Monday Writing Motivation: Six tigers in a tree

 In Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog

I’m sitting in Campo Santa Margarita here in Venice at a café table, on the shady side of the square. Across from me, beyond the trees and a couple of benches, the late afternoon sun brightens the façade of restaurants and apartment blocks. Saturday crowds saunter this way and that.

My socks are damp after brief immersion in the tide lapping over the fondamenta on my way here. I hope they’ll dry before the Venice Music Project concert at the Scuola Grande dei Carmini begins at seven (and that the tide will retreat before we make our way home this evening.)

Last night I had a dream that I think was inspired by our writing retreat. Bear with me:

I am standing some fifty metres or so from a spinney of tall trees bunched so tightly they could be a hedge – although they tower above me and their tops are untrimmed and tossing freely in the wind.

Up there, among the topmost branches, there’s a large cat. I squint to bring it into sharper focus. No, it’s not a cat – it’s a tiger! Between its paws is a cub which frolics among the whipping branches. And then the cub takes an incautious step and slips and slithers and appears to be about to tumble from the tree. But its mother lunges for it and drags it back to safety.

My eye is drawn to three, or is it four, other tiger cubs, larger than the first. They too are perched high in the trees. Two of them, though, start picking their way down the tree, confident and sure-footed.

I am filled with awe at my good fortune in seeing six tigers in a tree.

And then I wake, still full of that sense of miracle and wonder.

Monday Writing Motivation: Six tigers in a tree

Years ago I was schooled in the very basics of Gestalt dream interpretation. The fundamental assumption of Gestalt is that every element in a dream is a projection of the dreamer. In my dream, it follows, the observer standing in front of the copse of trees is only one splinter of the dreamer.

Truly to understand your dream you have to inhabit all the other elements of the dream. So:

I am the tiger, powerful and authoritative, responsible for the welfare and the safety of my cubs. Likewise:

I am the cub which teeters on the edge of disaster and is rescued by the vigilance of its mother. And:

I am the other cubs which prepare confidently to clamber down from the heights and thus to leave the domain of their mother.

It seems quite obvious to me now what the parallels are between the gauzy world of the dream and the hard-edged quotidian world. Here in Venice, I am the mentor, guiding a group of writers to safety, preparing them to take their place among their peers. In this telling, I am the maestro.

But in an equally valid telling, I am the student on the brink of failure…

And in yet another, the writer in whom confidence is growing…

And this complex, three-dimensional take on the dream is the one that strikes me as most true, the one that most closely cleaves to the reality of what it means to be a writer.

Because writers are, by turn, all these things: master, student and rank beginner. And if, in our pride, we believe the laurels of triumphant accomplishment are ours forever, then we mistake the nature of the world we inhabit, and our place in it.

Because the one element of my dream that I have not yet entered into is the copse of trees on which the tigers perched. Those wind-tossed heights are the world we inhabit, the world in which ideas and plots are hatched, in which novels and poems and screenplays are composed, the world in which the tigers play. However satisfied we may be with what we’ve just written, we can never be certain that our next foray will not end in failure.

The sun has set, my prosecco is drunk, the hubbub in Campo Santa Margarita has grown, and I am done.

Happy writing,



How about joining us in in Venice in 2024? We’ll be back at Ca’ della Corte from 2 to 16 October. Email Trish to reserve a place.

Join me in Stow-on-the-Wold for a weekend writing retreat from 24 to 26 November.

Or why not wrap up the writing year with our Thirty-day Writing Bootcamp.


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