Venice brought me back to life

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Newsletters

I wasn’t looking forward to Venice.

I know – sacrilege, right? I wondered at myself. What did it say about me? Did it mean I was tired of life, as Samuel Johnson once said of London?

But on our second day, Trish and I took an early walk through the cobbled maze that is Venice in the morning. Everything was familiar: the mist over Accademia, the roar of boats, the chatter and call of delivery men with barrows, the smell of fish in the market beneath the white arc of Rialto.

I was catapulted back into the moment, and into life. I became aware of the outside world. I found I was looking outward when, for months, I had focused, obsessively, only inward.

Most of you now know that I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July and, since then, my life was taken over and subsumed. I handed over my autonomy to breast cancer surgeons, oncologists, reconstructive surgeons and radiologists. I struggled with fear, uncertainty, my own vulnerability, mortality and female vanity.

I curled inward. I became unsociable, incapable of talking of normal topics or maintaining everyday conversations.

That’s why I wasn’t looking forward to Venice. I wanted only to hibernate. I couldn’t maintain it indefinitely, though and, thank goodness, our retreat loomed, only three days beyond my final radiotherapy appointment.

Venice drew me out of myself. It propelled me back into the world. Back into life. Everything looked, sounded and smelled new. I was acutely aware of every sensory detail. And, with that, my creativity returned. I was, and am, itching to write.

I do think it’s useful, as a writer, to have the capacity to look inward. But equally, we need to observe, to be curious, to be aware of the details which will allow us to submerge our readers in another reality.

Venice did that for me. I can never understand people who scorn the idea of retreats. Sure, you can write at home. But, in my experience, spiriting yourself away from your everyday preoccupations, submerging yourself in a different reality – particularly in one of the most stimulating cities in the world – can only provoke a rush of creativity.

Venice brought me back to life

Okay, this effect was extreme for me, coming out of the three months I’d just had. But I’ve seen it over and over again with writers who are feeling stuck, jaded or just downright tired.

So … I found myself back there for the seventh year. We wish you could all have shared it with us. Richard and I had the joy of watching our writers’ projects develop, and they entered into the creative excitement that shimmered about our gatherings and shared a sense of achievement with their fellow participants.

And now … I’m going to stop writing this and dream of slipping out for an almond tart, my one weakness. Along with gelato. And tiramisu. And …

  • If you missed out on Venice this year, and you just happen to be free this weekend, indulge yourself in a mini-retreat in Stow-on-the-Wold with Richard. We’ve had a cancellation so have one place available.
  • Venice 2024 is filling particularly fast, so please indicate your interest soon. Remember, life is short. And creativity is important. Have a look at our Venice brochure here.
  • Why not set yourself up for 2024 by joining our Mentoring Programme. Or if you’ve completed a first draft why not have us cast a professional eye over it before you embark on your crucial second draft? Email me to discuss your options.

Submit your writing reflections

Our 2023 writing journeys are coming to an end and, as writers, we know that every journey comes with obstacles, lessons and victories.

We’d love you to write a brief reflection on a significant moment from your writing year to share with the All About Writing community. We’ll feature it in our final newsletter of the year. Email your reflection to Emma by 1 December at the latest.

As our thank you to everyone who submits, we’d like to invite you to join us at a special Scene Analysis Masterclass on Monday 11 December.

Writing is solitary, and it can be lonely. But you are part of a community. We can keep you company for part of the way. Your journey doesn’t have to take place in isolation.

Happy writing

Jo-Anne

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