulous characters in one story, what’s not to love?
Dickens would often seek a writing retreat and his holiday home in Broadstairs, Bleak House (although it was called Fort House during Dickens’ tenure), proved the perfect place to write. He finished the Pickwick Papers there and also wrote parts of Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield and Barnaby Rudge during his stays at the house. It was christened Bleak House in later years, as it also provided the inspiration for the home of John Jarndyce in the novel of the same name.
Dickens clearly needed a picturesque view and some degree of tranquillity to find his writing mojo. In an article published in 1851, entitled ‘Our English Watering-Place’, he wrote about the need to escape the noise, dust and crowds of the ‘great metropolis’, which he deemed disturbing and distracting in all respects. Broadstairs, as he put it, provided ‘a quiet sea beach’, which became a ‘blessed spot’. And the result of finding his writing happy place was this:
‘Half awake and half asleep this idle morning in our sunny window on the edge of chalk-cliff in the old fashioned watering-place to which we are a faithful resorter, we feel a lazy inclination to sketch its picture’.
The ‘lazy inclination’ Dickens describes was perhaps his inspiration to sit in that study, by the sunny window, and write those classics that still resonate today. In later years, however, Dickens found the street musicians in Broadstairs bothered him too much, so he moved on to holiday in Dover and then Folkestone, where the sea remained on his doorstep, but perhaps there were less of the distractions and disturbances which clearly impacted so negatively on his creativity.
I’d love to hear if you have a writing retreat of your own, which takes you away from the distractions and disturbances of everyday life, or even one you dream of heading to, when you get that massive advance we all wish for and money becomes no object! Maybe it’s a mountain view or resting with your laptop on a hammock overlooking the Med. Or perhaps like my writing place, it’s a garden room with a view of the countryside in Kent, which Dickens himself might have recognised. In truth I can write with a laptop perched on my knee and the TV blaring in the background, whilst my husband and four children do their very best to distract and disturb, if I have to. But, sometimes, I just need to escape to my garden room to restore my writing mojo, and that lazy inclination, too.
Wherever it is, I hope you all find your ideal retreat somewhere – happy writing!
(Published by Accent Press, So Vain Books, DC Thomson and Ulverscroft)
You can find out more about Bleak House at the link below, as well as links to the other writing retreats pictured above: