1.2 WRITER REIMAGINED
To stand in front of the mirror is to see only a reflection. Is it a start or is it a reflection of the end?
Our mind sees what it wants to see: faults and weaknesses, or strengths and virtues; failure and devolution, or progress and evolution.
We look into this dark glass and overlay shades of memories, reapply scars and wounds.
Stand naked literally and metaphorically.
An examination of what was and is, and perhaps, suggestions of what could be.
An imperfect Polaroid recollection of fragments that when stitched together form an imperfect scrapbook.
A writer’s first impulse is to look inward, to journey within and excavate the self, mining experiences and anecdotes as the foundation for narratives. We use ourselves as a mirror to reflect our own sense of self. That’s where I started my writing journey from.
But I first began as a reader. The beginning of a cycle.
My parents recall the children’s alphabet book I would borrow religiously from the library, “ABC Bunny.” The library had two copies. I would return one and borrow the other. My parents can still recite the text verbatim. Or the time I made my grandfather read Dr Seuss’s “Wacky Wednesday” on a flight between Sydney and Melbourne for the duration of the time in the air. The opening pages are indelibly imprinted on my mind.
My favourite picture book of all time is “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”
In primary school, I devoured Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven, war novels, Asterix and Tintin, Lee Falk’s “The Phantom” comic and Judy Blume (I didn’t realise they were controversial at the time).
It was Lord of the Rings in my last year of primary school that opened up something for me. I skimmed through this weighty tome, not understanding much of it, yet I picked at the crumbs; the hints of that world’s breadth and depth showed me the expansiveness of narrative. Epic arcs of history and characters I wanted to be. In later rereads, the deeper layers of the narrative unfolded and unfurled like a flower (however, I still haven’t managed to finish reading “The Silmarillion”).
I continued to read my way through the fiction shelves in high school: more war novels, contemporary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, more Phantom comics, Judge Dredd and 2000AD. I loved Shakespeare (but didn’t get the dirty jokes until first year uni), Chaucer, the classics such as Conrad’s @Heart of Darkness” (but never finished “Great Expectations” and took a strong dislike to “Huckleberry Finn”).
Reading in cycles; moving in and out of genres from interest and fascination, to engagement and contemplation, or to disinterest and abandonment.
I wanted to write since I was in my teens. A reimagining of the reader who wants to no longer absorb stories but tell them. A new cycle.
I enjoyed creative writing tasks in my high school English classes but didn’t have the wherewithal to make it happen beyond the boundaries and scope of the classroom.
I didn’t pursue it. I dabbled. Wrote in journals. Scribbled the odd thing here and there. Wrote lots of letters to friends in the pre-Internet age. And yet didn’t grasp the power of what writing could do and be for decades.
Desire without action is watching your breath in winter.
Why did I start writing? How did I reimagine myself as a writer? What was the prompt that pushed me to consider writing?
My writing focus was inspired by parables. Initially the ones in the Gospels but followed up by writer Adrian Plass whose first novel mimicked the famous title of “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾”. It was Plass’s novels and non-fiction works that made me want to write. I understood the power of a story to communicate a meaning, a message, a lesson. It was the summation of what I had read before, and continue to read, but gave the focus for why I wrote.
The power of a story to teach.
The power of a story to convey the richness of human emotion and experience.
To attempt to capture the sublime in the framework of words that are so limited in some respects and yet have the scope to be stretched beyond the limits of imagination and understanding.
Narrative helps me understand myself and the world around me because I am theologian at heart, using Anselm’s oft-quoted phrase: “fides quaerens intellectum” (faith seeking understanding) as a constant reference point.
Words. Imperfect vehicles for the truths and yet cherished and treasured like gold and diamonds when the echo of eternity sounds in the deepest parts of our hearts and minds.
As Jodi said last week, “What we can forget is the conceptual power of narrative is greater than the fiction we create.”
We move to reimagining ourselves as parables; stories to learn from. Not every story we create is a parable in its truest sense but every story we create is a search for meaning.
And I let it remain fallow for too many years. Looking at parched soil, waiting for rain but not planting seeds. I was prodigal with time (still am to a point). It’s hard to look back at the time that was wasted and not feel intense regret for not pursuing something I wanted to but never pushed myself to try.
2009 was the year I decided I had to position myself as ‘writer’. I had to reimagine myself as to who I am as a writer. I have had to ask myself, “What type of writer am I?”
In the decade since, how has the costume of ‘writer’ manifested itself?
- Notebooks of bones and half-assembled IKEA furniture.
- A half-written novel composed during long service leave but never finished.
- Short stories started, finished, edited, rewritten, redrafted, abandoned.
- Squares of Post-It Notes containing poetry.
- Blackout poetry. Erasure poetry. Zentangle poetry.
- Handwritten stories on scraps of paper.
- Weekly prompts at Write Anything.
- A collaborative Choose Your Own Adventure project.
- An invitation to write for the Write Anything blog.
- Three short stories published. A few poems and vignettes also published.
- A novella finished and on track for publication later this year.
- A question of whether I wrote letters as a teenager leading to a collaborative epistolary novel that will be published this year.
At some point I am sure I envisioned the concept of ‘Writer’ as one who stood on a high cleft, legs astride, hands on hips while a cape billowed out behind majestically. (Then the wind changes and the cape wraps itself around your face and all sense of mystique is quelled).
As every year moves through its cycle, I have to reimagine what writing looks like for me in conjunction with the vagaries of life that have robbed and returned. Manifestos and creeds and mission statements and goals written about why I write become apocryphal gospels, no longer canon, merely whispers in the wind.
We change, grow, evolve, stagnate, wither, flourish.
We return to the same self with each cycle; a constant story being written and rewritten.
With each ending and beginning of the cycle we turn a new page, conscious of what has some before, hopeful of what is to come.
This is the writer reimagined.