Sunday, September 7, 2008

Well, it's been a while. Guess I'm not so good at the daily blog thing. Last week my story 'This Old Man' was published in Award Winning Australian Writing and I spoke at the launch. I talked about the autobiographical nature of the story, or at least its autobiographical basis, and I suggested rather sweepingly that all stories are autobiographical, even if they are in costume, so to speak. Perhaps it was a statement that needed more explanation, since subsequent contributors got up to talk about how their stories had nothing to do with their own lives. Perhaps my original statement was a little extreme, a little provocatively put. But I think there's a defensible point there. All stories must come from our own inner life, whether or not they follow the factual details of our life story. Perhaps it might have been better to say that autobiography is the richest source of stories we have available, and that even the stories we tell that have no superficial relation to our own lives are informed at a hidden level by the experiences that have shaped us into who we are. Enough said.

Thanks owing to my writing group - a little band of former contributors to the Sleepers Almanac who have taken to meeting monthly to workshop our stuff. They gave me some incredibly valuable help with the story that eventually became 'Salt' and which I have now submitted to the Boroondara Literary Awards. I'm not expecting first prize again, but it might rate a commendation or something, who knows?

I've made something of a discovery this weekend - writing freehand is a far better way for me to develop a first draft that writing on a computer. It has something to do with the messy imperfection of my handwriting - mine more than most, let me tell you! - and the fact that there is no capacity to cut and paste, or go back to obsessively 'refine' what I just wrote. My notebooks are turning out to be a far richer source of ore for stories than the innumerable fragments I have in the 'abandoned' and 'in progress' folders on my hard drive. I often love the stuff I stumble on in my notebooks, but frequently find the computer stuff to be lifeless.

Something else I have learned is that meditation helps my writing. It is not only the ability to focus in on the core of one's experience tat meditation teaches, but the discipline of staying with. I find there is a moment (well, in fact, many moments) in writing at which there is an impulse to spring away, to make a cup of tea, tidy my room, check my emails, whatever - anything to escape the discipline of staying with the work. This occurs even when I am on a roll. There is a part that kicks in saying, 'Okay, well done, that's enough for now.' The precise same impulse occurs in meditation - a restless desire to jump up, or at least to escape from the discipline of concentration into some line of fantasy or meandering thought. Meditation is teaching me the importance of pushing through these impulses, going deeper, staying inside the discipline of writing.

Yesterday was a good writing day - I riffed on the theme of a lost lover and found myself moving into a state of poetic intensity, a sort of rhapsodic, hypnotic lyricism. I stand by my statement about autobiography - our personal experiences of loss and love must be the well from which such creative outpourings come. Our writing always reflects the state of mind it was written in. We cannot write with life and passion and originality about things that we cannot experience from the inside.

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