For years I have been a writer, an editor and a teacher of creative writing. Now I want to share some of what I have learned along the way. Write On The Fringes is a blog about the dangers, the disappointments and the rewards of writing. It's a record of the writing of a novel, from the tantalising first inklings of an idea, through to the final draft. But above all it's an exploration of the art and the craft of writing and the nature of story, as well as a search for the essence of creativity and the complex nature of truth.


Monday, January 30, 2012

A Book Excerpt from Flight

'In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one.'
Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections

As my new novel is published this week, I'm too unsettled to write a 'proper' post, so have decided to be self-indulgent and post the prologue to Flight. It's a long piece, so I've divided it in two and will post the second part later this week. No doubt by next week I will have settled back into a routine and will be able to focus my thoughts once again. For anyone in Australia and New Zealand who wants to read Flight, it is available as of today in bookshops. For international readers, I'm disappointed to say that I haven't yet found international publishers for Flight, but I believe (depending on geographical copyright restrictions) that you can get it as an ebook from Amazon or Bookdepository. I hope you enjoy the prologue.

Flight - Prologue (Part 1)
I came early, slithering into the outside world and into safety, or so I hoped. But this was to be the first of many hopes, all dashed against the brutally sharp edges of reality. As in all great myths, my birth was accompanied by a prophecy. I, it seemed, would be the death of my father. How this was to come about no one could say. But the prophecy was there, it escaped from the mouth of Simple Simon, the old gardener at the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide where my mother often went to sit in her lunch hour.

On this particular day she was waiting to meet my father. He was late and the pregnant girl felt a persistent nagging worry. There was something big hovering around the edges of things, a sense that life had woken up that morning slightly askew. Nothing she could put her finger on, but it was enough to make her nervous. And then there were the contradictions: worry that he would come, worry that he wouldn't. Fear and love tugging her between them until all she could feel was a tearing anxiety. You see, my father was a strong willed man, older than her, but still too young he said, to be tied down like this. He would have walked away but he was snared by his desire for my mother. She was beautiful and fragile and needy, easy to bully but also detached in a way that he could never put a finger on. This detachment was what kept him there, waiting, wanting her to surrender completely.

It was summer but there was an unexpected chill in the air. The wind was a fresh south easterly, not the usual hot northerly that stirred up dust and discomforts, and the sky was clear enough to make everyone's heart lift. Even my mother's, the seventeen-year-old girl with the rounded belly who sat on a bench chewing a deviled-egg sandwich and watching Simon methodically plant a row of violets, a flurry of chattering birds surrounding him.

When a magpie greedily pecked Simon's finger, perhaps thinking it a fat juicy worm, my mother forgot her troubles for a moment and laughed. Simon looked up, directly at her, and her laughter quickly turned into a shudder. Where one eye should have been there was a socket, dark and deep. One eye looking out, the other inwards – perhaps this was the secret of his second sight. Or then again, it might have been the snakebite all those years ago which left him hovering between life and death for weeks on end. When he finally woke he knew things other people didn't, but he had forgotten how to live in this world. No one knew how old Simple Simon was or how long he'd been working in the Botanic Gardens. He was a fixture, like the giant oak under which my mother sat.

Simon stood up straight, wincing as he stretched, one hand massaging the small of his back, the other leaning on his spade. 'Ah,' he said, shaking his head. 'That one will be the death of her father.' Wincing again at the creaking in his swollen joints, he walked over to my mother and poked his finger into her tight belly. 'Mark my words, the death of him.' While she sat staring at him, open-mouthed, he went back to his planting, still shaking his head, but with a gleam in his eye.

At that moment I moved. Well, bounced really. Did a somersault in a small space, causing my mother to double over in pain and think her time had come. It hadn't. I wasn't going anywhere. Safety, I thought, lay in the warm fluids that contained me. And I didn't want to kill anyone, especially my own father, even though I wasn't exactly fond of him. There'd been words already, white knuckles and fists, sending me curling up into a tighter self-protective ball. My father didn't love me. Even then I knew that. And he didn't love my mother. Like me, she stood between him and his plans. He wanted only to conquer her, in the same way he planned to conquer the world. You see, my father had big ideas swirling inside his head. Even then he loved power more than people. Even then he would let nothing stand in his way.

My mother loved my father but for all the wrong reasons. Love, hate and fear were all bound up together for her. She was young and weak and couldn't distinguish between these things. She wanted me and she didn't. She was afraid. It's not unusual. And Simon's prophecy had filled her throat with the burning need to tell. So when my father arrived a few minutes later, she laughed a kind of brittle nervous laugh and repeated what Simon had said. It was a big mistake, because more than anything my father wanted to live. He was a rational man, or so he claimed, but underneath that rationality lay a deep-rooted superstition. Underneath everything, he knew the power of shadow.

At first he tried to laugh it off but my mother could see the discomfort in his eyes and the tension in his fingers, already bunching up into fists.
'You should have got rid of it,' he hissed. 'I told you.' Then he hit my mother hard in the belly, the shock and pain spreading through her thin skin and into me.

At that moment I decided it was safer out than in. I fled, bursting the bag that contained me, sending the warm liquid pouring down my mother's legs, soaking her pants and forming a puddle on the ground under where she sat, her heart beating in terror from the attack, her breath coming in quick panting bursts. Her fear spread quickly into me. In a panic I bounced my head again and again, pushing at her uterus, sending out waves of contractions. She ran, out of the gardens and onto the footpath, winding her way through other pedestrians, doubling over with the pain as another contraction hit, then running again, away from him, away from the agony that was me and that was tearing her neatly down the middle.

It was lunch hour in the city and there were lots of people about. She could see the concern in their eyes but her terror didn't allow her to respond. Like a panicked horse she bolted, not noticing where she was. It took a Don't Walk sign to bring her to her senses. Perhaps it was some instinct for survival, or the need to protect me. Perhaps it was fate, for the prophecy had been written in the stars and spoken aloud by Simple Simon, setting it in motion. Or perhaps someone reached out their hand and grabbed her arm or dress, yanking her to a halt. It could have been any of these things that made her stop, only a half-second away from the truck that muscled across the intersection, dangerously close to the kerb, making everyone step back and brushing the wind through her hair just as my head burst free of the birth canal, only to find itself imprisoned in her underpants as she slid, moaning, to the ground, hands reaching out to support her. And all the time my father stood back in the crowd, watching me emerge and wanting to stamp the life out of me but unable to come forward. Yet.. . '

(to be continued)

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:http://writeonthefringes.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, January 23, 2012

Coming Unstuck

'Creativity needs freedom – freedom from the mind, freedom from knowledge, freedom from prejudices.'
Osho, Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within

In the previous post I explored the obstacles that prevent us from accessing or making full use of our creativity but there are also factors that help us to reengage with the flow of life and hence with creativity. In The Way of Story, Catherine Ann Jones defines the creative act as an 'act of liberation, the defeat of habit by originality', something which is echoed below in Osho's four keys to creativity:

Become a child again - A child sees the world in a special way. For a child everything has significance and wonder. Having children was a gift for me in many ways, one of which was the opportunity it brought to see the world once again through the fresh eyes of a child, something I explore in Passing Time, a non-fiction short story.

Be ready to learn - We need to let go of beliefs that stop us from learning more about the world and instead try to step outside of conditioning and ideology and trust in our own experience as a guide. In Osho's words, we must keep learning but never become knowledgeable.

Find Nirvana in the Ordinary - Look for the mystery and the magic in the every day world, then every form of work becomes a meditation from the heart.

Be a dreamer - Imagination is a vital part of creativity so we need to unleash it. Imagination is like the trickster gods of old. It is a liberating force, cutting through what has been established, making strange what is normal, allowing us to step into the shoes of another, to break free of what we know and to fly.

These four keys link closely to playfulness, something which many writers find difficult to access in the writing process and many of us find difficult to embrace in our lives. In archetypal terms perhaps we need to make friends once again with the wild child within ourselves, fearless and playful, intrigued by life and most importantly, not squashed by formula and conditioning. It's not an easy thing to do this because from early childhood onwards we are told the right and the wrong way of doing things, which is useful in some circumstances, but it can also make us close off our potential. At the age of nine my son was told by his teacher that his stories were wrong and so were his drawings. Over and again she made him redo them the 'right way' until he began to think himself stupid and became so anxious and depressed he was unable to go to school. It took us a year to convince him that his way was the right way, the way of discovery and creativity; a year to induce him to write and draw again, and a year for him to be ready to return to a school environment.

As Picasso said, 'every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up'. These days rote learning is valued more than creative thought. Formula more than imagination. We are taught to repeat and reproduce and in so doing we quickly lose our freshness of vision. We are told that this is the wrong way and that is the right way. We tell ourselves: 'I can't write' . . 'I'm no good at drawing' . . . 'My voice is terrible'. . . creating stories of dysfunction within our lives, stories that have often been triggered by people in authority: parents, older siblings, teachers, employers, religious leaders. . . I have heard the same story from many students over many years and I have carried my own stories with me too, allowing them to solidify into fact and become part of my identity. These are themes I have explored in Flight, as the protagonist, Fern, finds herself forced to rewrite her own life, gathering up the parts of herself that have been lost and rescinding those promises she has made that have weakened her.

As I see it, one part of the solution is to rediscover our playfulness, stop worrying about the consequences and realise that creativity is not an intellectual exercise. As Jung wrote, 'the creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity'. Creativity is about stepping over a line and taking risks. All my life I have had a sense of that line and the need to step over it, knowing that if I did I would be moving beyond my limitations and hence be capable of anything. After many years I've finally approached it and occasionally I get a glimpse of what it might be like on the other side. I'm beginning to unravel those stories that don't serve me, peel away the scar tissue from wounds that I didn't even know existed and in the process discover something more fundamental; an essential self that is not disfigured by experience.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:http://writeonthefringes.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sticking Points

'Nature gives everybody energy which is creative. It becomes destructive only when it is obstructed, when no natural flow is allowed.'
Osho, Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within

Sometimes it seems that as soon as we start a creative project, circumstances and duty step in to bring it to an abrupt halt. Perhaps it is an elaborate avoidance technique, designed to stop us from facing the possibility of failure. A version of writer's block. Or perhaps it is simply because life gets in the way and a project must be put aside for a time. It isn't always easy to distinguish between the two, and either way, it is sometimes difficult to return to a project at a later date. We fill up our days until there is no space left for it, putting everything else first and not giving our creativity the value it deserves.

Like good food and exercise, creativity is fundamental to our health. We should find the time to value and nurture it, not place it at the bottom of our 'to do' lists. In his book Creativity, the author, Osho, lists five obstacles to creativity which he has written an entire book on and I shall attempt to summarise in a few lines and perhaps expand on in later posts:

Self-Consciousness - Osho calls self-consciousness a disease, describing it as a blocked, frozen state, a state of self that takes in but doesn't give out. 'A nonsurrendering attitude.' Whereas consciousness is free of ego, has no boundaries and is abundantly alive. Perhaps the state of self-consciousness relates to our wounded selves and the way to overcome it is to let go of resistance and tune into our unconscious selves.

Perfectionism - in order to find our way back to our creativity we only have to lower our standards and keep lowering them, until eventually the flow resumes. Perfectionism is dangerous because if we seek it we never arrive. And if by chance we did reach it then we would most likely be afraid to ever set out on the journey again. Osho associates perfectionism with ego, describing a paradox 'the real creator knows that he has not created anything. Existence has worked through him.'

Intellect – Creativity comes from the heart, not from the head. There are times when we use the head; possibly during our research, though even then we follow a strange intuitive sense that takes use to just the right places. We also use the head in the editing process. But in the writing process we write from the heart, drawing perhaps from memory but transforming it with imagination.

Belief - Many of the beliefs we hold, limit our imagination because beliefs tend to be carved in stone, rigid and unmoving. When we create we are drawing from our own experience and experience is ever changing. In the process we need to be open, not closed, seeking universal truths not rigid mind beliefs.

The Fame Game - the need for fame and monetary success acts as a hindrance to creativity, a block to the free flow of the imagination. We write what we think we should write not what we need to write for ourselves. And instead of immersing ourselves in the trials and joys of writing, we wish away the process for the end product. If fame and money comes (and they rarely do), then that's great but it shouldn't be the only factor that determines our desire to write or we will only be capable of composing, not truly creating, a distinction that Osho makes emphatically in his book.

These are obstacles which cause writer's block, though it's important to remember that they have an effect on all of our creative endeavors and by that I mean every part of our lives. More often than not, the obstacles that stop our creativity are self-generated internal ones like those that Osho lists. Sometimes though, the factor that stop us from writing are external ones, such as working long hours or school holidays or even tragedy. Sometimes we find ourselves in a kind of Catch-22 situation, becoming depressed or ill because our creativity is blocked and unable to access our creativity because we are depressed or ill. Grief has a way of stopping us in our tracks, though it can be a healing process to write our way through it as Isabel Allende did when she wrote Paula while her daughter was lying in a coma and eventually died; and Joan Aitken too, when she wrote A Year of Magical Thinking after her husband died suddenly and her daughter fell severely ill. However, there are times when we have to let go of a project and allow a space in our lives for healing or simply living, knowing that we can come back to it later, when we are ready. I agree with Catherine Ann Jones who writes in The Way of Story, that 'so-called writer's block is not a malady to be remedied but rather an opportunity to go deeper'.

For the time being I have been turned away from writing my new novel by the desire to spend time with my children during their holidays, a deadline to write a film script, the need to read my husband's first novel manuscript, a science thriller called The God Equation (there's a plug!) and my building excitement as Flight approaches its publication date. The trick is to let go of the writing of my novel without resentment and remember to apply that creativity to every activity in my daily life.

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:http://writeonthefringes.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, January 9, 2012

Writing Our Own Paths

'Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.'
Osho, Creativity: Unleashing the Forces Within

It is a wonderful thing to start a novel. Despite the trepidation, there is the extraordinary feeling that comes when we set out on a journey. Having left home but not yet arrived, we inhabit the 'space in between', the no man's land in which anything and everything can happen. I have begun this new novel; felt the excitement of slipping into the creative process, not quite losing myself yet, but already surprised by the material that has arisen from my unconscious and formed into words on the page – well four pages to be exact. Not much, but just enough to know that there is more to come, patiently awaiting my attention. Once again I find myself being seduced by the mystery of the creative process.

Speaking on a panel of writers I once mentioned the word creativity, only to find another writer dismissing the word as a clich√©. Of course any word can become a clich√© with overuse and with misuse, but there's a danger that the inherent value of that word will then become derided. It would be a great shame if we began to deride the idea of creativity. Osho writes in his book, Creativity, that 'any activity can be creative, it is you who brings that quality to the activity'. Is it then possible to write a book or paint a picture uncreatively? According to Osho, it is. 'Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things.'

I looked up the term creativity and on answers.com found it defined as 'an ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form. The term generally refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking. Psychological studies of highly creative people have shown that they have a strong interest in apparent disorder, contradiction, and imbalance, which seem to be perceived as challenges. Such individuals may possess an exceptionally deep, broad and flexible awareness of themselves. . .'

In order to truly create, in order to do more than copy what is already known, then perhaps we need to free ourselves from conditioning and from the collective psychology. Paradoxically, I think one of the keys to freeing ourselves in this way, lies in story. Analytic psychologist, Juliet Sharman-Burke calls myth, fairy tales and folklore 'the original self-help psychology', while Jungian analyst and cantadora (storyteller) Clarissa Pinkola Estes, describes stories as medicine. 'They have such power,’ she says. 'The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories'. Stories help us to remember, to transform and to release our wounds, and in doing so, we are able to become truly individual, forging our own path through life.

At one level story is purely entertainment. On another level it can be a form of propaganda that reinforces the social order and prevailing attitudes, thus keeping people unquestioningly obedient to a social system and sometimes a religious system too. Stories can be read politically, interpreted differently according to their context and the numerous filters through which they are received. We can respond to stories from many points of view: take a Marxist perspective, give a feminist reading, psychoanalytic, realist, structuralist, and post structuralist, all of which are necessary and illuminating ways of reading narratives and understanding the culture in which we live, but cannot lay exclusive claim to the whole truth.

While our stories entertain, and provide us with ways of thinking about how to live within our society, on a third level they also provide us with maps that allow us to develop as individuals (more on this in a later post). Mythologist, Joseph Campbell, wrote extensively about this third level within story and this is the level which I explore in my novel, Flight. Although stories can and do encourage us to conform, paradoxically they are also subversive, in that the very structure of story is a map of the process of becoming oneself, a state in which the individual may live freely within society. As Osho writes, 'Creativity is the fragrance of individual freedom.'

Copyright (c) 2012 by Rosie Dub. All rights reserved. You may translate, link to or quote this article, in its entirety, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website:http://writeonthefringes.blogspot.co.uk/

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rewriting The Future

'The world is changing and the time has come to let go of the old ways, the ones that ensure the repetitions of history. Peace is a gentle thing that can no longer be fought for. Instead it will enter our hearts and spread from there like the ripples of a pebble dropped into a pond.'
Rosie Dub, Flight

I love the new year. There's a freshness to it, a tantalising sense of opportunity and new beginnings. This is a perfect time to publish one novel and begin another. Today, as I sat down to begin my new novel, Between Worlds, a box full of copies of Flight were delivered. It was a precious moment to finally hold this novel in my hand. Like the new year, it feels like both an ending and a beginning; the book symbolises the end of my long journey of writing, as well as the beginning of its own journey, into the hearts and minds of readers.

As I start work on Between Worlds which, like Flight, is set in the present, I find myself pausing to wonder about where humanity is heading. We've reached 2012 and many people are falling into fear over Mayan predictions of the end of the world. I have no doubt that this is a time of change – we can see it in the Arab uprisings, the global economic downturns, the changes in our climate, the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. . . The old structures are crumbling and the old powers are clinging onto the ruins, trying to ignore the fact that the people are now able to see through their ruses and will no longer accept inequity and abuses of power as a natural part of society. There is plenty of fuel for pessimism and fear but there is also plenty of fuel for optimism and hope. Each moment we have a choice to focus on one or the other, to see our glass as half empty or half full.

I'm turning fifty in a few days, so it is a natural time of reflection for me on the transitions of life and the inevitability of change. I know that I'm privileged to live in a relatively wealthy and stable society, though there's nothing to say that this will remain the case in years to come. I feel optimistic about the future of humanity and hope that I will be able to contribute in a positive way to creating a new way of living. Inevitably though, it is the younger generations who will bring about change and this is how it always is and how it should be, as is illustrated in the current upheavals around the world, the cycles that govern nature, and many of the greatest heroic myths. In The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, Otto Rank identified a common pattern of events in the life of heroes. The hero is usually a child of distinguished or powerful parents, and a prophecy usually accompanies his or her birth, warning that the child will cause the death of the father. Sometimes the father attempts to kill the baby, always to no avail. The baby is then put in a box and set adrift in the water before being saved by animals or people of low birth and brought up by them, unaware of his/her origins. At some point the hero must go on a quest in search of his/her origins and make retribution for the father's unnatural desire to halt change. It is necessary for the child to step into the father's shoes in adulthood, or on a cultural scale, for a new king to step into the shoes of the old king. When this potential is denied by the father then the cycles of life have been denied and stagnation sets in. It is the child's role to force change.

What astounds me is the integrity of today's young people, the extraordinary and mature way they are peacefully, but with determination, planting the seeds of change. From the crumbling ruins of the old structures is arising an amazing movement. No longer are secrets able to be kept hidden, no longer are lies upheld. Greed, inequity and corruption are being exposed. Eventually power will be something that can only be used with integrity, not kept for its own sake. I don't imagine it will be a smooth transition – change rarely is - but it will most certainly be interesting, which reminds me of the old curse – 'may you live in interesting times'.

The events that are happening in our contemporary world and the mythic theme of cyclic change are both deeply rooted in Flight, which begins with a prophecy concerning the protagonist, Fern: 'That one will be the death of her father. . . mark my words, the death of him'. This sets in motion a series of events which, as in myth, will inevitably lead Fern to her fate and hopefully to greater self-knowledge. Now, as I work on the sequel to Flight, I'm asking myself what the catalyst is that will force change by creating conflict and dramatic movement. But more importantly I need to know why there is a need for a catalyst. And of course the answer is that stagnation has set in. Fern has become too comfortable, she has failed to understand that transformation is a perpetual and vital process, not a product. As soon as the idea of self becomes crystalised, it must be transformed in some way, and if this transformation does not occur voluntarily, then it must be forced.

As with story, life is about change. So often we forget the cycles of nature, the waxing and waning of the moon, the course of the seasons, and the circular nature of our lives. Instead we cling to what we know, resisting the natural transitions in life, from child to teenager, to adult, to elder. Or more simply, we resist stepping from the known to the unknown. The wheel of fortune turns and we expend our energy on finding ways to stop it. Story is a reminder that change is natural, it helps us to link our lives back to nature and to understand that change is an intricate part of living. It also helps us to remember that life is a journey, which suggests movement, not stasis. By accepting the path of change, we develop. Like the seasons, stories remind us that life is cyclic, that change is inevitable. Whether or not we accept it, embedded in story lies the invitation to adventure, to journey, to evolve as humans - it's up to us.