Embrace the difficult stuff

I recently spent a few days at a writing retreat at Chapelgarth Estate in England. It was wonderful to return to this venue, where I undertook my facilitator training with Rowena Murray last year.


I’ve got to be honest though.


Despite the great food, beautiful countryside, daily yoga and excellent writing companions… I really struggled.


I spent the first evening’s writing session and the first full day fussing about what to write. None of what I was producing seemed to have a point. I felt frustrated and stuck. I would have walked out and found something else to do — if I weren’t for the rest of the group writing diligently around me.

I was distracted too. I spent the moments between writing sessions wrapping my thoughts around another matter. It was personal, and it bubbled inside of me, getting in the way of other thoughts. It wanted to come out, but I was doing my best to keep the lid tightly closed.

Finally, on the last morning, it clicked. This is what I should be writing about.

This thing that I can’t get out of my head. This thing that makes my other stories seem trivial.

It was going to be a difficult story to write.

But that’s exactly why it needed be written.


It took me just one writing session to write what I needed to write, but it took the first day and a half of the retreat to work through the mental detritus, to be ready to write it.


Participating in this retreat was last-minute and unexpected, but it’s been a blessing. It showed me a new side to retreats, another value that can be gained from the structure and the setting. It forced me to push through my struggles, and to recognise that the difficult stories that we don’t want to face can be the most powerful of all.

Maybe this story won't ever see the light of day, but it was so important for me to write it for myself.

And I know this would not have happened if not for the retreat.

I don’t know what I’ll be writing at the Helsinki retreat next week, but I look forward to finding out. :)

Best wishes and happy writing — even when it’s difficult writing!


Jess Kelley AE
facilitator, Helsinki Writing Retreat


Next retreat


29–31 May
Hotel Rantapuisto in Helsinki

  • yoga, forest walks, delicious snacks and great company

Stay at the hotel, or join just for the days.


Register for the May retreat

storiesJessie Jane