Friday, 27 February 2015

Life Writing

Recent events have brought home to me the reality that life is precious - and that we don't all get to live for 70 or more years. It's a big reminder to do what you want to do, which starts with knowing what that is.

I read Barbara Sher's book 'Live the Life You Love - And Stop Just Getting By' last year, and it was an excellent jump start in this direction.

Writing is an essential part of my life, but its form is changing. For almost 20 years I structured my working life around having a day a week free for novel writing. But in my early forties that changed. I experienced a series of realisations that the third novel was one to quit, rather than to commit to finishing, even though I was part of the way into a third draft. (Angela Cheruseo's latest blog provides some valuable guidance on gaining clarity on whether to commit or to quit something.)

I don't have a writing project of my own at the moment. Setting up my writing and editing business over the past year has been all-consuming, and incredibly exciting. But I know that something is looming, waiting to be taken up. I am following my nose with this, and am currently looking into life writing.

I have come across three excellent starting points for understanding the scope of what life writing can be:
- Australian writing coach Sherryl Clark offers a free ebook called 'Getting Started in Life Writing' on her website
- Auckland author Deborah Shepard provides insightful definitions of memoir on her website
- The Wikipedia entry on life writing includes an interesting discussion on why people are drawn to life writing.

Key points from these three sources that excite me about life writing are:
Life writing doesn't need to be an autobiography. It can reflect a short period of time, or a particular theme. Imagination is as important as facts - the point is to convey an authentic experience in a way that will appeal to a reader. It should use many of the techniques of fiction - build tension, portray interesting, memorable characters, and include action to keep the story moving. The writer needs to focus on getting inside the event and recreating it for the reader, rather than just reporting on the facts.

Both writers and readers are drawn to life writing to make sense of some aspect of life, and to feel they are not alone in their experiences. Life writing can help people understand a problem and uncover new, creative ways to deal with it.

Life writing is one way to meet that essential human need - to be understood. And the arrival of digital technologies means that anyone can share their story through a range of hard copy and online avenues, including blogs, ebooks, a 10 page print out, or a whole book. There's no need to seek permission or approval from a publisher. As Deborah Shepard says, these changes have "democratised the medium".

Friday, 13 February 2015

Dean Bradley's new painting at Icon Art Park

Here's Dean's latest painting. He put the final touches on it yesterday and then we took it out to Icon Art Park. It's really exciting to see it up on the wall, taking its place in the world after its humble beginnings in the studio.

Landfall, Birdflight

We loved seeing Jason Tillman's works on show in the White Room at Icon Art Park. His sculptures have such an immediate emotional resonance - it's really hard to describe, but well worth a visit! His exhibition runs until 3 March.

Friday, 6 February 2015

My experiment in living alone - managing my inner chatter

As a child I often used to turn and ask my brother 'what are you thinking right now?' Invariably the answer was 'nothing'.

I couldn't quite believe that, but my husband is the same. I have come to realise that not everyone has thoughts going on in their head all the time.

However, for people like me, meditation is a great thing. I sleep so well now that I take 20 minutes in the morning to focus on my breath, to settle my mind and give it a break from the chatter.

I recently spent a week on my own while my husband was away visiting his family. As someone who has been in a relationship for a long time,  it is valuable to experience being alone - to take away the fear of not being able to cope if I find myself alone in the future.

Apart from the substandard dinners I cooked for myself (!), the biggest challenge was managing my own mind.

Thinking, and coming up with ideas, is great. I love that part of my life - but when I was alone, I found it much harder to let go of my thoughts when there was nothing more to be gained from them.

During this time I was very conscious of the increasing trend for people to live alone, for at least some of their lives. And how all of these people have to be their own editors, managing their thoughts without the support of someone else's point of view to balance it out. This takes mental strength - the ability to take control of the stream of words is definitely a life-enhancing skill.