Artist Residency at Hawkwood: Olivia Douglass
"Writing, at times, feels like a form of madness. Sitting around making up lies, fake people, and sticking bits of life together like clay. It’s possible to slip into it all feeling too self-indulgent and isolated."
I arrived at Hawkwood with a busy mind, under the pressure of writing deadlines, and with a a sense of rush that London builds into you. The taxi drove me through the Stroud Valley, past the cows, the community farm, dropping me outside the beautiful, picture-book house where I would spend the week. I started to relax immediately, feeling like I had stepped into a writers haven.
Everybody was super welcoming, showing me to my bedroom, and even bigger writing room which looked out over the garden. I felt spoilt for space, and it was the perfect calm environment to find deep focus. I spent the time writing the first draft of a debut feature film, which is a historical-drama set in Exmoor. I would get up early, take a walk through the fields, before writing all morning, another walk and then write again late into the evening. The kind of idyllic writers day I always dream of but never get to achieve in my day-to-day life in a city. To be surrounded by so much nature was incredibly helpful when trying to tap back into the rural settings and atmospheres in my film. I was at Hawkwood during a quiet period, which at first was quite daunting, sitting down to face the blank page with nothing but my own thoughts and company. But as I found a steady rhythm, I found the quiet and stillness allowed space for me to hear my screenplay, how my characters spoke, the music they danced too, the sound of the streets they lived in. I got a lot more writing done than I had anticipated, because I was able to really sink into my project, pacing through the scenes as though I was living in those moments.
Writing, at times, feels like a form of madness. Sitting around making up lies, fake people, and sticking bits of life together like clay. It’s possible to slip into it all feeling too self-indulgent and isolated. I really enjoyed the communal meals at Hawkwood, not only because the food was delicious, but because those times were opportunities to meet other people, to have sprawling conversations, laugh, discuss problems we were trying to solve, or simply just be quiet with others. Even though we were all working on separate projects, I felt like we were all moving through the process of being at Hawkwood together. Meandering between my writing room, the dining table, the libraries and the garden, I felt like there was no sense of rush, and my curiosity had the space to sprawl in any direction.
Being granted the time, care and space to write was a real privilege. I hope to return to Hawkwood in the future, and that other writers are encouraged to apply.
Olivia Douglass is a British-Nigerian writer, poet and artist, living in London. They are the winner of the Guardian and 4th Estate 4thWrite Prize 2022 with their story ‘Ink’. They are the author of the poetry pamphlet Slow Tongue (2018) and were shortlisted for the Rebecca Swift Foundation Women Poets’ Prize 2020. A Barbican Young Poets alumni, their writing has appeared in publications including Guardian, Montez Press, National Poetry Library, Bath Magg, and Nothing Personal. Olivia is currently an MSt Creative Writing student at the University of Oxford and is working on their first novel.