In the years I was still writing a PhD thesis, I often escaped from the dispiriting rain, greyness, and cold winds in Western Europe and set off to the blue land. There, the silent waves of the sea beckoned me, gently washing ashore the Greek beaches. Invited to sit down by the seaside, gazing over the water surface that was glittering of sunlight, I realized, ‘If I could write here on my dissertation for some period of time, without any distractions of regular working and private life, I would be able to finish my PhD dissertation much faster.’ Whenever I was there, in Greece, the words started flowing from my pen (actually: laptop). Chapters and papers were born there easily. I never had experienced such a powerful writing phenomenon in my home country.
why in Greece
Why did this happen there, in Greece? Firstly, because of the inspiration from the magnificent Greek light, the sea, beautiful surroundings, and the uplifting energy of the warming sun. Secondly, because the peace and quiet of being away from my daily routine. At the university, I often just wanted to sit down quietly in my department room to write. But in practice, the days were repeatedly filled with tasks such as teaching, paper presentations, lectures, meetings; or people were passing by. When staying at home to work concentrated, there was always something there that kept me from my writing. Whenever I was in Greece, however, all these obstructions disappeared like snow in the sun.
At the same time, I also dreaded to lodge in holiday accommodations abroad, among tourists spending their vacation. Rather, I wanted to stay in a place where other people were writing productively and which provided the necessary preconditions. Also, what would happen if I directly needed any literature from the university library? In these days, the early nineties, global digital connections and VPN were still in the future. So, finally, it remained an idea, though an idea that never had left me.
writing retreat for PhD students
This initial consideration was rekindled many years later when we, co-founder Celeste and I, decided to unite our vision, expertise and experience. After I had obtained my PhD degree and had become, among others, an experienced academic teacher and research advisor, I decided to start a writing retreat by the sea for PhD candidates who were seeking what I had been missing at that time. This beautifully concurred with Celeste’s ambition, as an experienced trainer and artist, to found a retreat centre for professionals. Soon after, in 2011, Artisa was born, in the homeland of Western science, art, and philosophy. Since then, many guests have enjoyed their stay at the unique centre.
Among them are the PhD candidates who attended our dissertation writing week. Many benefitted greatly from our integral approach in which the focus on scientific writing with an optimal qualitative and quantitative outcome is united with attention for body, mind, and relaxation. Others work without guidance, but always embedded in the caring, peaceful as well as joyful environment of Artisa. I won’t bother you with citations of former visitors, you can find a selection throughout the website and at the ‘reviews‘ page.
What you cannot read on the website, however, is the fulfilment that we experience time and again when we witness the fruits of the week(s). Upon arrival, for instance, it often happens that PhD candidates are overtired, or have lost the spirit for their project or writing. When we see that they leave with a radiant smile and are happy because they have regained their energy, joy in the project, and, last but not least, have written far more pages than they accounted for possible, we know: ‘This is why we do this’. And each time we receive a completed, approved dissertation with a special thank you, we remember that we have done our jobs well.
Click here for our next PhD writing week.
Louise Thoonen, PhD, March 2014