Who Knows Where the Time Goes

I thought I’d write an update. April was all about the A-Z Challenge, and I’m not sure where May went so …Read More »

Retreating to Write

I planned a writing retreat for myself back in 2017. It was in George Town, Penang, and it pretty much failed. Or rather, I failed to do what I set out to do: write.

At the time, I was trying to complete a collection of short stories. I was hoping to write at least two stories while on this retreat, but I ended up completing just one.

I spent five nights in George Town, and I should have spent more time writing, but instead I wondered around a lot, exploring the city. The Airbnb I had booked was partly to blame. I hated the place the moment I checked it — long story, but basically, the owner was odd and I just felt uncomfortable the whole time I was there. There was no writing desk in my room so I had to use the communal tables, which weren’t comfortable or conducive to writing. The seats (wooden benches) were hard, without backrests; and the area was near the entrance and saw a lot of distracting foot traffic.

Still, I could have found a quiet cafe (I actually know several in George Town) and written there, but I didn’t. I preferred to wander the streets, taking pictures of temples and clan houses and Datuk Gong shrines. Perhaps what I really wanted to do (deep down) is have a solo holiday, doing exactly what I wanted without having to worry about other people’s expectations or desires. Perhaps I just wanted to escape my life. Perhaps I was looking for inspiration.

I don’t consider that retreat a waste. I enjoyed myself, despite not liking my accommodation and the unfriendly host. However, when I returned to George Town in 2018, for a four-nighter, I stayed at another place (Fhoya Fhoya on Gat Lebuh Melayu) that I was familiar with and liked.

The purpose of that visit was not to write, but just to be by myself. It was then that I decided that I would have a solo retreat every three or so months, whether to write or just have some ‘me’ time.

I am off to George Town again next week and will be staying (for three nights) at Fhoya Fhoya’s sister-property: Fhoya Fhoya di Chulia. This time, I intend to write. I wish to make a start on my two novels: Too ambitious? Perhaps, I will figure out which one I should work on in earnest. At the moment, I love both of them equally and don’t know which one I should focus on.

I shall have to be more disciplined. The temptation, when in GT, is to wander about semi-aimlessly and I can’t allow this to happen. So, my schedule is writing in the morning til mid-afternoon, with some wandering in the late afternoon, and ‘me’ time in the evenings.That’s the plan anyway. I will report back next week!

And just like that, four months have gone by …

I recently realised that I’d gone four months without writing a WIP report that I usually update every two months. It helps me and my higher-up keep up with mss that I’m working on, but of late there’s been not much happening except a lot of reading and commenting, and then more reading of re-writes. Anyway, I could have sworn that it wasn’t more than a month or so that I’d last done a WIP spread sheet, but actually, the last one was for April/May 2017. Oh the horror.

Time is passing by too fast. That is the way it is when you’re a grown-ass woman with responsibilities. But maybe it’s also the case if you’re drifting, sleeping the days away and letting each day fade into the next so that they end up being indistinguishable. (One day I shall take a three-month holiday to do just that.)

I’ve been busy. Reading and assessing mss take up big, fat chunks of time and yet it feels like you’re not doing too much and you end up thinking that you should be more active and productive. Then there is all the usual management of the household, which is exhausting and takes up so much time and leaves me feeling totally zonked.

Then I went to Penang for four nights, and it was mostly lovely, but also stressful because I spent a great deal of time with family, and let’s just say that a couple of them brought out the worst in a couple of others. Also, there were two under threes present and just looking at children that age makes me tired.

I spent my final night at an airbnb, alone, and had two half-days pottering about George Town, which I loved. I was thinking of going to Hanoi, but I’m now thinking maybe I should go to George Town again.

I need more time alone, to do nothing but wander and wonder, and read and think about the million things I want to do.

Coming up, a post on my visit to George Town.