We Name The World With Words

Sydney Writers’ Festival provided me with pure literary nourishment across a breadth of written forms – that at first glance may seem unrelated to copywriting. However, just as taste may seem a given topic to cover when writing about food, MasterChef winner Adam Liaw says writing about taste is boring; food is about the total experience so humour me, if you will, for a moment.

From non-fiction and fiction to poetry, I explored the full gamut of language with Australia’s best-known authors, journalists, critics and poets.

In the session Slicing, Dicing, Writing chefs and restauranteurs, Rick Stein and Adam Liaw; food writer Andrew Lewins; and restaurant critic Miffy Rigby discussed food writing from menus to marketing, trends in cookery books, blogs, and celebrity chefs.

The language of love and infatuation was presented beautifully by author Robert Dessaix in What Are Days For. Keeping It Real: Realistic Issues in Young Adult Fiction was discussed by Young Adult authors: Laurie Halse Anderson, Melina Marchetta, Erin Gough and Barry Jonsberg. In Family Matters authors Kate Grenville, Barrie Cassidy and Ramona Koval told of their experiences on the ethics of writing about family for memoir. While in The World In Three Poets, acclaimed poets Les Murray, David Malouf and Ben Okri wove their spell with the music and beauty of words in rhythmic lines.

Each written form and genre can be relevant to commercial writing because each can fire the imagination and inspire a new perspective that can be adapted, repurposed or simply used as a muse. In the business of copywriting, we write stories for many brands across diverse industry sectors and forms. Whether it’s a headline, a new product or an engaging story about a service, communication wears many hats and has many voices that can either reach the high notes of soprano or be way off key. Take food; according to Rick Stein, when writing a menu it’s about getting emotional meaning into a small space, which is a bit like writing a headline or a new product name.

It’s good practice to read across all genres in order to improve your writing, and to discover what kind of stories lull you. You will notice that each form has its own unique language. Young Adult fiction is a prime example; this age group share a very specific language. Barry Jonsberg said when he read about a group of teen boys in a sports locker room telling each other to “Rack off!” he knew instinctively this wasn’t the language they would really use, but was the result of a publisher’s conservative editing! I take my cues from dialogue in fiction; finding the right tone of a person’s authentic voice is a little like finding the right voice for a brand. Does it ring true or sound fake?

Developing fictive characters is similar to building brands. Like characters, brands have shape, personality, and are all very different; some use humour and sarcasm, some seduce, while others are serious. They spring into life when they speak – visually and verbally. Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson said that during the process of writing a novel, the story begins when the characters begin to whisper to her. While I don’t claim to have experienced brands actually whisper to me, I love the sentiment.

Poetry, in all its flowery mystery and romance, may seem like an irrelevant or inaccessible form. And yet, as Ben Okri so eloquently defined it: “poetry is the beauty of simple things that tell the truth of human experience.” It’s not all romance and flowers either, Australian poet Les Murray talks about taboos such as depression and autism. Poetry is a way of expressing reality in all its beauty, ugliness and difficulty.

As Okri said:

“We name the world with words. Words have a great impact on our consciousness. They spark the imagination, and have a magnifying effect.”

 

This blog post was written and published on behalf of Zadro: http://zadroagency.com.au/marketing/we-name-the-world-with-words

 

Is Writing More Destructive Than Creative?

phoenix fire

 

 

 

 

 

I read something yesterday that surprised me and got me thinking. I’ve always thought of writing as a creative pursuit, particularly fiction, which in my book (if you’ll pardon the pun) is all about the imagination. Karl Ove Knausgaard, award winning Norwegian super star author of the six volume series My Struggle, says writing is more about destroying than creating.

How in the world does he come to this bizarre and rather bleak conclusion?

Knausgaard says a prerequisite for literature is forcing the subject of the writing into a form. Knausgaard admits that adhering to the structure according to expectations and ‘rules’ of that particular genre, is, particularly difficult when writing about something or someone close to you. With reference to his tell-all autobiographical My Struggle, it was tricky for him to submit this material to a form as he was too close to it.

So out of frustration and refusal to conform to literary conventions, he created a new form — categorised sometimes as a novel, sometimes as an autobiography — it is the most unique piece of writing I have read.

 According to Knausgaard, if any of literature’s other elements are stronger than form — such as plot, theme, style — and take control of form, the results are poor. That’s why, he says, writers with a strong theme or style often write poor books. Themes and styles have to be broken down before literature can come into being. This breaking down is called writing. And that is why writing is more about destroying than creating.

 

While I can see his point I still believe that writing is essentially creation not destruction. Writing is drawing the essence of what we know out of the shadows; of allow our imagination to blossom. It’s inspiring and positive not negative and destructive.

Perhaps to retain authenticity and stoke the flames of creativity, more writers need to push the boundaries of genre expectations, and, like Knausgaard, be the phoenix; who throws the rule book into the fire to create something truly different.

Do you agree with Knausgaard that writing is more destructive than creative? Can you think of any examples where strong themes or styles control the form and are detrimental to the book?

Best wishes (and happy writing!)

Tina

 

References

Karl Ove Knausgaard, A Death In The Family, My Struggle: 1, Vintage Books 2013

 

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

JK Rowling The Casual VacancyBook Review 4 *

The Casual Vacancy

J K Rowling

2012 Little, Brown

 

The global phenomenon of Rowling’s Harry Potter series was always going to be a tough gig to beat. The Casual Vacancy is Rowling’s first novel for adults. In stark contrast to the magic of Harry Potter this 500- page novel about provincial English life has been described as ‘remorselessly gritty and mundane’.  Like Potter it involves a school story but The Casual Vacancy lacks any magic or charm. It is raw in its depiction of the horrors that befall the underbelly of society that is The Fields and the shallow lower-middle class Pagford.

I have just got around to reading it after seeing an interview with Rowling a while back, in which she described this novel as a depiction of her own real life experience. It’s hard to believe, now she’s a multi-millionaire, she could have first-hand experience of the deprivation she depicts. Rowling draws on memories from a period in her life in which she found herself financially destitute, living side-by-side with neighbours like the drug-addicted Weedon characters.

I was fascinated, hailing from English working class roots myself and having experienced similar characters in my own neighbourhood and at school, caught in the underbelly; of crime, unemployment, addiction, poverty and welfare—that’s not to say that everyone on welfare is a criminal, addict, or unemployed—sadly, however, many fall through the cracks and do not break the poverty cycle, just like in The Casual Vacancy.

The story is centred around Pagford; a respectable small town in the West Country of England, and the tensions between Pagford and the sprawling council estate of The Fields that border it. When local hero Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, he leaves Pagford reeling in shock. What follows is the cracking open of this seemingly idyllic town into full-scale war: ‘Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…And the empty seat let by Barry on the Parish Council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.’

It took me a while to get into, at first I didn’t find the characters believable and some of the accents adopted by The Fields’ characters seemed a little contrived. I also noticed my judgement coming into play, high expectations of Rowling aka ‘superstar author’. However, Rowling slowly reeled me in to the rough underbelly of the town and its characters. An omniscient narrator—a difficult feat, which is not done so often these days—tells the story from multiple perspectives, cleverly weaving all the characters together through their interaction in Pagford, centred around the school and the local council (denoted by the title and chapters) where they all diverge.

Many people find this novel too depressing, in its depiction of a society so lacking in joy, to be palatable. Child abuse, bullying, self harming, mental illness, death, drug addiction, rape and prostitution are all covered—not to mention racism, sexism, adultery and adoption, thrown in for good measure. The undertones of the book are slicked with a grey lack of hope and desperation, just like the bone-chilling wind and drizzle reminiscent of England! Yet the topics covered are a realistic cross-section of the problems and struggles faced by modern society. Just like life, not every story has the shiny happy ending we envisage, though there is a hint of transformation, of the problems faced by several characters.

Let’s start a discussion – I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

What did you think of this novel?
Can you relate to the town, the characters and the issues they face?
Do you need a happy ending as a reader?
Do you write about your own experiences? Do you write and read about topics close to your heart, or about issues that require exploration and explanation?

 

References
http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/the-casual-vacancy-20121006-2763e.html

 

 

North Korea laid bare – The Orphan Master’s Son

Adam Johnson talked about his book The Orphan Master’s Son at the University of Sydney as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Johnson’s larger-than-life charisma bent my arm to buy his book. The Orphan Master’s Son won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2013. Johnson is also the recipient of The Whiting Writers’ Award, author of Emporium, a short story collection and winner of California Book Award for the novel Parasites Like Us.

The Orphan Master’s Son is an epic narrative, categorised as a thriller, a love story and a political dystopia – compared with classic dystopian novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four. Johnson defines it as a trauma narrative; he specialises in this area of creative writing at Stanford University. Set in recent times in the Communist dictatorship of North Korea, the novel’s complex, multi-voiced narrative is characteristic of a trauma narrative – telling the story out-of-order, fragmented like a broken mirror.

It reveals the tyranny of present-day North Korea through multiple voices; Jun Do (a solider turned kidnapper turned surveillance officer,) dictator Kim Jong Il (who died in December), Commander Ga and the voices of the propaganda loudspeaker. Laced with parody, the character Jun Do is a homonym for ‘John Doe,’ the western name for the unnamed. Johnson discussed the epistemological notion that, as westerners, we are the main character in our lives. We make goals and fulfill dreams through growth, change, meaning and discovery. In North Korea, the state is the main character. Here, dreams and communication hinder your life and cast you under suspicion. The humour, often darkly comedic, is a welcome relief for the reader to placate the brutality of torture and prison.

Johnson talked to Jang Jin-sung at Sydney Writers’ Festival in a sell-out event; Enemy of the State. Johnson said his proudest achievement from writing The Orphan Master’s Son was the respect he received from Jang Jin-sung; author and defector from North Korea. Though he visited North Korea and based the novel on fact, Johnson was worried about having incorrectly depicted lives, given it was so difficult to access information either about people or literature. The only reading material available to North Koreans is the propaganda and glory of Kim Jong Il. The only literature Jang Jin-sang read was Lord Byron, he was astounded to discover people wrote about trees, the ocean, birds and other people.

Testimony to the importance of lending a legitimate voice to North Koreans, who don’t have one, The Orphan Master’s Son opens our eyes to the mysteries and horrors, to the humanness in the face of inhumanity, of the most backward and isolated country on earth.

Rating: 4 ****

The Orphan Masters Son

Kim Jon Il, aged 3

Kim Jon Il, aged 3

 

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright

Book Review

Rating: 5 stars

Swan_1 The Swan Book is the third novel by Alexis Wright and one of the most important in Australian literature. It has been described as a love story, a tragedy, a myth and a fairy tale. Categorised under speculative fiction it is a powerful, poetic, enchanting and baffling story about Indigenous Australians, where the reader never quite understands what is real.

As an Indigenous Australian woman Wright’s political intent is written in every line, highlighting the marginalisation of Indigenous Australians from Australian society. It calls into question the sovereignty of Aboriginal land, power structures, global migration and climate change.

Set in the post apocalyptic future in the author’s ancestral country, the Northern Territory of Australia, the story and its central preoccupations are summarised perfectly in this quotation at the end of the novel. This is helpful for tenacious readers who reached the end but remained confused!

‘a really deadly love story about a girl who has a virus living in some lolly pink prairie house in her brain – that made the world seem too large and jittery for her, and it stuffed up her relationships with her own people, and made her unsociable, but they say she loved the swans all the same. Poor old swanee. You can see the swans sometimes, but not around this place. It is a bit too hot and dry here…Maybe the Bujimala, the Rainbow Serpent , will start bringing in those cyclones and funneling sand mountains into the place. Swans might come back. Who knows what madness will be calling them in the end?’ p334

The Swan Book is very much about the fragility of the mind and the capacity for imagination. I read in a trance-like state, captivated by Wright’s poetic language, letting go of the need to know and understand everything and allowing the language to carry my along like a raft. Wright deliberately blurs what is real, what is imagined and what is part of an Aboriginal sense of reality; ‘dreamtime’ —a colonsier’s term, suggesting what is not real or conscious.

The protagonist, Oblivia (Oblivian Ethylene) is a psychologically damaged girl. Raped as a child, she lives as a recluse on a radioactive detention camp, abandoned her people, adopted by a European woman; Bella Donna of the Champions.

Wright presents an interesting link between the sovereignty of land and the sovereignty of mind. Oblivia’s relationship with country is very different to white Australians’. Land for Aboriginals is not just physical soil and earth, they use all of their senses — sound, feeling, song — to experience country. The land and the weather literally speak and interact with Oblivia. Ancestral land is not something to be owned, it is an integral part of their identity. This highlights the devastating, traumatic affect of displacement from their land.

‘a girl’s affair with the northern skies and her quest to regain sovereignty over her own brain…She is concerned with the human mind and its capacity to imagine, with the way stories are born from particular locales and yet can spread like viruses, travelling gypsy-like across the planet in the way of migratory birds, taking hold of minds in places they don’t belong. The Swan Book suggests that stories, their dissemination and cross pollination, bear upon the ability of Indigenous Australians to govern their own minds, and by extension their land (these are inextricably linked) – and that this has implication for the future of human life on Earth.’http://sydneyreviewofbooks.com/going-viral/

The novel has also been called magical realism. Again this suggests that Aboriginal folklore and culture is ‘magical’ and unreal, whereas the literary subgenre ‘magical realism’, and the genre under which it sits; ‘Speculative Fiction’ — both constructed by westerners—suggest the western perspective is the ‘reality’.

Reality is complex and depends on perspective, of which there are many versions. Who has the authority to say what is reality? Usually the people who have the power – symbolised by the dispute over Warren Finch’s body between Aboriginals and settlers, which the settlers win by passing secret laws.

Given reading, writing and reality are experienced differently between the colonised and coloniser maybe we can’t fully understand the realities of Indigenous Australians because they are not explicable in terms we understand.

My advice is to read The Swan Book and be prepared for the surreal, for uncertainty. It deliberately entices the reader from enjoying a familiar, manageable story. Not a book to read absent-mindedly before dropping off to sleep, it forces the reader to engage with the text, providing an opportunity to question and learn — that’s not to say Wright has the perfect vision as an Aboriginal, but who does? It’s all a question of perspective.

 

 

Writers’ Personalities and Battling Demons

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath

The tortured artist stereotype

Madness and eccentricity go hand-in-hand with creativity. It’s easy to conjure up the image of the tortured artist. Take Sylvia Plath’s depression and suicide, Curt Cobain’s bipolar disorder and suicide, Vincent Van Gogh and his severed ear, also had bipolar. It got me wondering is this idea of the mad artist a stereotype or is there something inherently troubled about creative people? Psychologist and writer Carolyn Kaufman argues the angst-ridden artist is such a powerful stereotype, it makes a great story that people want to believe in it.

Battling Demons

Many fiction writers battling inner demons find writing an outlet to express and purge anger and other emotions. I saw an interview with Patricia Cornwell, a modern crime author, in which she talked about her childhood. Her parents died when she was a young girl. The cruelty she suffered from her foster parents and the ensuing rage towards them is expressed through killing her fictitious characters in heinous crimes.

Similarly, JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books during a dark difficult period in her life, whilst going through divorce, living in poverty as a single parent and suffering depression. The books were her lifeline, providing focus and a way to express negative emotions through the underbelly of that magical Hogwarts world.

Writers and Mental Illness

Many famous authors and poets were and are afflicted with mental illness. Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe and Keats to name but a few had bipolar (manic depression). Aspiring writers whom I have encountered have admitted to having mental illnesses and, or a traumatic childhood. Victims of drug and alcohol addicted parents and deprived backgrounds often find that writing helps them heal and make sense of themselves and their experience through writing. Certainly writing can be an effective form of therapy and that’s not to say there aren’t any happy writers who are not battling inner turmoil. Perhaps the troubled writers of whom I’m aware are simply coincidental and represent a random cross-section of society.

According to Carolyn Kaufman there’s a positive correlation between mental illnesses such as bipolar and schizophrenia and creativity.  Not that you have to have a mental illness to be creative, or that creativity causes mental illness. The argument presented by Frederick Goodwin and Kay Redfield Jamison (clinical psychologists and big players in bipolar studies) is that ‘a disproportionate number of eminent writers and artists have suffered from bipolar spectrum disorders, and that under some circumstances, creativity can be facilitated by such disorders.’

Personality Types and Writers

Mental illness and trauma aside, I’m curious to understand whether fiction writers tend to be a certain personality type. Being mindful of stereotyping, I’m sure they have very different personality traits, but the nature of writing is it’s a lonely profession. Surely an extrovert, for example, who craves action and human interaction wouldn’t want to spend every day alone at a desk locked in their own dreamy fictitious world? As well as imagination, I would assume writers also share qualities of emotional sensitivity, observation and introspection.  Interesting that these qualities are generally not valued, rather our western society favours extroverts with a positive, sociable disposition.

The Enneagram personality type system suggests that many writers would be categorised as a number four: The Romantic (withdrawn ideal seeker). Characteristics are: seeks to understand themselves, sensitive, self aware, intuitive, seeks self-expression – often through the arts (writing, music and unconventional forms like tattooing and piercing).

This seems to corroborate also with the INFP – The Dreamer, defined by the Jungian Personality Type. These people are healers with a talent for language and writing, idealistic, selfless, highly intuitive, introspective, private and desire a meaningful path. According to Andrea Wenger, this personality is most likely to be a successful writer. Similarly, MBTI (Myers Briggs), a personality test based on the work of Carl Jung in his book Psychological Types, claims the most likely personality to enjoy success as a writer is the INFJ, which means: Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judgement. This person gets ideas from the internal world of thoughts and ideas.

Just how reliable are these personality trait systems? I suspect they are more art than science. MBTI is used by many corporations’ to recruit staff but according to The Guardian a lot of companies don’t have anything positive to say about it. There’s no scientific evidence and it isn’t recognised by the field of psychology.

What do you think? Do writers share similar personality traits? And is the perception of the mad artist real or just a stereotype?

 

 References

http://nanowrimo.org/forums/character-cafe/threads/129620

http://www.narrativemagazine.info/pages/pers.htm

http://similarminds.com/jung/infp.html

http://andreajwenger.com/2009/08/02/the-truth-about-the-myers-briggs-personality-types/

http://www.mypersonality.info/personality-types/infp/

http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/mar/19/myers-briggs-test-unscientific

Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Free Press

Why reading and daydreaming are good for you

girl in libraryIs reading dead?

In the modern digital age the choice of entertainment has never been more overwhelming. The closure of book shops is indicative of the publishing industry’s state of flux. The good old-fashioned paper book has gone digital, as well as having to compete with more visual forms of entertainment; like 3D films, TV, computer games and social media.

So has reading really had its day? Is it a bygone pastime of previous generations? And if not what is the value in reading? How is it good for you?

As Neil Gaiman says, ‘words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the words slip onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading.’

I’m still a huge fan of the paper book, I must be an old soul or just an old fart but I still haven’t even succumbed to the Kindle. There’s something so tactile and comforting about paper, the visual delight of the sleeve design and the smell of the pages, the soft thud as the book drops onto my face when I fall asleep. Plus it is conveniently water and sand and shatter resistant. Gaiman doesn’t believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens. ‘As Douglas Adam once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough..they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.’

Why read for pleasure?

Reading for pleasure invokes the imagination. Albert Einstein understood the value of reading for pleasure and imagining. He was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was “If you want your children to be intelligent.” He said, “read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Fairytales require imagination. And what evokes the imagination? Daydreaming. Author, Dr Sue Woolfe told me once that daydreamers are often creative people. Neil Gaiman talks about the importance of the imagination. Reading fiction for pleasure, he says, is one of the most important things one can do. I’ve always believed this. From being a small child I refused to leave the house without a book, pad and pen. I even used to write on the walls, such was my compulsion to write! So thank you Neil, for easing my guilt about frittering hours and weekends away, curled up with a book, rather than doing something more constructive, like work. As Jorge Luis Borges said, ‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’

readingSee for the writer, reading is work, it’s part of the profession, and it’s an absolute pleasure at the same time. Gaiman says ‘I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.’

Imagination can provide inspiration, insight and change. ‘It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.’

Fiction builds empathy. Empathy for other people, empathy for difference, it allows us to become less self obsessed and individualistic. Fiction opens up a whole new world and allows the reader to see the world through new eyes, offering the possibility of change.

mortimer adler quoteFiction as Escapsim

Yes fiction is a form of escapism, as is any form of entertainment that distracts you from your own world and takes you into another. But why is escapism a bad thing? ‘If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, wouldn’t you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with..and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour..Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.’

The Value of Literacy

The story Gaiman told about the correlation between literacy and crime is poignant. He listened to a talk in New York about the building of private prisons. Upon planning the future growth of prisons they calculated how many cells they were going to need in 15 years based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure. You can’t say that a literate society has no criminality. But the correlations are very real. Literate people read fiction. Gaiman says ‘The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to books, and letting them read them.

Literacy is more important than ever. In a world of information overload; on the web, text and email, we need to be comfortable with reading, to understand and navigate information, as global citizens.

References

www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

Tina's reading nook at Plum Village, France

Tina’s reading nook at Plum Village, France

What compels writers to write?

I watched the interview last night on ABC with Jennifer Byrne and JK Rowling about Rowling’s latest novel; The Casual Vacancy.

Interestingly, Rowling said the main reason writers write is to have a conversation with readers. She admitted that her writing has been therapeutic for her during difficult periods of her life. It gave her something positive to focus on but said writers ultimately kid themselves that they are writing for themselves. After all, many people would ask why she’s still writing after the huge success with Harry Potter? The more appropriate question, for her, is why did she still want to publish? She had a personal need to write but financially didn’t need to publish any more books. Ultimately, she wanted to connect with readers.

Or is the compulsion to write, as Jules Kane’s brain studies revealed, because writers have an overactive right brain hemisphere?

Writers, I’m interested to know what you think. Any experts of neuroscience and writing, writing for therapy or the psychology of writing out there with an opinion?

Should plot or intuition drive a story?

Tina's reading nook at Plum Village, France

Tina’s reading nook at Plum Village, France

When we’re talking about fiction should plot be the main driver for the story or should we, as writers, allow our intuition to guide us and let the story and the book write itself?

Dr Sue Woolfe remains my inspiration for free writing, or to use her term; ‘loose construing’. During this process we access our subconscious mind; where memories, imagination, repressed thoughts and taboos become unleashed, saying what you dare not say aloud. The result in free writing is often beautiful, evocative language, and just as the term ‘free’ indicates, it is liberating.

lotus flower

Woolfe taught me that as writers we don’t always know what the story or plot are. This is what makes a story authentic, organic and less contrived than a plot-driven story or book. ‘Often a novel can become an unintentional diary of a writer’s midnight thoughts.’ Sue Woolfe, The Mystery of the Cleaning Lady, A Writer Looks at Creativity and Neuroscience, UWA Press, 207, p6.

If you are driven by the plot or idea for a story it can restrict your creativity. Plot is driven by the rational, thinking, planning mind. Even Stephen King uses the image of a fossil that the writer has to uncover from the surrounding rock, letting it reveal itself. He tells aspiring writers that their job isn’t to find ideas, but to recognise them when they show up.

‘Plot is, I think the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.’ Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Hachette UK, 2001. Colum McCann, author of Transatlantic says ‘Plot seems vaguely juvenile to me. It’s all about the language..good plot will emerge from good language. It’s the words that matter.’ The Writer 2013-09

That said, during the process of learning about the craft of writing, which to me is much more rational and intellectual – getting to grips with point of view, character, dialogue and structure – I am discovering, as with most things in life, that what is required is a fine balance. A balance between intuitive free writing and applying the techniques to craft the story.

How does meditation help to unleash creative writing?

Tina meditation Curl Curl colour

As a meditation teacher and a published writer I have found that the two compliment one another perfectly. How? When I write my mind needs to be still and spacious for creativity to blossom. How often is my mind in that state? Not very often, unless I’m on holiday and free of life’s daily challenges. Or…when I meditate.

The purpose of meditation is to create a point of focus whereby the mind ceases to chatter. You become calm on the inside, releasing physical, mental and emotional tensions.

When I write fiction sometimes I often begin with an idea for a story. These ideas tend to be preoccupations, if you will, that by voicing on a page help me to tease out and make sense of. This reveals a similarity between writing and meditation, both of which enable you to become your own counsellor, get to the root of your problems and discover what your burning desires are. Actually it was through yoga and meditation (meditation is an integral part of yoga) that I convinced myself to stop procrastinating, stop being too afraid of not being good enough and start living my life’s purpose: writing.

What happens if there are no ideas bubbling to create a story? That doesn’t matter, idea or no idea, either way I still write freely in the technique known as ‘stream of consciousness’ writing or to use Sue Woolfe’s phrase ‘loose construing’. This method is extremely liberating and fun, you never know what is going to come up from the depths of your mind! And, the best thing about stream of consicousness writing is that you don’t have to show anyone, it is writing in its rawest, most authentic form. By meditating before I begin to write, I put myself in that quiet space and the floodgates of words bubble and flow like a river.

I have developed a workshop and course which marries the art of meditation with the craft of creative writing. This is available for anyone seeking creativity, whether you’re an aspiring writer with a story bursting inside you but not sure how to start. Or an accomplished writer who has lost your mojo or suffering from writer’s block.

If you’re interested in unleashing your creativity please contact me to book a place on the course: Email: tinajwild@gmail.com or call 0424 590 960

When? Saturday 30 November, Saturday 7 December and Saturday 14 December 3 – 5 pm.

Cost? One workshop $35 or book the course of three consecutive sessions for $90.

Where? Ivanhoe Scout Hall, Park Avenue, Manly 2095 NSW http://yogacoopmanly.com.au/location/

I have been teaching yoga and meditation for seven years and practicing for fifteen. Having studied many meditation techniques, my greatest influences remain the Satyananda Yoga tradition and Zen Buddhist Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. See my yoga website http://yogacoopmanly.com.au/classes/meditation-creative-writing-workshop/

My love of books and writing led me to attain a BA Degree with Honours in English at Nottingham University in the UK. I am now studying a Master of Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Sydney to fulfill my goal of completing my novel.