A Procrastination of Writers

January 25, 2014

Apparently the collective names of things is made up, there is no official rhyme or reason to it, no rules and therefore, “We”, i.e. WordWatchers, while on our writer’s retreat decided that the most appropriate, informative and accurate collective name for a group of writers should be: A Procrastination.

This particular procrastination consisted of the current core ten members of WordWatchers plus our most successful alumni Katherine Webb and it collected together at Symondsbury Manor. We met on the evening of Friday, 17th January and, if we’re honest, ran around this magnificent manor house like naughty school children for the first hour. It had so many nooks and crannies to explore. Several of us looked for entrances to Narnia.

The house’s interior is simply wonderful. Absolutely nothing matches or is coordinated in any way. The furniture is at odds with the light fittings, which wrestle for attention with wall paper and ceiling decor…

Zebra Ceiling

Zebra Ceiling

My own room for example contained an enormous (and extremely comfortable) four poster bed…

Four Poster Bed

Four Poster Bed

…and on closer inspection…

Cable Tie Lamp

Cable Tie Lamp

…a lamp constructed entirely from cable ties…

I think that sums up the feel of the house rather well – gloriously quirky and great fun.

I got a good feeling from the house and its grounds and while I never found such a gate, my first piece of inspiration was turned into a 75-worder within an hour of arrival:

The gate was green with age. Iron hinges had rusted away. Instead, tendrils of ivy tied the gate up against the cracked stone pillars. The gate had been chained and bolted some time ago, but with a sharp tug, years of rust fell away and the chain came apart in my hand. I pushed on the gate, expecting to meet resistance, but it instead it toppled inwards, drawbridge like, inviting me to cross the threshold.


It really did feel like we had crossed a threshold entering that house, a magical place where writing would somehow, just happen, I had no doubts about it at all.

So, when I nearly knocked myself out an hour later by failing to duck sufficiently to get into the larder which had a very low doorway (and I hadn’t even had a drink at that point!), then I immediately (well, after an ice pack was applied to the Tom & Jerry like lump on the top of my head) wrote another 75-worder:

Yet again, he had failed to duck sufficiently. People rushing forward, hands to mouths. He was sitting on the floor, looking up, waiting for his brain to stop slopping around inside his skull. Waiting for the momentary double-vision to pass. Waiting for the shock to wear off and the pain to rush in. They handed him a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel to press to another soon-to-be scar upon his bald head.


All in all I wrote sixteen 75-word stories over the weekend, in fact I wrote fourteen of them just on the Saturday. At one point I was turning them out at three every hour. That’s in no way meant to come across as showing off, but for those wonderful hours on Saturday I really was ‘in the zone’. The house and the inspirational company of my fellow WordWatchers just made it feel very easy.

It wasn’t all writing, there was huge amounts of food, cooked beautifully by Charlotte, who would often dash away from her novel to briefly do battle with the house’s old AGA, and then return to her work, a glorious waft of whatever delight would be served later, following her up the stairs.

There was wine, lots of wine in fact and quite a lot of fizz too, except I can’t tell you why there was fizz, not yet…

And of course, being WordWatchers, there was cake, lots and lots of cake…

Let them eat cake! L to R: Katherine, Danielle, John Potter and Chris. The cake attempts to make its escape in a blur of motion.

Let them eat cake!
L to R: Katherine, Danielle, John Potter and Chris.
The cake attempts to make its escape in a blur of motion.

During Saturday, in that incredibly creative run I reached my 300th Paragraph, this was the number I had set myself to reach over the weekend. It is the number I have decided to stop at. It is the number I think I need to have enough material to carry out my plan to release three books full of 75-word stories over the course of 2014.

I have been submitting one 75-word story to Paragraph Planet every day since July 4th 2013. The sixteen I wrote over the weekend will take me, unplanned but serendipitously to February 4th 2014. Seven months to the day and, I feel, a fitting end to this facet of my writing journey.

On the Sunday of the writing weekend I fired my novel back up, much neglected, much in need of a good edit – the very reason in fact I started writing those 75-word stories, to improve my editorial skills, to overcome my urge to overwrite (little did I know they’d be so addictive!).

Endless Possibilities is in need of even more TLC than I recall. All those 75-worders have certainly removed much of the tint of my rose-tinted spectacles of my own writing and it is clear from the opening chapters that I was enjoying the writing more than I was enjoying telling the story. It’s going to be a battle, this edit, a bloody battle and many, many words will fall over the coming months.

I think however, this time, I am ready for the onslaught.

Finally, I’d like to end with my favourite picture of the weekend. It is of Julian, deep in thought as the new novel swirls around his mind’s eye, but not necessarily making it to the end of his fingertips. The cup of steaming coffee and ping-pong ball are there accidentally, but are rather symbolic of the entire weekend.



One thing I think is certain, WordWatchers and Symondsbury Manor will become intertwined again. There is talk of doing this every year and I’m definitely up for that.

Until next time.

John Hoggard

John Hoggard









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  1. John Potter says:

    A lovely post John and makes me very wistful. Really interesting to see how Symondsbury seemed have the same energising impact for us all and to see your experience of it. Working on a blog of my own. Don’t you think it would be a good idea, if we got enough blogs on the weekend to publish them into a book for our own consumption only, along with some of the best pictures.

  2. You summed up the weekend perfectly, John. It was a wonderful mix of childish fun and the time and space to write, free from the daily routine. I loved sitting around the dinner table in the evenings, wine glass in hand, and hearing what we’d all achieved during the day.
    But I must go back to Symondsbury Manor again to look again for the doorway into Narnia. I know it’s there.

    • John says:

      Thank-you Charlotte. It feels very easy to drift off back to Symondsbury Manor in my mind’s eye – perhaps that’s the secret for getting back into the zone – just close my eyes and imagine that I’m at Symondsbury…

  3. Julian says:

    Lovely post, John. You’ve caught the weekend perfectly – such a great mix of childish fun and ‘serious’ writing. Thanks for the great photos too. Already looking forward to the next time we all head back Symondsbury.

  4. […] I wrote my last blog about our weekend away at Symondsbury Manor, I said we had lots of fizz, but I couldn’t tell […]

  5. […] creative atmosphere fostered by the house’s dynamic interior design as described by Word Watcher John Hoggard in his blog ‘A procrastination of writers’. Writing collaboratively is something that many writers find benefits in. This is why writing […]

  6. […] I captured my thoughts on that wonderful event in this blog: A Procrastination of Writers […]

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