CHENNAI : Distractions come in many forms. Sometimes as a long lost friend, chirpy phone call or the cry of an infant. While you tend to it, the cursor on your laptop screen blinks, awaiting the words that would never be typed. This is the story of most writers who affirm to finishing a chunk of their novel, but never get to do it.
As a solution, Radhika Meganathan, an award winning children’s book writer, started organising weekend retreats for women writers in 2008. “If you are like me and have dismal quantities of discipline, then a self-planned writing retreat will never work. The problem is a writer — a woman writer — just cannot stay home and write. Weekend chores threaten to take over sanity and the possibilities that you will not write are endless,” she says.
The writing retreats, she says, in the company of other creative spirits, make sure one does not get distracted. “It is simply time taken off routine life, so that one can concentrate on a novel or any work in progress. It offers you two-fold benefits – unconditional time to write and a forum to connect with other writers,” she says.
Till date, she has organised six retreats — to places like Yercaud, Auroville, London, Kodaikanal, Varkala and Hyderabad. A normal day in a retreat includes a meet for breakfast, a small group writing exercise and critiquing by fellow writers, private writing time from 11 am to 6 pm (lunch will be delivered), then later dinner and conversation from 6 pm until writers decide on a time to get some shut-eye. “Most writers come to work on a specific project, perhaps something that has been in the back burner for too long. For writers without such a project, the retreat gives them the freedom to create a new work, and simply to get some much needed break from routine life,” she says. As an organiser, Radhika makes sure logistics are taken care of and gives a short orientation of the place.
The number of participants usually ranges from four to 10. “Takers are hard. Most women writers are terrified to take time off for something like this. Most women, with busy careers and busier households, do not feel that a writing retreat is important enough in their lives. People do not think twice about spending thousands on a party for their kids or dinner, but they cannot comprehend spending the same amount on a retreat. It’s sad, really,” she says.
Though she keeps getting last minute cancellations, she says she is happy designing a retreat with even two writers who genuinely need the time. Despite the challenges, Radhika makes sure she organises such retreats at least twice a year, and according to her, she is probably the only person offering women-only writing retreats in India.
The next retreat is between November 15 and 17, in Puducherry. It is targeted at writers of fiction, who are working on their novels. Everything from stay, retreat schedule, food and transport are taken care of at a price of around `5,000. Log on to www.smara.in or call 9444485133.