In the space of a week I encountered a synchronicity of experiences relating to creative writing. On Sunday 26th October I heard the author, Fiona MacIntosh, speak about her research for her newest novel, “Nightingale”. She talked of the masterclasses she had engaged in with Bryce Courtenay, having only started writing 14 years ago, and gave her audience great encouragement to write the story within them. Later the same week, I heard the ABC891 Drivetime Presenter, Michael Smyth, speak with someone about the NaNoWriMo phenomenon – National Novel Writing Month – which has spread internationally. NaNoWriMo encourages people to write everyday for the month of November, commencing a novel and completing the month with 50000 words. When I heard of this my immediate thought was that it was likely to spur my younger daughter to get back into her passion for creative writing. I shared the concept with her, and offered to write also as a writing buddy and encourager. I never thought I had it in me to write creatively, especially for a public forum. However here I am at Day 4 having written 6500 words of a novel focussing on life in the Middle East. I cannot believe the excitement I am experiencing as I write. I write before I go to sleep at night. I write before I get out of bed in the morning. I write in the afternoon. And the words keep flowing. It is a new and thrilling experience for me – the process of creatively expressing myself in the printed word.
As if to affirm this, on Conversations with Richard Feidler on ABC891 at 11am today contained an interview with the wife of the late Bryce Courtenay. She was speaking of Bryce’s book, A Silver Moon, being published posthumously. The book is not a novel. It is Bryce’s writing, when he didn’t have a deadline to meet, a novel to produce. He believed it was necessary to have people in all generations writing. If the writing results in a published book it serves the nation as a product. It provides continuing work for people in the publishing chain, and promotes the written word, which serves the future as a record of the history of our society.
I have written weekly to my parents, since leaving Melbourne with my family in December 1978, apart from holiday breaks although I would always send a postcard. Even when I lived in the Middle East, I wrote emails to them through my sister. I thrive on their letter every week, and I know the feeling is mutual. Through my letters, recalling events of our lives, shared memories, news of their great-grandchildren, and travelogues of our trips into the outback, I have written as if I was talking with them over coffee.
I found when I set myself to begin writing my Middle Eastern novel, which I now realise has been percolating in me since living there from November 2008 to April 2010, that I was able to let the words flow, as if I was retelling a story to my parents. I am not writing critically, or allowing myself to be controlled the inner editor my daughter speaks of. I have no grandiose plans that this will be a best selling novel and will secure my future for me.
It is part of my ongoing learning since retiring that the mantra “I must be productive and achieve” is a disservice to a balanced life and a healthy mind. It is sufficient to be kind, to be helpful, and creative just for my own personal expression and well being. My focus is on living a simple life now, being a social activist through social media, and appreciating the ordinariness of each day.
So I am returning to my blog with a new enthusiasm – to record my reflections about life, just for the sake of enjoying the process of writing.