Wide windows and a wet, wet spring – Creativity flowering in Braidwood

November 16, 2022 at 8:16 pm | Posted in art, arts and health, Australian novels, creative cross-fertilisation, creative synergy, creativity, gardening, Inequality, media negativity, optimism, Simplifying, sustainable living | Leave a comment
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Why garden? Why write? …

‘Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.’ American writer Edith Wharton said that and I think of it often since moving to the country. These days, still in La Nina, our well overflowing and the creek rushing and rising as rain continues to fall, drinking the day can take on a literal sense!

The garden is jungly and a deep, glossy green, with everything flowering in this wet, wet spring. Some plants flourish but it’s hard to keep others alive if they don’t like their feet wet, yet must stand in waterlogged soil. Then again, as Edith Wharton’s compatriot May Sarton reminds us: ‘A garden is always a series of losses, set against a few triumphs, like life itself.’

Writing too is like this, with many rejections to set against one’s few triumphs. With the uncertainty, rejection and loss, why do we garden, why do we write? – For the joy of creative expression. While submitting my novel (A Late Flowering) I’ve been working on a new one – to dive into during my next writer’s residency in Nov-Dec. 2022. Just after the last OS writing residency we plunged into Covid lockdowns. During the subsequent enforced lack of social life, and therefore writing on a deeper level than ever before, I made a discovery: how to structure a novel. A Late Flowering is the result, and this new one will also benefit. Structure was the weakness in my fiction writing (and I sometimes wondered if it was related to the same neural short-circuit or shortcoming that also deprives me of a sense of direction).

Structuring non-fiction books is reasonably straightforward. Structuring a novel is so much more elusive. And it’s vital. Structure is to novel-writing what location is to real estate. It’s not simple. Except for genre novels, which I don’t write, there’s no template since each novel is different, but I’ll go to Ireland again with this new understanding, so can anticipate achieving exciting things.

Stimulating creativity

And travel is so stimulating. I don’t even feel guilty for the air miles – for a couple of decades I couldn’t afford to go overseas, at a time when many people I knew were going once a year. When I return I can also incorporate some new ideas into another series of Kick-Start Your Creativity workshops (late Jan. to Feb. 2023). See https://www.bragart.com.au

Each workshop is different and all result in exciting discoveries as participants gradually find their voice. To share with students some techniques to tap into their creative flow and then sit back and listen as they discover in themselves treasures previously hidden – what could be more rewarding? And then to top off the joy of seeing people’s potential bloom, some use their talent to spark creative ideas off one another in a kind of synergy of synaesthesia.

On Sunday 13 November two students, Barbara Gilby and Elizabeth Ganter, who had met in the last workshop series, played the violin and guitar respectively in a flawlessly beautiful concert accompanying the exhibition, ‘Colour in Print’ in another student Cheryl Hannah’s gallery, Fyre Gallery. See https://www.fyregallery.com/

Riches beyond measure

I find this creative cross-fertilisation of ideas uplifting and expansive. In a world where more and more people’s lives are manipulated, degraded and impoverished by algorithms driven by the pathological greed of billionaires, we know that we are rich indeed in comparison to either group. I know that I am richer than Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk because I know that I have enough. And I have time to write and time to teach – but not enough time to do much more than list the best books I’ve read this month!

Chloe Hooper’s Bedtime Story (Scribner, 2022) is about helping our children (and ourselves) through uncertainty and loss by the mysterious power of story-telling. This book has the feeling of a classic in its timeless depth and beauty. It will stay with you, this deceptively simple narrative of the author wrangling the hardest thing we have to face: ‘…that time will come and take my love away’ (Shakespeare, Sonnet 64).

Jennifer Down’s Bodies of Light (Text, 2021), awarded this year’s Miles Franklin, takes readers on a mesmerising journey through loss and identity, pain and resilience, over two continents and several decades, to arrive at a final, hard-won self-acceptance.

And last but far from least, The Other Half of You by Michael Mahommed Ahmad. Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award (and how impossible it must have been for the judges to choose between this brilliant novel and Jennifer Down’s winning one!) The Other Half of You has not only arresting and original writing on every page, it’s in virtually every phrase! An important book, about love, family, racism and politics. Beautifully written, totally engaging – and funny as well. I thought this was a towering achievement, a book of the mind and the heart that you will remember long after you finish it.

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