Australian writer Stephanie Dowrick offers occasional upmarket writing retreats in Kyoto. What makes her fly halfway round the world to offer a writing workshop? Here she explains why…
“Kyoto has been described by many as the world’s “most exquisite small city” and it is indeed a gem. Not only is it clean, safe, accessible and vastly rich in temples, shrines, glorious gardens (and quite wonderful, affordable authentic restaurants), it also has an exceptionally strong aesthetic. Everywhere you look there is natural and created beauty to be found, often in ways that can appear to Western eyes unusually restrained and disciplined, yet that adds to the depth, even the excitement of what one is seeing.
In a city that itself trains the eye to see more carefully, perhaps more mindfully, it is easily possible to discover a new and newly satisfying depth of focus. It is this that will influence most writers and would-be writers (and this is a course for writers at all levels, with partners also welcome). I am confident that “deep looking” is a glorious experience in and of itself, and that it also colours or flavours every individual’s writing in ways that are liberating and far from uniform.
Writing is, after all, an outward expression of inward experiences. The writer may be describing external “scenes” or experiences — real or imagined — but what emerges through words is what each individual writer has made and is making of those experiences. It’s almost a circular movement: from what one takes in, then gives out. “Taking in” in a city as artistically supportive as Kyoto is can be exhilarating. An example of this comes in the haiku classes that are always part of our Japan journeys. In a very few lines, the writers capture — and release — a moment. It is, though, a moment with resonances that chime both forwards and backwards.”