Why Write?

writingPaul Anderson explores why people are drawn to writing in Manifesto, his Write Anything column today … and why he in particular writes.

Here is why I have written in the past and continue to do so now.

While there have been times when I have stopped writing, I’ve never forgotten how much I love to write and always known I will return. Writing is not only a safe harbour, but a comfy pair of shoes or coat you haven’t worn for a while which offers up forgotten delights in pockets.

I have been writing since I was ten years old. I discovered the thrill of writing in a set of picture/story exercises in Grade Five as part of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles that year. I only had to do one, but I did three – recounting the travails of Australian mascot Willy in various different events. It was one of those things – once started I couldn’t stop.  Twenty-five years later I’m still at it.

I wrote initially because I had the epiphany I could. I found I loved getting lost in words and worlds. When I look back at what was going on for me aged 10, I’m not surprised I was drawn to writing as it allowed me to control and orchestrate events on the page at a time when I was feeling swept away and mauled by events in my own life.

Later on in high school I began writing lengthier “novels” after a teenage literary hissy fit upon reading one of my cousin’s Sweet Valley High books. I started writing a manuscript (which I still have) because I was certain I could write something better – at least something a little less saccharine sweet. I initially wrote it for my cousin Melissa, but was soon writing it for my own entertaiment. It was arrogant  to think I could write better than a published author but it kept me at the page – and what was only meant to be 20 pages blew out to well over 100 pages during the summer.

I later went on to re-write that manuscript when we moved from Queensland to Victoria and I got a huge kick out of my friends taking turns in reading what I had written. I kept writing because I loved being read. Writing was also something which allowed me to stand out in my peer group as something unique (when I felt anything but) and as a new girl, at a new school, provided me with an “in”. It also kept me company in the lonely weeks as I tried to find my footing in a new school.

As I got older I wrote to try and make sense of the world I lived in. It was also a safe way to explore. I was not a particularly wayward teenager (who knows where I would have strayed had I not been straying on the page) but some of the themes I explored in my writing showed there was a gritty interior behind the sweet smile.

I lived a lot in my head … and being on the page was somehow a way for me to be both in myself and out side of myself at the same time.  It was a fantasy world where not only was I God but fashionista and beauty queen living through and via the girls and women in my writing. While lots of my characters were savvy and confident, they all had a very vulnerable core – and there were few happy endings.

Then, now, in the future – I will always write for the thrill of being part of a story as in unfolds.  There have been times when I’ve realised I’m holding my breathe as a I write, so caught up in the drama on the page (writing Demon Lover was one those moments and one of the reasons I love being an author on The Astonishing Adventures of Captain Juan). 

It was (and is) a form of escapism – but not of wanting to run away from the world I live in, but wanting to be in a different world … I’m not even sure if that makes sense? It’s like going travelling for the adventure rather than running away overseas.

I remember the dislocation I would feel as a teenager after being hunched over my desk for hours scribbling free hand.  It was like being dragged back, often unwilling (as my Mum called me to dinner) from another dimension.  I would often sit there and need to spend a couple of minutes reorientating myself with my surroundings, renegotiating my feelings. I don’t get this so much – but unlike my teenage years I don’t have the luxury of spending hours on end absorbed in one of my stories.

If I am totally honest about why I write now, I do so because I have to.  It is the air I breathe. The creative outlet that keeps me sane.  Writing makes me happy. Writing gives me a sense of freedom which few things are able to do any more.

Musings on Fiction Friday for this Week

fiction fridayIt is Thursday.  This time last week I had a clear vision in my head of what I was going to write for Fiction Friday.  This week I’m struggling – not with having no idea, but too many ideas.  The prompt:

Include this line in your story – The piano accordian player slumped forward.

Annie who is providing the prompts for [Fiction] Friday in the month of June, told me when I got a sneak peak a few weeks ago of the prompts, she wanted me to write about Celia … who I graced the very first FF this year.  I keep meaning to get back to her story, but as luck would have it, this year has been fertile ideas and lots of new characters have coming knocking on my door to share their stories.

Celia is patient though.  Her story has been in a holding pattern since 2000 when I first ventured to a short story writing class and a rather awful backstory came out.  After Googling “air raids Germany” I’ve come up with the final pieces of Celia’s story, the problem is however, I would love to do a little more research before I start writing. Even when I remind myself, first draft, no editing, blood on the paper.  The research will be simply filling in the details after all.  So Celia’s story it will be this week, if I can find the time among the birthday party preparations.

Which leaves Dirk Hartog one very unhappy character.  I tried really hard to wind an accordian player into Hartog’s world … I really did.  I even came up with a Gary Larson kind of take, where by criminals were forced to make and carry piano accordians for their punishment .. but it was just a little bit silly.  However, remove the piano accordian and I *do* have Hartog’s story for this week.

It is just a matter of trying to make Hartog understand he’s not number one dog around here … I have a small man who is so excited about his first ever birthday party, a holiday to pack and plan for, a kindy disco to go to tomorrow night, flights to book for later this month, a sponge bob squarepants cake to make … oh and the list goes on. At least you get where I am coming from.  Hartog will understand sooner or later – he has to share!

Bowling as a Metaphor

For the past few days Dylan has been bugging me to go bowling.  I finally gave in last night and said we could venture down to the local bowling alley after kindy gym today.  Then I woke up this morning with the most awful lower back pain and the last thing on my ‘most enjoyable list with disabling back pain’ was bowling.  Still a promise is a promise.

By midday my back was “warmed up” and I was ready to look as though I was excited about the prospect of trying to make the overweight ball go in the right direction towards the ten sad looking pins at the end.

It was as I was struggling to make the ball do what I wanted it to do (so as not to be upstaged by my not yet five year old son – who in the end beat me by 50 points!) I realised what a metaphor bowling was for the current state of affairs in my life.

There are a number of elements in my life which I am beginning to see as obstacles and how cathartic it would be to just heave a bowling ball at them, knock them all down, clear the way and let me go on.  I thought about them as I twisted and made a dick of myself in the quest for the perfect strike (I got one … as I was meditating on this.) The thing with bowling, well at least from my perspective, with all the panache, all the skill and all the practise, there is still an element of luck in it.  You also have to concentrate – you have to really want to knock the pins down.

There was a moment when the mechanics reached down, lifted up two pins and swept the others away.  If only life could be like that.  If only some universal mechanism would lift me up and sweep away the crap around me so I could stand alone, uncluttered and ready to go again.  But life isn’t always like bowling or is it?

In game two after three successive “eights” I could see me as the lone Monk in my tarot deck – the eight of cups – hiking up a challenging hill with one cup, leaving behind the other seven behind. The card speaks of a difficult but necessary decision to move on.

So using bowling as a metaphor – it is time to start cutting down some obstacles, after one more review of what fits with my philosophy of ‘just write’.  To make a conscious effort to clear my part.  Scoring some strikes along the way would be nice too.

As Paul alluded to in a recent blog post, there are times when you have to make decisions about how you want to spend your time and these have to be transposed on the responsiblities which you have, ones which you can wean yourself out of and others you either have no current choice to opt out of or you really want to be part of.

It’s all part of the internal de-clutter.  And with Mars in Taurus it does feel like the hard plod – though as a triple grey ox  you would think by now I’d be used to the hard slog.  Or perhaps I’m tired of it.