Don’t feel guilty for focusing on your creative needs

 In All About Writing, Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Newsletters

Don’t feel guilty for focusing on your creative needs – your life may depend upon it

My mother was raised a Calvinist, so I was taught that time taken for myself was indulgent, a selfish waste of time.

I’ll take a bet, no matter how the values of our mothers differ, you feel guilty for focusing on your own needs. We’ve now learnt this to our cost – and it’s been confirmed by psychologists – that time, especially creative time, is essential to a full and healthy life.

We can’t spend our lives thinking purely of other people, even if they’re people we love. We need balance, or we burn out – or suffer ill-health, as I learnt the hard way, last year.

We all need to recalibrate our lives, take time to breathe, to day-dream, to allow our thoughts to drift, and to be creative. It could save our lives but, perhaps even more importantly, it gives our lives greater meaning.

We, at All About Writing, exist … to remind you of this. But also, to help you incorporate writing into your life. As one of our Writing Circle said to us this month: ‘I’m 84, and I want to spend my life writing. It doesn’t matter what. It just matters that I do.’

A gift to keep you writing – 15 ways to improve your writing instantly

Here’s a gift, from us to you, that you can keep close by, to remind you of the principles of good writing.

Use it to write a good scene. Use it to write a good story or book because, never forget, a good book is simply a series of good scenes. That piece of wisdom should keep you from feeling daunted. Focus on the next scene you write and make it the best it can be. And then the next.

Use these guidelines at the rewrite stage, to help you focus on what works, and what can still be improved.

Click here to receive your free, printable download of our 15 ways to improve your writing instantly.


How else can we help you to focus on YOU and your creativity

Travel expands and stimulates the mind – and travel with intention allows you to achieve something as well.

Our famous Venice retreat – now in its eighth year

For one or two weeks, we can wave our wands and transform you into a Venetian writer, practising your craft in a 16th century palazzo.

And for once, someone else will take care of your needs – creative and physical. We’ll provide an inspiring space, and daily one-on-one time to focus on you and your writing. We provide two meals a day and evening aperitivo.

You can live and write in, surely, the most stimulating city in the world. Watch the sunrise over Academia bridge, people-watch in a café in Santa Margarita, take a vaporetto through its waterways or out to an island.

And it’s the year of the Biennale, so art is everywhere, and creativity there for the taking.

Our entire focus is to help you achieve what you want in the time you’re with us. During your one-on-one time, you’ll have the undivided attention of an experienced writer and teacher: myself (Dr Jo-Anne Richards), Richard Beynon, or our resident non-fiction and travel writer, Fred de Vries.

It’s pleasurable, but not without purpose. Even as teachers, we find the space inspiring. Last year, Venice brought me back to life. I’m convinced it will have the same effect on you. Stay for two weeks, from 2 to 16 October, or only one, from 2 to 9, or 9 to 16 October.

Fizz, from East Sussex, UK, has joined us three times. Here’s her verdict:

I found the Venice writing retreat an amazingly positive experience. It was beautifully organised and it felt like every little detail had been really well thought out… I couldn’t have imagined working and being alongside kinder, more helpful and creative people. It was just so much fun…

Katherine has joined us twice, from Florida, USA. I’ll leave the last word to her:

It was fantastic.  I enjoyed the people, the place and the opportunities to write. There was freedom from the everyday things that distract us, and there was so much to be amazed and motivated by. If you could just bottle it to use when I need to mist back the memories or revel in the feeling of accomplishment or joy of camaraderie.

Here’s a link to the downloadable brochure and to our website. (Be warned, if you open Trish’s brochure, it’s likely to cast a spell on you.)

We have more serious interest than spaces available so please reply to this email if you’d like one of the two remaining places.

Writing weekend in Stow-on-the-Wold

If you’re based in the UK (or travelling there), join Richard Beynon from 26 to 28 April, in that most charming of Cotswold market towns, Stow-on-the-Wold, to explore the art and craft of creating story.

It’s our sixth retreat in Stow and the wide-ranging programme will include discussions, writing time, mentoring, prompts for writers without a project, and tightly focused sessions on particular writing skills.

You can use the weekend as a way of recharging your creative batteries or to accelerate your current writing project. More info here.

Here’s what Clare, from London, thought of this workshop:

If you want to be let into the best secrets about the art of writing and share time with the loveliest people imaginable, then All About Writing is for you. I attended a short creative writing course… and it inspired me to start writing my novel. It’s a great privilege to learn from such talented people and have fun at the same time.

And Liz, from Bristol was also inspired by it:

After two years of tumultuous personal change that derailed my writing, it was fantastic to spend time in such beautiful surroundings, with such a knowledgeable, perceptive and generous tutor. The balance between exposition, exercises and feedback works really well to embed the learning, and even in such a short time I felt my writing muscle returning to form.

Barrydale retreat

If you’re in South Africa and can’t stretch to Venice – or, if you just can’t wait till October – the peace of the Tradouw Valley will provide the magical time-out-of-time that you need.

Spend a frosty Karoo week with us from 29 July to 2 August. Write beside the Aga range, wander through the village and beyond, take icy dips in the pristine river. (I did that last year, just as the sun rose. It was exhilarating, to say the least.)

Joanne Hichens and I will work with writers of fiction and non-fiction, one-one-one, each day, in the beautifully restored Karoo Art Hotel. In the evenings, we’ll eat typical Karoo fare in the toasty dining room. No matter what you’re writing, or considering writing, we can help.

Balu, from Cape Town, had this to say:

Thank you, JoAnnes, for a beautiful guided journey. Thank you to all the participants who deeply enriched my life with all of your formidable stories. I learned so much. More please!

And Margie also found it helpful:

I liked the constructive, helpful, truthful feedback on our assignments. I enjoyed the insights into better ways of writing … I gained confidence in continuing with my writing.

Click here for all the information about The Art of Memoir weekend and The Art of Writing retreat.

Barrydale memoir workshop

If your heart belongs to memoir, join us in Barrydale, just for the weekend of 26 to 28 July, or use the weekend to jump-start your retreat week with a workshop focused on the skills of memoir.

We’ll get you started and show you how to extract a compelling story from your life.

The workshop guides you through the construction of your story and encourages you to make a start. If you’ve never written memoir, it’s perfect for you. If you’re more experienced in this genre, or have joined us before, use it to recharge yourself mid-year, re-enthuse yourself with your story, and remind yourself of its foundations.

Here’s what Merle, from Hermanus, thought of the weekend:

Under the full moon and expert midwifery of the Two Joannes, we journeyed into the books we are each writing …What lives, what stories, what wise insights and courageous outsights were shared with such raw honesty.

And Wendy, from Cape Town, found it helpful too:

What I liked most was knowing through theory how to make my vignettes into stories that take the reader to that time and/or make the reader feel the emotion of the event. Momentous! ‘Beautiful’ weekend all round!

A last word from me

We tutors and mentors imbue these writing holidays with our own passion for creativity, and nurturing the writing of others. We want to give you the best time, fill you with confidence for the rest of the year, and allow you to be the best writers you can possibly be.

It’s an adventure, but you can be assured that it’ll be a constructive adventure. You’ll always be safe in our hands.

Warm regards,


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