We think there are loads of people out there, women probably especially, who would benefit hugely from telling their story, having people listen to their story. There is loads of evidence-based thinking about the benefits of journaling and gratitude writing. We practice it as part of our everyday lives and would love to share what we know. ALISON ARNOLD.
I spoke to Alison Arnold & Cath Crowley, successful authors and editors, about writing for wellness. As friends and business partners, they bounce off each other, spilling a little of their own story, reflecting on times when writing did not equal wellness in their own lives. On a mission to share how they do it, they will have you reaching for your pen and journal.
This is what we talked about….
Me: First up, a little about your own story. Where do you call home?
Alison: Lovely Buninyong, near Ballarat, in Victoria. Cold but beautiful. I’m looking out at birch trees changing colour as I write, with smoke drifting into view.
Cath: Avoca Victoria – cold in the mornings, but glorious days at the moment. Our grapefruit tree is filling the house with citrus.
Me: One word to describe each other?
Alison (by Cath): One word is not enough! A woman in love with words.
Cath (by Alison): Insightful – Ali sees to the heart of things.
Me: Best time of the day?
Alison: Any time I have a minute to myself and am drinking tea.
Cath: In front of the fire – journal in hand.
Me: All time fave food?
Alison: Once upon a time I would have said something fancy, but, really, it’s vegemite toast made with good sourdough.
Cath: Pasta – it’s my comfort food.
Me: Your most perfect scenario for writing?
Alison: At the moment it’s in a cafe with a pot of tea, longhand, in my orange notebook. People are there, but they’re in the background, and I am lost in what I’m writing.
Cath: I dream about days on end, in a house with a water-facing window.
Me: Biggest ‘aha’ moment in life?
Alison: A few years ago I burnt out completely. I had a young kid; I was working in a stressful, deadline-driven job; I had to commute a long way to get to work. I was tired down to my bones, down to my fingernails. My health was threatening to give and so I resigned my job, spent some time recovering, then began to work freelance as a book editor and began Word House with Cath. Up until then, I’d never had to change tack, and I’d also assumed I could rely on my body to keep on going. After that, I slowly (very slowly) realised that we are all trying to put a life together that is as good as we can make it, and one that is possible with whatever we have to work with. I’m not going to be working a salaried job anymore. At first that scared the hell out of me. Now I love it.
Cath: I’ve had two. The first came when I quit my teaching job and started writing obsessively. Working obsessively. I worked like that for 12 years, convinced that there was no room in my life for anything other than words on the page. It felt like an aha moment – this is what life is all about. And then my father died. My book stalled. I had just enough energy to get to the local cafe. It was here that I met my life partner. The aha moment was when I realised I had time for more than work. And now I’m living in a cold (but lovely) old house, nursing an old orchard back to life, keeping bees, and writing. I feel calm.
Me: You’re coming together to create ‘Replenish’ A Luxury Writing & Wellness Retreat. How did this come about?
Alison: I guess it came out of our life experiences, and also out of either being a writer (Cath) or working with writers (me). Writing is a strange thing. When it is going well it is blissful. There’s nothing like saying exactly what it is you’re trying to say, writing that perfect sentence, falling in love with one of your characters. But it is often isolating and can be difficult if you’re working on a big project. And writers as a group tend not to look after themselves very well. So, for the writers who are coming, it is a chance for us to look after them, and help them reconnect with the blissful part of writing. For those who are drawn to writing and reading but haven’t felt confident to put pen to paper, it’s about showing them what writing can bring to your life, how enriching it is. The link between creativity and wellness. Plus we think there are loads of people out there, women probably especially, who would benefit hugely from telling their story, having people listen to their story. There is loads of evidence-based thinking about the benefits of journaling and gratitude writing. We practice it as part of our everyday lives and would love to share what we know.
Me: That is a wonderfully thought out, generous reason for creating your retreat. I am in love with the idea of ‘writing for wellness’. Without giving your retreat secrets away, can you give me an insight into what it means to you.
Cath: I’ve realised that my need to write is about more than creating story. It comes from a sense of calm I feel when I’m journalling. It’s about thoughts offloaded. Ideas explored. It’s a form of meditation. I’ve seen people of all ages overcome by this calm – and in the wake of it there’s room to interrogate what we want from life, our motivations and wants for the future. I’ve also seen how writing connects people. Once you’ve heard a person’s story, you form a connection. And connection leads to wellness. Ali and I want to share that these things with people who haven’t experienced the benefits of writing. We want to share it with people who might feel apprehensive about writing their story.
Me: As a non-writer I want to be there! I find myself journalling only on my travels or for reasons related to my business, skating around the edges of my own story. I certainly don’t have that lovely sense of calm you are alluding to.
Me: Luxury doesn’t get much better than The Lake House at Daylesford. What do you most love about it for your retreat?
Alison: We went to visit it when we were putting our ideas together for the retreat, and they showed us their conference room, which was nice, but massive and a little dark. (Dark + writers = not good.) And then they took us to the Waterfront Pavilion where they often have sit-down dinners for weddings, and it was glorious: full windows looking out over the lake, light, bright and airy, spacious but not cavernous, with a deck off to the side. So that is where we will be ‘working’ on the retreat and I’m excited. Also, they are building a swimming pool which should be open by September. It is outdoor but heated. Daylesford. September. Are we brave enough?
Me: Retreats can be the ‘perfect scenario’, removing us from distractions, bad habits and the general busyness of life. Everything you learn can come crashing down quickly once you return home to the demands of daily life. Do you have one tip to help your retreat guests live their new found discoveries in real life?
Alison: Yes, to do this exercise daily: Write down three good things/moments of your day. It keeps you in touch with happiness and yourself, and it takes almost no time. For a long time Cath and I texted our three good things to each other. That was nice. A connection as well as a reminder.
Me: Big, small, delicious, funny, confronting, over the top exciting, or quietly moving, I believe there’s always a ‘best moment’ in every day, wherever we are in the world. I’m sure there will be plenty of them on your retreat. So I would love to finish up with my most favourite question. What was your best moment today?
Alison: It involved drinking tea and taking a moment to figure out my next few months. And also talking to you, Karen!
If you are as enchanted by Alison and Cath as I am, head over to their website, introduce yourself and sign up for the retreat. Its happening SEP 10 – 12, 2018. Not sure if it’s right for you? Alison and Cath are happy to have a chat first.
My connection to Alison & Cath? I’m guiding the behind the scenes details of the retreat via my Retreat Planning Made Simple course, leaving Alison and Cath to do what they are clearly very good at…. Writing For Wellness.
Connecting over tea via video chat from Bali to Buninyong to talk Retreat Biz is always fun with Cath & Alison.