Tag Archives: writer

Why Write?

“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a POLITICAL purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.”

-George Orwell, Why I Write

Among all of the questions writers chew over and recycle, the one I keep coming back to both in my own mind and in the works of other writers is this: “Why do I write?”

Here I am reading at about age 5 or 6...good preparation for becoming a writer.

Here I am reading at about age 5 or 6…good preparation for becoming a writer.

While plagued with writer’s block or struggling to rub two coins together, we really do have to wonder why we do it to ourselves. Why don’t we just go and get a real job?

Why, indeed.

Yet, when things are going well and we are in the zone and each and every one of our senses is fully activated and alive and the most amazing stuff just flows onto the page and we actually resolve some of those inner conundrums and make real progress then we know. We know why we put ourselves through it.

Reciting my poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris in July, 1992. I had a little black book with my poems in.

Reciting my poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris in July, 1992. I had a little black book with my poems in.

There is no more thrilling adventure than the creative journey. Whether it is expressed in words, paint, photography, fabric etc; the creative journey is incredibly thrilling and stretches our imagination, knowledge and often even our physical body beyond what we ever thought possible. It is pure electricity.

Writing poetry at the Hotel Henri IV, Paris July 1992. Love this photo!

Writing poetry at the Hotel Henri IV, Paris July 1992. Love this photo!

So why do I write?

I write because I am a writer. Writing is what I do. For me, writing is like breathing. I’ve been doing it seriously since I was a teenager reciting dreadful poetry about romantic rejection on the bus after school. Indeed, since I was 11 years old and Mum taught me how to spell enthusiastic and gave me my Roget’s Thesaurus. I knew, even way back then, that I wanted to be a writer! I knew who I was.

Writing in my journal while waiting to see my rheumatologist. What are the results going to be? Jan 2014.

Writing in my journal while waiting to see my rheumatologist. What are the results going to be? Jan 2014.

However, pursuing that further, why is writing like breathing for me when for someone else, it’s more like a heart attack and they’d struggle to write more than a paragraph in a life time? What determines that distinction? What makes me write and write and write. Indeed, to keep writing long after my physical body has all but fallen asleep just to get the story out? Yet, that someone else can live quite happily without ever writing a word.

Foot Writer

Foot Writer- all pose, of course!

But out of where? My head? My heart? My soul? Moreover, is it even my story to tell or does it belong to the muse? God? Where are all these ideas coming from?

Isn’t that one of our eternal conundrums and part of the writer’s quest? !!

Writing in my journal at Palm Beach yesterday. I was so focused on the view I didn't even notice the DVD player on the table. I was in the zone.

Writing in my journal at Palm Beach yesterday. I was so focused on the view I didn’t even notice the DVD player on the table. I was in the zone.

Moving on a little further, is there a distinction between someone who writes privately for themselves and those writers who see writing is as a vocation and for them, if they don’t publish, they shall surely perish?

Personally, I do believe that writing with a view to publication is a different ball game and I guess this is why I am getting to  with this title. Why jump through hoops and push yourself beyond survival in the same way a marathon runner  pushes their mind, body and spirit beyond breaking point with the faith (or is it simply hope) of reaching the finish line. For writers, financial security is usually a pipe dream and we somehow survive on thin air and relationships with our nearest and dearest can become severely strained as our focus fixates on the laptop, word count and the intricacies of fictional characters instead of those we say we love. After all, writing usually demands silence or at least a sense of peace and that really doesn’t sit well with physical human interaction.

What follows is a big of a debate: Why write: the case against and Why Write: the Affirmative. I’d love to generate a bit a discussion happening so please comment, debate, disagree and provide links to relevant posts

This has been W for Why Write for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

xx Rowena

WordPressers Taking Up the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge

If you have been following me lately, you would have noticed that I’m taking part in the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge, which you can find at: http://www.a-zchallenge.com/

Everyday in April, except for Sundays when we get to sleep through, we blog about a different letter of the alphabet.

Many participants have a theme, which is a fantastic approach to the challenge and I’ve been enjoying reading about nautical and travel themes as well as enjoying vicarious travels through the amazing Galapagos Islands and Maine.

As this is the first time I’ve participated in the challenge, I didn’t have a theme prepared but have subsequently decided to write about my favourite things. My posts are deliberately infused with an Australian feel. I am proud to be Australian and for me sharing the uniqueness of where we live and who we are, is such a feature of blogging. We put our shoes out for our readers to step inside and walk around in our skin. See through our eyes perhaps, even be us for a bit. I have also found connections and similarities and perhaps even a repressed inner voice in the blogs I’ve read and I hope that through reading my writing that my readers have that experience as well. I find blogging is very much a dialogue and not a one way street. After all, that is what public forms of writing are about and blogging is much more about interaction and conversation that just telling, informing and being the omnipotent author. We have come out of our ivory towers, left behind our thrones and are now mingling with the people…even if that mostly includes mainly hoards of other writers!

Here I am during the challenge. Take note of the haircut. It had taken me so long to get back to the hairdresser's that my fringe had grown out!!

Here I am during the challenge. Take note of the haircut. It had taken me so long to get back to the hairdresser’s that my fringe had grown out!!

Even though I wasn’t sure quite what I was going to write about for the A-Z Challenge, I decided that it had to have meaning. That I didn’t want to just rattle off a whole heap of meaningless posts just to match the letter of the day and would just end up looking like excerpts from the dictionary…Boring!

So I have more or less decided to write about some of my favourite things and I’m infusing my posts with an Australian flavour. After all, I am Australian to the core and being Down Under, does give us an alternative perspective on things. Indeed, more than just the seasons are a little topsy turvy.

So far, I have written about:

A: The Acorn: a poem about my son growing up: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/the-acorn/

B: Byron Bay: Australia’s Alternative Paradise: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/byron-bay-australias-alternative-paradise/

C: Chocolicious Chocolate: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/c-is-for-chocolate-chocolicious-chocolate/

D: Dogs of the World Unite: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/dogs-of-the-world-unite/

E: Easter is Growing Up:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/easter-grows-up/

F: Freaking Out…in progress

Sunseting over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Sunset over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Anyway, as much as I am enjoying the A-Z Challenge, I am finding it hard to locate other WordPress bloggers and I would much rather stay within the WordPress community where I can build ongoing connections, rather than hopping all over the place on a series of one-off stopover visits. I guess you could say I’m looking for more meaningful, longer term relationships than a series of one night stands. As I thought other WordPress bloggers might be in the same boat, I’ve compiled a list, a rather short list unfortunately, of the WordPress blogs participating in the A-Z Challenge. Please check them out and give some encouragement. There’s some great writing and I guarantee adventure!

So here is a list of other WordPress Bloggers I’ve come across while doing the challenge. Most of them, I’ve followed beforehand but some are new. I would like to expand this list so please add to it and if I have left you off, just add yourself to the comments and I’ll add you in. Please reblog this so we can encourage each other throughout the challenge and hopefully create something much more substantial and enduring.

Here we go:

Beyond the Flow (Me): An Australian’s ramble about some of my favourite things: http://www.beyondtheflow.com

Byrdword’s Blog: A nautical theme https://byrdwords.wordpress.com/

Sayling Away: travels through Maine: https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/

Ronovan Writes: https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/

Elizabeth Hein: Elizabeth is the author of two books and is A-Zing on the Galapagos Islands, the site for her next book.  https://scribblinginthestorageroom.wordpress.com 

TanGental has a travel theme: http://geofflepard.com/

Lilica’s Place: writing about the Bronx: http://lilicasplace.com/

I am Not a Sick Boy: writing about medical issues: http://iamnotsickboy.com/

Conversations Around the Tree: https://treerabold.wordpress.com/

Unchartered: Learn Something New Everyday https://unchartedblogdotorg.wordpress.com/

I hope you manage to at least check a few of those blogs out.

Happy reading!

xx Rowena

Funny Friday: An Afternoon With Australian Actor-Author William McInnes

Last Friday, I was booked into an author talk with two-times Logie-winning Australian actor and author, William McInnes. However, after a huge day on Thursday, I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d make it. There was the trip down to Sydney and the emotionally confronting brain MRI but 5 minutes before my MRI, I also heard the dreadful news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away. Having survived brain surgery myself in the past, his death was pretty confronting. I wasn’t in good shape after all of this and more in the mood for deep hibernation. Yet, I was particularly keen to meet William McInnes and hear his story. There are many, many layers to this man.

Exhausted, sombre and dazed, I arrived at Woy Woy Library and sat in the front row where I could literally reach out and touch him. This was a delightfully small and intimate venue where you’re really up close and personal with the author. I was in seventh heaven!! Here I was inhaling the same air as William McInnes for a precious few hours and you never know quite what impact that will have. If you’ve heard his wild and wacky stories, you’ll know what I mean.

Fisherman's Wharf, Woy Woy, North of Sydney. The pelican perch on the roof waiting for fish from any possible source.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy, North of Sydney. The pelican perch on the roof waiting for fish from any possible source.

Fisherman's Wharf, Woy Woy.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy.

If you’re not Australian, you might not realise that Woy Woy is a bit of an unlikely location for an author talk of any sort let alone by a two-times Logie-winning actor and best-selling author. Although Graeme Simsion author of the Rosie Project recently spoke up here, Woy Woy is better known as being home to Spike Milligan’s Mum, having the best fish & chips and for its flocks of hungry, aggressive pelicans self-educated in the fine art of food theft. They’ll snatch your bag of fish & chips straight out of your hand without so much as an apology. That said, there has been quite an influx of refugees from Sydney and Woy Woy is becoming more eclectic.

It is no understatement that McInnes literally burst into the room converting this humble space into a stage…his stage. This man has presence…serious presence. There was gag after gag after gag.

William McInnes in uniform in the hit Australian TV series Blue Heelers.

William McInnes in uniform in the hit Australian TV series Blue Heelers.

After watching McInnes for years on the hit TV cop series, Blue Heelers, I at least thought I knew how he looked. However, the man who entered the room didn’t match up. His reddish hair was grey. He was exceptionally tall and he was casually dressed. I think I’m used to seeing him in uniform. Police uniform, that is. While he cracked jokes about his middle-aged spread, he still has the physique of the male lead and has been cast opposite glamorous beauties including actresses Sigrid Thornton and Claudia Karvan.

Actor and author William McInnes.

Actor and author William McInnes.

McInnes was there to promote his new book Holidays. I was there not only because of his professional credentials but also because he has publicly spoken and written about his wife, Sarah Watts’ heroic battle with breast cancer, which finally claimed her life around 3 years ago. They co-wrote a book: Worse Things Happen At Sea. I haven’t read this book yet because I needed a bit of a laugh after the last few weeks. Instead, I’m reading: A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby. I was told this book was hilarious, as is McInnes.

Indeed, I found him too funny. We all know about the clown and the tear and I’ve noticed in my own writing that the worse it gets, the funnier I become. When someone is exceptionally funny, I think you’re almost obligated to look for the scar tissue. More than likely, it won’t even be concealed beneath the surface. You’ll see it. Hear it. Even feel its pulse.

However, according to his wife, McInnes has always had a gift for comedy and after seeing him in action, I have no doubt that he’d even do well in that bear pit of stand-up.

While some author talks can get a little dry, McInnes rolled off tale after hilarious tale about his childhood growing up in Queensland’s Redcliffe, a popular beach suburb and on various family holidays. Much of this humour revolves around his father who makes your average embarrassing Dad look like a boring pussy cat.

1970s Barber shop: home of the short back and sides.

1970s Barber shop: home of the short back and sides.

One of my favourite stories was about when he went to get a haircut which, of course, turned out to be no ordinary haircut. If you lived through the 70s, you’ll know that the generational gap wasn’t just about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It was also about hair. Usually his mum gave him a haircut but she was busy so she sent him down to the local barber’s with the presumption that he’d return with the usual mandatory, short back and sides. However, it transpired that the barber shop had recently been re-birthed as a unisex hair salon, a new and intriguing development back in the 1970s when getting your haircut was like going to the toilet. There was the men’s, the ladies’ and nothing in between. Definitely no fraternization!

Anyway, McInnes goes into the salon and spots this hot girl he’d seen at the local rollerskating rink. At this point, all sense and reason evaporate and he’s putty in her precious, manicured hands. “Would you like a perm?” She asks. Being a little naive and nothing of a fashion plate, McInnes didn’t know what a perm was but swooning in her orbit, he agrees. Looking something like Goldilocks, with fear and trepidation, he headed home.

Now, you can just imagine how his father, who is renowned for his colourful vernacular, responds to this development. A WWII ex-serviceman, he was far from impressed. He tells him: “When I was your age, I was jumping out of planes chasing Germans”. The kids at school screamed: “Let’s get Horshack” (a character from this his 1970s series Welcome Back Cotter with an afro) There was also a hilarious run in with one of his school priests which I can’t even begin to relate. A bloke having a perm was beyond the pale! The whole experience was even too weird for McInnes. He soon shaved it off and his Dad was happy: “That’s a real man’s haircut”.

His memoir: A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby is full of such stories. The funniest I’ve come across so far, relates about  when he needed to go to the toilet on the way to his football match. They pulled into the service station and Dad reminds him to watch his mouth. After all, back in the day, it wasn’t polite to say you needed to go to the toilet. Oh no! Like many families, they used a swag of euphemisms instead. Out of respect to his mother’s sensitivities, at home they called it: “going goggers”, which in the great tradition of Australian speech, was abbreviated to: “I go gogg goggs.” You can just imagine why the poor petrol station attendant was so confused! He continues:

“Dad must have seen me having trouble from the lime-green ute and flung open the door. He tried to make things clearer. “For Christ’s sake…the boy wants to go goggers.. Goggers…gog…gogs…”

Still no comprehension from the attendant… ‘Listen, chief, the boy has to back out a mullet…Oh, Jesus wept, he wants to strangle one’…Still the attendant stared, …I whispered, ‘I have to poo. Can I use your toilet, please?’My father poked me with a finger. The attendant gave me a key. Dad growled. ‘Don’t let your mother hear you talk like that.”[1]

Let me reassure you that this is not how the average Australian speaks. We usually ask for “the throne” although we’re quite capable of using the word “toilet” in public these days. After all, it’s only natural!

As you can imagine, after all these laughs, I was not longer feeling lugubrious and had cheered up. Humour really does work magic.

While it really is impossible to separate William McInnes actor and author from the William McInnes husband and father who lost his wife,  this journey requires further work and consideration. I don’t want to do a rush job but give their story the time it deserves. It is a journey that our family is potentially walking although I seem to have more lives than a proverbial cat. I seem to be doing pretty well.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

xx Rowena

[1] McInnes, William; A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby, Hodder Australia, Sydney, 2006 pp 38-39.

Prelude to the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2014

Every year I live and breathe for the Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF). It is my one big chance to glean the expertise of published writers and to meet and hang out with other writers in a suitably arty venue. You just look at this crowd and you can tell they know how to write… or they’re avid readers and certainly not the types to simply hoard books beside the bed. Oh no! They actually read them! That’s because most of them are wearing black or perhaps a vintage frock from some by-gone era be it the 50s, 60s, 70s but definitely not the 80s. You definitely don’t see 80’s gear out at the SWF. It’s still very out! Out! Out!

Each year, the SWF begins when the program appears in the Sydney Morning Herald. This is a massive call to action. The lift out is crammed full of events and workshops spread over something like a week .First, there’s the once over scan to see what’s on offer and circle anything of interest. Then I go back and choose the ones which really stand out and try to cram as many events as I can into the same day if at all possible. I also have to pace myself, especially this year. I haven’t been out and about all that much and I’m not really sure how far I can push myself without paying a terrible price for it later.

I usually have a near panic attack as I flick through the pages to see what’s on offer and to book in very , very quickly on the very same day that program appears, just to be sure. Last year, I left it til Monday and only just managed to get the very last ticket to attend a workshop with children’s book author Andy Griffiths. That was a very nerve wracking experience as that very last ticket somehow got stuck online and when I rang for assistance, I was told that the workshop had sold out. I had that last ticket stuck out there in cyberspace and the only way I could book it, was to let it go and start my transaction from scratch. I was a frazzled, nervous wreck. If you have ever read an Andy Griffiths book and he writes very dramatic books with very appropriate titles like: Just Doomed. Yes, I was feeling doomed. There was no other word for it. However, despite being more doomed than doomed at times, I also have good luck. Am in the right place at the right time. Yes, I did manage to get that last ticket.

 

When I’d read that Australian cartoonist and living legend Michael Leunig was appearing at the festival, I almost broke into some kind of electrified dance. I was over the moon. I’ve been going to the SWF for 6 years and I was only thinking recently that I’ve never heard him speak. He is probably my all time most favourite writer right up there alongside Keats and Kahlil Gibran who wrote: The Prophet. I really wanted to hear Leunig speak. I have heard so many fantastic Australian and overseas writers share their insights: Dr Anna Haebich (my aunty has to come top of the list), playwright David Williamson, children’s book author Jackie French who wrote The Diary of a Wombat, Andy Griffiths of Just Doomed fame, Morris Gleitzmann. I could be quite a show off except I have paid to meet and listen to all these fabulous writers, so it doesn’t really count.

After flicking the pages back and forth, I’m sorted. This is my program for the week:

Tuesday: 9.30 … Writing Historic Fiction with author Sulari Gentill.

Wednesday: 1.30… Mark Lamprell

Friday: 3.00PM …Michael Leunig

Friday: 4.30PM…Richard Flanagan

I decide to stay in Sydney Monday night and spend Monday researching Surry Hills for “my book”. Ha!

I will be spending almost a week in heaven. Can’t wait!

xx Rowena