Where the Dickens is it? Finding your writing ‘happy place’.

Dickens Bleak HouseTomorrow marks Charles Dickens’ 204th birthday. He’s a definite hero of mine, his stories are timeless and I have to admit to finding the current series of Dickensian a little bit addictive. All those fabulous characters in one story, what’s not to love?

Dickens would often seek a writing retreat and his holiday home in Broadstairs, Bleak House (although it was called Fort House during Dickens’ tenure), proved the perfect place to write. He finished the Pickwick Papers there and also wrote parts of dickens_studyNicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield and Barnaby Rudge during his stays at the house. It was christened Bleak House in later years, as it also provided the inspiration for the home of John Jarndyce in the novel of the same name.

Dickens clearly needed a picturesque view and some degree of tranquillity to find his writing mojo. In an article published in 1851, entitled ‘Our English Watering-Place’, he wrote about the need to escape the noise, dust and crowds of the ‘great metropolis’, which he deemed disturbing and distracting in all respects. Broadstairs, as he put it, provided ‘a quiet sea beach’, which became a ‘blessed spot’. And the result of finding his writing happy place was this:

‘Half awake and half asleep this idle morning in our sunny window on the edge of chalk-cliff in the old fashioned watering-place to which we are a faithful resorter, we feel a lazy inclination to sketch its picture’.

Dickens writing retreat LimsaThe ‘lazy inclination’ Dickens describes was perhaps his inspiration to sit in that study, by the sunny window, and write those classics that still resonate today. In later years, however, Dickens found the street musicians in Broadstairs bothered him too much, so he moved on to holiday in Dover and then Folkestone, where the sea remained on his doorstep, but perhaps there were less of the distractions and disturbances which clearly impacted so negatively on his creativity.

I’d love to hear if you have a writing retreat of your own, which takes you away from the distractions and disturbances of everyday life, or even one you dream of heading to, when you get that massive advance we all wish for and money becomes no object! Maybe it’s a mountain view or resting with your laptop on a Dickens WildAcres writing retreathammock overlooking the Med. Or perhaps like my writing place, it’s a garden room with a view of the countryside in Kent, which Dickens himself might have recognised. In truth I can write with a laptop perched on my knee and the TV blaring in the background, whilst my husband and four children do their very best to distract and disturb, if I have to. But, sometimes, I just need to escape to my garden room to restore my writing mojo, and that lazy inclination, too.

Wherever it is, I hope you all find your ideal retreat somewhere – happy writing!

Jo Bartlett

(Published by Accent Press, So Vain Books, DC Thomson and Ulverscroft)


You can find out more about Bleak House at the link below, as well as links to the other writing retreats pictured above:




7 thoughts on “Where the Dickens is it? Finding your writing ‘happy place’.

  1. Your writing room sounds wonderful, Jo. I’m with Dickens when it comes to writing by the sea. I’ve been on several writing retreats by the seaside with friends, mostly in Whitstable and once in Littlehampton. While we mostly didn’t have a direct view of the sea, it’s only been around a minute or two’s walk away, and a great interlude in between writing sessions. Or on nice days, I’ve walked to the beach to write. I’m off to Ramsgate in May with three fellow writers, so it’ll be interesting to see what that’s like.
    Francesca Capaldi Burgess

    • Hi Francesca

      I only live a few miles from Whitstable and lived in the town itself for several years growing up, so it has a place in my heart. The harbour at Ramsgate is lovely and there are some nice cafes and restaurants dotting the edge. Like you, I think there’s something about the sea (and a big sky) that’s inspiring. Have a wonderful writing break with your friends, I hope the sun shines for you in May and thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment 🙂


  2. Loving the look of Dickens’s writing desk. Like you, I can write most places. I have an office which I love, but I’ll often write with my laptop on my knee in the bedroom or the lounge. Happy birthday Mr Dickens xx

  3. Very interesting, Jo. I love the half awake and half asleep quote. As my writing I would love either a summerhouse type thing at the bottom of the huge garden I haven’t got, or perhaps a completely round room in a turret in my Arts and Crafts house I haven’t got either… But for now I’m quite happy in our little third bedroom with my bookshelves behind me.

    • Love the sound of that turret and Arts and Crafts house, Deirdre, put my name down for a visit when you get it 🙂 In the meantime, keep writing those fabulous books of yours right where you are. Jo

  4. Fab post Jo! I can definitely see why Dickens chose Broadstairs as a place to write and Bleak House has stunning views over the sea. My usual writing spot is by the window in my sitting room but I’ve discovered a new favourite place recently which is the second floor of the library at York St John’s which has huge picture windows and a stunning view over the city. It is slightly too easy to get distracted by the view though! Alys xx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s