Archive for August, 2007

Syphoning the ether

What I really love about writing is, ironically, what comes at the end of it – after the writing, and editing process is completed.  Whether I’ve gained a better understanding of myself, of a relationship, or how this complex world of ours works…I always find writing has many rewards.  Writing makes me think about the world, make sense of it, feel connected to it, sometimes want to distance myself from parts of it. To me, writing can be important and powerful.

     Every week during our Novel 2 class, I marvel at how other students create beautiful, moving pieces of writing, in a short space of time and with little apparent effort.  In stark contrast, I often sit there, pen in hand, staring at the lines on the page, agonising over a single word.  Occasionally the words flow as naturally as water swirling and eddying down a stream.  Occasionally, but not often.  The ideas are there, in my brain, in the ether, but syphoning them into narrative, finding the right words to bring the ideas alive, is another matter entirely. Numbers and the world of finance are my native language, but the last few years I’ve found myself strangely compelled to sit in front of a blank screen and put words onto an electronic page.  Writing regularly has helped improve my “slow starts”, and with a bit of luck that will continue. And now that I am writing regularly, I’ve come to the earth shattering realisation that the solitary (if you don’t count the cat), people-watching, world-observing life of a writer, is one of the few remaining occupations where a person might have the opportunity and inclination to reflect honestly on the human condition. And call me cynical, but my current perspective is that many of us are so busy, like a mouse scurrying relentlessly on the wheel in its cage, that we are often too tired to gain any real perspective on events outside the cage, in the wider world.

Living in, and let’s be honest, being a part of the culture of a time-poor, oil-dependent, consumerist nation on a planet where many governments run to the mantra of economic growth, I can’t help wondering what will happen to our planet if this continues unabated. And this is where writing a novel is appealing.  It allows me to take my observations of the world, put them into a washing machine with a basket-load of characters, dump in some green laundry liquid (safe for lawns, of course) and some scenarios which put my characters into conflict, and see what comes out after the spin cycle.  So here’s the magic – I can put my own ‘spin’ on my story.  Will it be ‘economic growth kills the world’? Or will my main character, in all her wisdom, save it?

The Novel 2 class has been valuable in many ways.  I’ve learned much from my peers, particularly from the process of workshopping each other’s writing.  I’ve learned heaps from Tracey – accuse me of sucking up to the teacher, but it’s the truth!  I’ve gained comfort from the fact that I’m not the only one who procrastines (thank you, Pauline), I can aspire to make the writing process itself more enjoyable, as Sarah finds it; and I’m heartily encouraged by Alice finishing her first draft.  Seeing  an ex-student’s just-published novel in class yesterday (The Whisper of Leaves by K.S. Nikakis, published by Allen & Unwin) , was simply inspirational.  It makes me think this writing game might just be worth pursuing after all.




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We learn a lot of things in life and some of the things we learn we can discard along the way—maybe we learnt the wrong lesson, maybe we adopted a technique or two we no longer need, either way, one of the things I’ve learnt along the way that has sticked, is that life is one complicated game. Take three steps forward one minute, three back the next. There are a million cards and you have to keep a watch on which of those you chose to play, at the same time as keeping a watch on some of the other players who just want to play you like a card. And it all boils down to one simple fact—everyone wants the dice in their hands. You can get swept up in moving around the board, so much so that you can lose things along the way, learn to mistrust when you’re cheated and make a few wrong terms because they seemed like the easy or ‘fun’ option at the time. One thing I have always had, is writing. It doesn’t matter if the dice is in my hands or somebody else’s, or if I’m taking four steps back or being dealt the right hand of cards. I’ve always been a writer. I think it’s really important to have an outlet and that’s what writing began as for me, my outlet, my escape, my comfort. Somewhere along the way I realised that I could help other people through writing, I could give a different perspective, or mirror a situation that made them not feel so alone in theirs that is similar. While reaching into myself, I could reach out to others. Between when I left high school and started the course I was acting like a gypsy, just wandering from job to job, I dabbled in a teacher’s aid course that I didn’t get round to completing and, believe it or not, I even tried to join up to the army reserves and I thank God that I didn’t go through with that one. Then someone said to me that I should do what makes me happy. Funny how I never really thought of it like that—it was all about paying the bills and the rent on time, savings accounts etc, etc. I guess I saw writing as some what of a pipe dream and I think I wasn’t exactly alone in that viewpoint. But I signed up to the course and I’ve never done anything that has given me such a deep sense of self satisfaction or been apart of anything that I feel I really belong in. The course has given me so much in terms of skills and getting a little of my stuff out there and it is really validating to be around other writers. On the other side of the coin I have met a brilliant group of friends who I am now very close with and who push me to achieve the best of my ability and take interest in my work. I want to do the BA next year and maybe pursue a career in journalism, but my key interest is in fiction writing and I hope to be able to publish the novel I’ve been working on for quite some time and maybe even the other ideas for novels that are spinning around my head constantly. Overall, I think it’s very important to have an understanding of yourself and of where you want to go and the thing about having a dream is that there’s always going to be someone who will jam the word ‘pipe’ in front ‘dream’. See I don’t see like a game anymore, well sometimes but they are my darker moments, I like to look at it more like a car. You can either take a back seat ride or you can jump up front and get behind the wheel.

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Whinge Whinge

Well, it’s my turn this week to complain about the complexities of writing. If I was to list all the dilemma’s I faced, this post would go on forever (and it probably will). But just to name a few:

My brain ceases to function every time I attempt to write

I can’t imagine anyone who struggles to write more than I do. It has already taken me 15 minutes to write 4 lines so far… and this is just a blog! Can you imagine me trying to work on a chapter for my novel? At the rate that I’m writing at, I’ll probably finish my novel at 65, die from lung cancer from the copious amount of cigarettes that I smoke due to writing-related stress, and my novel will never end up getting published anyway because my manuscript will be stashed away in a basement somewhere, never to be found again. I feel depressed just thinking about it because I know that’s the truth. I wish I was one of those people who could easily write 5000 words a weekYes, I’m talking about you people in my Novel class with your crazy word counts! Sadly, that’s not me. Writing for me is an eternal struggle because I am such a perfectionist where it doesn’t count. I am so picky with each word that goes on the page, whether it sounds good or not and a whole lot of miniscule things. Each time I write a couple of new sentences, I have to read over everything that I’ve written so far just to see whether it’s comprehensible and relevant. Most of the time, I’m not satisfied with it and end up deleting half of what I’ve just written anyway. This process happens throughout the entire time that I’m writing, which means that it probably takes me 3 hours just to write a page. But, I won’t deny that I MIGHT get distracted by things such as tv, instant messenger, the phone and eating. Hehe.

Finding the time and motivation to write

From what I’ve heard, this seems to be a problem for most people. I know that this is definitely the case for me. After much denial, I’m ready to admit that my problem is that I can’t prioritise. I would rather put my social life ahead of school work. But I mean, who would want to spend their weekend doing homework and assignments instead of going out? Even if I had the intention of staying in one weekend to catch up on school work, it never ends up working out because one of my friends will call to tempt me with glamorous promises of dancing, alcohol and good music. By the next morning, I would wake up looking like a “demon” (as Sarah would say), with blisters on my feet and a really bad hangover. So that’s a typical weekend. Then there’s work, school and other commitments that manage to pop-up on the weekdays. I don’t even want to imagine what all the mother’s in our course go through!

The Procrastinator

This has got to be the worst. After all, I am writing this blog at 8pm. It seems to be the story of my life though. I’ll forever be running out the door because I’m late for something, or leaving stuff to the very last minute. It’s not that I necessarily work best when I’m under pressure, it just seems to be the only time that I get anything done. It’s just that I always end up finding something else that I’d rather do than working on the assignment that’s due in a week. The way I see it is, there’s always time for it later. It’s really dumb, I know, because the smart person’s philosophy would be to get it out of the way so that you’ve got the rest of the time to do whatever you want and not have to worry about it. I’ve tried to adopt that strategy but I couldn’t stick with it for long. It’s so difficult to change your approach to things when you’ve been doing it all your life. As they say, “old habits never die!”

Well, whoever told me back in highschool that writers have the life because all they do is sit at home and “write stuff that sounds good”you have ruined my life! Oh, the deception!

Pauline Ung

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Deep image poetry

Last week in Poetry 2, we dipped our toes into the puddle of deep image poetry. An interesting exercise for those of us who have to work long and hard at conjuring effective imagery in our poems. Deep image poems use simple but strong words – colour, nature, body parts – to create a picture for the reader. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Except for the bit where you’re supposed to write from the ‘unconscious’ and let it all flow. What you end up with is something that doesn’t make sense unless you’ve been in a windowless white room for a couple of days. An example of mine below.

i washed my blue knees with a shower of eyes

barren of fire, steel bolts in my veins

i pushed out my nose, covered in tree

and stood by the road while the rocks marched by

i remembered to breathe, to follow the line

and remembered the vows of an eskimo pair

i watched it all on a flickering screen

inside the bare walls

of a pink and grey ball

Trudy Campbell 

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