Musings on Moniack Mhor



A brooding Moniack Mhor

Last week I was lucky enough to visit Moniack Mhor for a residential course. For those who don’t know, Moniack Mhor is Scotland’s Creative Writing centre located a half hour drive from Inverness. Its remote location, 3 miles from the famous Loch Ness, and jaw dropping landscape makes it an ideal place to switch off from the outside world. Wi Fi was recently introduced this year but, like most other rural locations, the signal can be a little intermittent. I had enough signal strength to stream my Spotify playlists so I was content!

Most courses have workshops in the mornings, with afternoons free to have 1-2-1 sessions with the tutors, work on your own writing or enjoy the scenery. There’s even a resident dog to accompany you on one of the many walking routes close to the centre. The course I was on was a tutored retreat which had a slightly different format. There were no workshops, just 1-2-1 sessions with the tutors, and your time was yours to do what you wished with. For me having time to write, free from distractions, was the big incentive as well as being surrounded by other writers.

IMG_20160526_180413Cashew, the centre’s resident dog. Will do anything for a stick and a belly rub.

The two tutors were Michel Faber and Emily Mackie. I was already aware of Michel Faber’s work thanks to a Creative Writer tutor who introduced me to The Crimson Petal and the White. After that introduction, I made my way through Michel’s back catalogue which I urge everyone to do. Emily Mackie’s work was new to me and I read her second novel In Search of Solace in preparation for the course and was an absolute treat to read. A copy of her first novel found its way into my suitcase to take home, thanks to another writer on the course. It was intimidating yet exhilarating having both Emily and Michel give me feedback on my work.  The 1-2-1s I had with both of them were so beneficial and has helped me to think more critically about my writing and *whispers* future writing career.

Evenings were spent at a group meal that everyone took turns at cooking and cleaning up afterwards. Then it was down to the Hobbit House to listen to everyone read out their work and talk about the practice of writing whilst the sun set. There was so much laughter and fun too. It’s been a while since I was laughing so much that I needed to lie down on the floor!

The Hobbit House

I came away with a lengthy reading list, new friends, a rough outline for a potential second novel and confidence in my writing. Thank you so much, Moniack Mhor, and I hope to visit you again soon.


Water Everywhere

Water does strange things to my creative brain. I tend to problem solve when I’m in the shower or let my brain chew over tricky writing dilemas. The first story I wrote in years popped into my head while I was grabbing a quick Sunday morning shower. I was so excited that I stopped mid-shower to dash to my desk to scribble down my idea.

Yesterday I was working on a writing sample to send to a special interest website looking for new contributors. I admit, it was not going well and the words were not coming. This morning, as I stumbled to the shower, a flash of inspiration popped into my head. Huzzah, I had reached my Great Conclusion and quickly scribbled down notes before I returned to my ablutions. 

I am definitely not alone in this. In a previous writing class, I took along a story to workshop that used water as a running theme (apologies for the bad pun). Another classmate was asked to share their work which featured water as a key element of the story. Although our stories featured our own unique voices, it was still a little odd to hear our different takes on using water as inspiration to write a story. 

You never know where inspiration is going to come from. As I learn more about writing, I realise it is not the case of sitting around and waiting for ideas to come to you. This quote, one of many on this topic, really hit home for me: 

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.

~ Peter De Vries

Of course spontaneous inspiration still happens, with the most famous example being J.K. Rowling’s description that Harry Potter literally popped into her head on a long train journey. That is how I wrote when I was younger, with little planning. Back then, I wrote most days after school when I should have been doing homework. 

In the meantime, I’m going to invest in one of these waterproof notepads and show up each morning to be inspired.