Peeling the Onion



Write Reasons for Writing

A carefree wanderer stands on the roadside with his bundle and staff, extending a hopeful smile and a thumb. He is young, free of responsibility and eager to explore the world beyond his front gate. Along comes a peddler whose beguiling smile and charismatic charm lures him. The peddler whispers softly 'I can see that you have something important to say. You have a book in you. Buy this pen and paper...'

Filled with the warming thought of fame, fortune and immortality, of being a famous author, the wanderer parts with the last of his cash, finds a spot under an old Yew tree and prepares to write. Anxious to be effective, to meet the standards of other authors, to impress people, the youth stops to think. From deep within comes the rumbling of voices. Mother and father archetypes boom out, the various authority figures queue up to have their say. Jeering voices of teachers, critics, family rumble. His hand is frozen....

Few writers would fail to recognize this all too familiar journey. The blocker is clearly identifiable. It is our twentieth century materialism and idealization of cult-like figures which makes us feel that you can only really call yourself a writer when you write the great novel, that unless we are 'shown the money' there is no point writing or painting.

After years of writing and working with students with low self esteem it is my view that even if nothing we write is ever published and if none of us make a single cent out of writing we will still have gained immeasurably. Writing is a gift and I have been honored to have been given the gift of words.

As a teacher of writing it is humbling to share space with fellow writers, each unique and talented and to see the truth. The truth is that when we dissolve the myth that only authors write and we prove that writing is an important means of self expression, available to all, we free the creative impulse and give it wings. When we let go and are carefree, reckless and have some fun with words we see that our writing not only strengthens our soul, but that the act of writing actually makes us feel better. It is then that the critic is silenced, the hand thaws and the pen moves freely across the page and pearls of wisdom emerge.

Kristy, a former Year 12 student, helped me really appreciate this fundamental law of writing. The first line she showed me when we wrote about the important trees in our lives was in her writing workbook. The first sentence captured my interest. "Only a stump remained of what was once an old wattle tree" I knew then that she had the power to transport me to another place and that she was a storyteller. I expressed my optimism..

The sentence turned into a paragraph. "Only a stump remained of what was once an old wattle tree. For many years the tree was alive, thrashing the weight of its branches with the seasonal wind and oozing its vital juices. Like hot lava after a volcanic eruption this golden juice dribbled down the branches.."

I knew then and there that Kristy really could write. She could see with a human eye and describe what she saw truthfully. She put words onto the page which not only described what she saw and felt, but which transported me to her front yard. She did not feel the need to impress me with big words, yet she impressed me with her perspective. She felt pleased that she had found words to describe this significant wattle tree.

When Kirsty read her work out to the class they were equally impressed and she glowed with new pride. The respect of her peers meant an enormous amount to her, far more than my opinion. But, perhaps more importantly, Kirsty learned that when she wrote her truth, used her own words, people sat up and listened and she felt a whole lot better.

Ultimately we must remember that there are many other reasons to write other than to be heralded as an author. When the Romantic poets wrote sonnets the intrinsic reward was that writing enabled them. It helped them to express strong emotions. They came to understand love and identified feeling which are real for all of us. They offered a fresh perspective - shed new light on love and felt better for having done so.

In a world full of writers seeking the spotlight; in a world where print runs limit the opportunity to publish work in the traditional manner; in a world bombarded with information through the Web and other outlets, I urge people who love and respect the power of writing to forget about becoming a famous author and undertake a far more rewarding journey. I tell them to write because their writing will help them understand and come to terms with their world. It helps them to

discover their true self
access the creative impulse
become generous, joyful, compassionate
find truth and beauty
reveal that they do have something to say that others want to hear
release pent up feelings
discover the thread that links us all

To test my point try some of the following exercises

Upset or Angry?
Try stream of consciousness writing. Let whatever is really screaming out in your mind pour on to the pages of your journal. Your journal is a safe haven, a place where you can debrief and refocus. It is a good place to unload a burden or cheer yourself up. Remember that it is the load of carrying anger which can make you feel frustrated or angry. Unload the anger onto the page.

Lonely or Isolated?
Write to five people who you think would be pleased or surprised to hear from you. Send a note to anyone who you think cares about you and will respond. Try to be positive and share moments from the past that inspire you. Thank them for something. Trust me! You will be surprised by the response.

Alternatively, buy a lovely greeting card and write an encouraging note to yourself, using the voice that you might use to comfort a friend. Add postage and get a work mate or friend to post it at some time in the future. You will be surprised by just how powerful this act of kindness is.

Make a shopping list of your particular worries. Make sure that they are all there. Take one worry and examine it very closely. Try drawing what your worry looks like and where it is in your body. I defy the worry to remain large once you put it under the microscope. Given that the microscope enlarges things tell yourself that it is smaller than you thought.

Now consider what is most important about what you have actually written on the page. List the personal gain of doing this kind of writing.