This is what it’s like to be a writer

A weekend at the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat

4 min readMar 2


Image from Canva

I’m at El Rancho, the last place on earth I thought I could ever feel enlightened.

When I first arrive and park my van outside the main office, I am welcomed by a horde of screaming children.

The space is huge. Behind the office, there’s a campground where all the kids are heading, dragging their mattresses and sleeping bags on the concrete ground.

There are just as many trampolines as there are Bible quotes on signs and walls. The mini golf is adorned with wooden crosses instead of flag poles, and a chapel is perched on top of a hill just behind the tennis courts.

I’m at a Christian summer camp, I say to myself.

I don’t know this yet, but the next 48 hours will forever change what being a writer means to me.

I had had my eyes on the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat for four long years. Since I first discovered that it existed, I had been wanting to go — but something would always come up. Mostly, I couldn’t justify it. Did I really want to spend all that money to just… write?

This time round, I decided I did. Except, I didn’t’t have the money, not even close. Luckily, I found out that I could volunteer. So I applied, got accepted, and a few weeks later there I was! Fermenting with excitement at the prospect of having a whole weekend to do the thing I enjoy the most.

I had envisioned hours of writing in silence, sitting under a tree or in a comfy armchair with a cup of tea. I thought I was going to get up early, make myself coffee and have my usual slow morning routine of journaling and stretching, before bumping into a publisher that would read my work and offer me a contract on the spot.

Instead, about 13 seconds after showing up, I am pushing a trolley piled up with plastic chairs up a hill to the chapel, where my workshop is going to take place the day after. As soon as I’m done setting up the space, I find myself wearing an apron with the word “Italia” and a piece of pasta embroidered on it, stirring a chickpea stew for the next three hours.

Over dinner, me and the other volunteers look at each other baffled, not sure when we’d ever find the…




They/them. List enthusiast. Loves Italics. Occasionally swears. BUY CUT THE BULLSHIT: