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.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 - Revelations

'The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.'
Albert Einstein

Earlier this year I wrote a post called Writing Through 2012. It arose as a response to the predominantly negative interpretation of the significance of 2012, and from asking myself if creativity is possible without hope? At the time, like many others, I had become focused on all that is wrong with the world in which we live, and as a result had sunk into a sense of bleakness and a dark depression. I had not understood the way our thoughts form what we fear and the way our fears become the focus of our thoughts – a  powerful catch 22 that traps us in a psychological prison that creates self-fulfilling prophecies.  

This has not been an easy year for many. Globally there have been heart breaking tragedies, injustices, betrayals and disappointments, but there have also been huge outpourings of compassion, peaceful demonstrations against violence, greater demands for transparency, integrity and honesty in government and the media. Humanity is beginning to change, beginning to seek a new and saner path and we are lucky enough to be a part of this change. 

‘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.'  These words form part of the epilogue to my novel, Flight. They are a cry of hope, a small force against the fearfulness that inhabits humanity’s collective consciousness, a fearfulness that is consistently fed by the negative focus of the media.  

The original post still speaks to the times we find ourselves in so I thought this a timely moment to repost it below. I wish you all a fearless, hopeful and joy filled festive season.  

Writing Through 2012
'The world is changing and we are changing with it. It is too soon perhaps to see how.'
Rosie Dub, Flight

It's only early March and I have already had a significant birthday, a new novel published and I've become a Doctor of Philosophy. There have been school holidays and guests, colds and overgrown gardens to attend to. Time seems to be speeding up, it's difficult (well actually impossible), to fit everything in each day. And not least of all, it's 2012; there are murmurings of dread in the air whispers of prophecies and predictions, the end of the world, wars, earthquakes, social disruption. . . . The news is full of injustice and upheaval, insane violence and corruption. 'The Apocalypse,' people are saying. 'The Mayans predicted it for 2012. It is coming.'

Needless to say, so far this year I've found it difficult to settle down and write, difficult sometimes to even credit the value of writing or to focus on anything positive. Because hope is what keeps us moving forward, it's what keeps us creating when around us is destruction. Without hope, we find ourselves sinking into a mire of helplessness and with that comes a shadowy inertness that becomes stronger and darker each time it is fed. Caught in this helpless spiral I found myself sinking quickly, and seeking more fuel to feed this hopelessness. I stared at the blank screen on my computer and found nothing to say, stopped writing in my journal, forgot I had a new novel to write, a new story to tell, something that sought harmony through chaos and beauty through ugliness, something that just might help provide a little nudge towards making this world we have created into a better place. I forgot why I had written Flight, what gifts it had given me and a growing number of readers. In short, I forgot the power of hope.

'We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.' I read this anonymous quote many years ago and at the time it shifted something within me, helping me to see from a different perspective, one that is not so much 'me' centred but rather 'world' centred, a perspective that reveals a bigger picture and a sense of responsibility. When I read this again recently, I realised that with three children growing into an uncertain world, it is vital for me to keep the flame of hope burning. In fact, it is my responsibility.

'Enough,' I said to myself and set about making a few changes. Firstly, I made the decision not to watch the news for a while, or anything else for that matter; no ruthless elimination shows, no violent dramas, no historical war documentaries and no flashy, inane celebrity shows. I went for a walk, then another, took up yoga again, made myself a vegetable juice, all the things I couldn't do when I was filled with hopelessness. Quickly I began feeling better. I looked at my journal again, went over what I had already written and once again began getting flashes of insights that I hoped would lead me back to my new novel. But all the time I kept wondering about this apocalypse business, wondering if it would be more useful to grow vegetables, put in a water tank, get off the grid, protect my children from the inevitable. . .

Frustrated, I looked up the word 'apocalypse' a term we associate with widespread destruction, with the end of the world as we know it. But in the definition I found something quite different. Apocalypse comes from the Greek word, apocalypsis, meaning a 'lifting of the veil' or 'revelation'. According to Wikipedia it means 'a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception'. Not an end then, far from it. Rather a time of change and a seeing through. A time perhaps when truth will be harder to hide. When humanity will look for different qualities in their leaders; integrity perhaps, compassion and honesty. Looking at it in this way, it is not an end but a possibility of a new beginning. With this definition in mind I can sit in front of my computer screen and find the words needed to create something new. Once again I have found hope and optimism and with it the possibility of action. And with that, the key to my new novel, Walking Between Worlds

Copyright (c) 2013 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:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Exploring Landscape and Belonging Through Story

‘Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.’
James Baldwin Giovanni’s Room

Recently I attended a storytelling festival in Aberystwyth and as I sat mesmerized by the unfolding story of Pryderi, the ruler of Dyfed, I realized once again the power of the ancient stories and the oral tradition of storytelling to connect us to history, to each other and to the land. In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote that, ‘telling or hearing stories draws its power from a towering column of humanity joined one to the other across time and space, elaborately dressed in the rags or robes or nakedness of their time.’ Listening to this spine tingling retelling of stories from the Welsh Mabinogion, for a moment I felt myself balanced on this towering column and understood what it must mean for someone to feel rooted to the earth, to grow and develop in a country with stories that feed the soul with the wisdom of mythic times, and a landscape that is steeped in these stories.

While the stories we tell about ourselves form our individual identity, the stories we tell about our country form our national identity and for better or worse, these narratives act as roots to ground us to place, providing a sense of belonging and a definition of nationhood. I don’t pretend to be Welsh but my ancestral roots are closer to Britain than they are to Australia where my ancestors are not the indigenous Aboriginal people whose land was taken from them. It’s not always comfortable being a white Australian. We have no ancient claim to the land and no traditional stories to draw from, except the stories of conquering and overcoming the odds, and the legends of mateship and a ‘fair go’ that came with colonization and a persistent white Australian policy. These are stories that have become mythologized in Australia, forming a national character that often marginalizes the indigenous population and ignores the fact that Australia is now a multi-cultural nation and the majority of its population are or once were, immigrants.

There are a number of contradictions inherent in white Australians’ relationship to the land. Many of us are at once drawn to, and repelled by the outback, awed by its beauty and frightened by its dangers. We carry the guilt of the conqueror, a guilt that often stops us from claiming a real connection to the land. Our legendary heroes are the men who cleared fields of rocks, who dug canals to drain marshy land, who made the harsh land work for them. The Aussie battler has become part of our national character. Yet, despite this reverence for the outback, more than ninety percent of Australians live in urban environments, for the most part clustered around the edges of this continent, turned away from the centre which carries such a mystique. We romanticise the wilderness, but most rarely, if ever, experience it. Yet, deep within us there's such a longing for wildness, for wilderness and for the sense of real connection with place.

When I began writing my first novel, Gathering Storm, I had no idea how important a role landscape would play in it or how confused I was about my own relationship to the land. The story moves from the snow covered Malvern Hills in England to the harsh heat of the Australian outback, a dramatic contrast in itself, but then there are the contradictions that are deeply embedded in the relationship the characters have with the places in which they live, or once lived, or never lived, but still dream of. These are contradictions which I feel strongly, having grown up in the suburban wilderness of Adelaide, with its manicured lawns, neat fences and garden beds filled with roses and hydrangeas, all cowering under well placed umbrellas to avoid the worst of the baking sun. At school I learned European history in an education system that was still clinging to the comforting notion of a homeland. The only things reminding me that there was more to Australia, were the throaty laugh of the kookaburra, the eucalyptus scent of the gums trees, the fierce summer heat and the frequent dust storms that blew in from 'out back', turning the sky orange and clogging our lungs.

The word nostalgia comes from two Greek roots, nostos (returning home) and algos (pain). For most of my life I suffered from this affliction; a yearning to return home but no idea of where that home might be. This sense of alienation I felt goes some way towards explaining why I decided to make my main character English in Gathering Storm. This gave me the freedom to describe Australia through the eyes of a stranger, someone who doesn't belong. Storm is also part Romany – partly imbued with the blood of a nomadic people, and although her family have lived in England for nearly seventy years, she still doesn't fully belong there either. Storm belongs nowhere. She is torn between movement and stillness, restless but afraid, wanting to settle, but eager to move. Her sense of self is scattered between the cottage in the Malvern Hills, her boyfriend’s apartment, her art studio and her Kombi van. Then there's her romantic notion of a Bohemia she has never visited, her nostalgia for the Malvern of her childhood and her fearful retracing of her mother's footsteps in the Australian outback. And finally there's the traumatic cultural legacy of the past that plays havoc with her sense of self. Storm’s childhood is filled with secrets and silences embedded in the spaces between the stories her family reluctantly tell. Speaking of her childhood need for stories, Storm says, ‘I consumed them as if there were a great hollow inside me that needed filling and that once filled, their weight, the weight of my ancestors, would act as an anchor. . .’

For me, a sense of belonging is linked very closely to place and to the stories we tell that connect us to place. I was an adopted child and grew up steeped in a sense of my own illegitimacy. Like Storm, I felt I belonged nowhere, that no place was truly mine. And because this lack of belonging was a strong central theme in my own life, it inevitably demanded to be explored in the stories I told. Woven through both Gathering Storm and Flight, is this sense of dislocation and statelessness that can be felt and experienced personally, but also within a family a culture and a nation. Place gives us identity, a passport to belonging. But time does it too. In a sense, space and time cross when a family or a people have been anchored in one place for generations. Ancestors provide us with roots and so does place. As Storm asks: How long does it take? How many generations? Do we inherit place? Do we earn it? Or is belonging simply a state of mind? Exploring these questions through writing has helped me to resolve issues of belonging and identity within my own life. Like Storm I have begun to suspect that belonging is ultimately something we carry inside of ourselves. It is a realisation that comes when we are on the right path in our lives. Until then nowhere is ours, but when this realisation arrives, the world becomes ours. For as Joseph Campbell wrote, ‘our true reality is in our identity and unity with all life’.

Copyright (c) 2013 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: