This blog is written by professional crime writer Jonathan Whitelaw, the tutor on our Crime Writing Retreat in Egypt.
Egypt — even the name conjures up a special sort of magic. Images of Pyramids, ancient gods, and aeons of history immediately flood into the imagination. Or at least, it does for me. I’ve been besotted with the country since I was old enough to be able to remember.
There’s just something perennially wonderful about the place that’s inspired, intrigued and captured so many creative minds and imaginations forever. And it’s with very good reason. Just look at all of the wonderful literature, TV, film and music that’s come out of Egypt over the last 100 years alone.
Putting aside the ancient world for a moment, the country has played an important part in modern literature. From Poirot sailing down the Nile to mythological-themed serial killers and assassins (with everything in between of course) – there’s no shortage of creative wells to drink from.
The combination of desert, majesty, history, mystery, old and new have come together to create such a fertile place for writers, in particular crime writers, to draw upon. You’ll soon discover this on Literary Tours in Egypt’s week-long crime writing retreat.
Overcome Writer’s Block in a Week-Long Crime Writing Retreat in Egypt
For me, the obsession with Egypt began when I was very young — perhaps five or six. That was a very long time ago now but the enthusiasm and curiosity has never gone away. From learning all the ancient gods’ names in primary school to watching Michael Palin ride a camel towards the Pyramids, it’s always been there.
I can’t think of a better place in which to get the creative juices flowing. And that is the key for any writing. Getting started. Writer’s block is sometimes portrayed as being an ailment that hits scribes midway through their work.
But in actual fact, it can happen at any time — even before you begin.
At the time of writing this, I’m in the process of an extensive project. In short, I’ve binned 50,000 words of an upcoming project and started again. Knowing the prospect of effectively starting over again was NOT one that I relished. And to the brooding mind, writer’s block will prey. That’s where a place like Egypt comes in.
Egypt Is a Bustling Hub of Inspiration for Writers
It’s other-worldly, it’s new, it’s all-consuming and, most importantly, it’s rich in inspiration. Writers, and in particular crime writers, are great people watchers.
The best in the business are the ones who salvage and collect tidbits from the world around them. This can range from the mundane to the sublime, it almost doesn’t matter.
But it doesn’t come easily. Sometimes a writer needs a bolt out of the blue, a spark, something that’s OUT OF THE ORDINARY and enough to grease up the wheels and get the show on the road. Egypt can be that spark. A world away yet still grounded firmly in the twenty-first century.
Dripping with history, ancient and modern, where the past meets the present and explodes right there, in front of your very eyes and offers you inspiration on a plate. Surely that’s something to be treasured?
Dedicate Time to Your Writing with Egypt as a Spectacular Backdrop
The key to any crime novel is simplicity. As crime authors, you constantly ask yourself why? Why would a villain murder someone? Why is this cop so obsessed with catching the killer? Why has the body been left this way or that? It never ends. And asking that question is pivotal to the creative process.
What also helps, is having the time to question these things. We’re all guilty of it, right? There’s too much to do, too many plates to spin, not enough hours in the day. We’re all busy people with busy lives. And sometimes, quite honestly, we just can’t be bothered to sit down and get the words on the page.
Again, that’s where this wonderful retreat down the Nile comes in. It’s precious time to work on your manuscript, to learn from each other, from your peers, to pick brains and pick axes, to conjure up the most malevolent baddies and brilliant goodies.
In short, it’s time to write. With a backdrop as colourful and inspiring as Egypt – who wouldn’t want to get creative in that world?
I’ll close with how I opened — Egypt has a special sort of magic that’s unmatched anywhere else on the planet. It’s a mixing pot of cultures, history and conundrums. It’s a blank palette on which to paint your masterpiece. And I would dearly love to help and be part of that creative journey with you.
Learn more about our Crime Writing Retreat in Egypt. We would be delighted to have you join us!
About the Author
Jonathan Whitelaw is the author of The Bingo Hall Detectives and The Village Hall Vendetta, both published by Harper North. He is managed by Northbank Talent Management.