New feature: A room of her own
Jess McCabe // 28 February 2011
Bidisha runs writers’ retreats. She reports that the women who attend struggle to carve out the time and psychological space for their work
Full disclosure: I have run a writers’ retreats in London and also in the beautiful French Alps, thanks to wonderful and generous friends who run a gorgeous chalet and care about nurturing the arts. Think Heidi meets Heidegger… or, perhaps, not. Instead, imagine yourself as Maria in The Sound of Music, Pippi Longstocking or the Chalet School Girls wielding pens, laptops and notebooks instead of milking buckets, wood chopping axes and felled Alpine chalet logs.
Many of the people I’ve met find the act of going on a retreat, be it a relatively unstructured personal-guidance stay, or one of the famous Arvon weeks of tutoring, readings and exercises, to be a huge step.
Retreats are not like mini-breaks, luxury holidays or chance last-minute internet bookings. They involve work, self-confrontation, doubt and (hopefully) eventual triumph.
Writers come to them with hope, with trepidation, with insecurity or with great expectation. There is the thrill of immersing oneself in the world of books, words, thoughts, ideas. There is the exposure of talking about and perhaps even performing some of one’s own writing. There is the chance to make new friends. There is the challenge of receiving constructive criticism and changing the way you approach writing. There is the possibility of solving longstanding problems and tackling age-old blocks.