Happiness is writing for me but where does the time go and how much do I actually write?
How do I inspire others to write, if I don’t?
Does time disappear more quickly as we age? The days certainly seem to be racing by – January has gone already and February more than halfway through…
I remember Dad telling me not to wish my life away when I was a teenager but I couldn’t wait to be an adult and complete a host of dreams on my wish list.
‘Life will disappear fast enough,’ he said wistfully, the shadow of melancholy making his dark eyes even darker.
I didn’t listen, of course. I fitted the cliche – there was no old head on young shoulders. Now, with grey hairs and arthritic bones, any wisdom garnered over the years has me reflecting and regretting all that wishing life away.
Maybe that’s why I am so passionate about encouraging others to write – all those years I thought I had to sit down and write when there wasn’t something more exciting to do…
It is Week Three of Writing Creatively Already
The enticing aroma of Hot Cross Buns drifts from supermarket bakeries and packets of the yummy treats fill the shelves, friends are sharing their camping plans for Easter holidays and pictures of the King and Queen of Moomba, one of Melbourne’s favourite autumn events appears on social media.
This is a short first term – Yikes!
New students are only starting to relax and old students are getting back into the swing of lessons and homework.
However, auditors must be appeased that any government investment in our particular slice of the adult education budget has been well spent and hopefully as the seven weeks roll on everyone will find some inspiration and motivation – and the elusive time to rewrite and edit!
And judging from the writing produced and/or planned from the icebreaker exercises whatever is produced will be a good read. (I could add ‘as usual’ but then I’m biased.)
Introductions – First Exercise
When I googled ‘icebreaker activities’ I got ‘about 4,620,000 results (0.64 seconds)’ but it took a lot longer to find and adapt ones that would lend themselves to a creative writing lesson.
I chose one that encourages people to think about how they introduce a sense of place. Encourages the writer to think about how a place may shape you and how they (or the characters) feel a sense of belonging.
The students sat quietly and thought of three clues to describe but not name, either their country of birth (if different from Australia) or their birthplace in Australia: city suburb, country town or interstate.
They then had to think of three clues to see if people could guess a foreign country they had visited, a favourite foreign country, or one they dream of visiting.
Then they wrote what they liked best about their birth country and the favourite foreign country.
I stressed it was not a competition to see who was the best riddle maker and not an invitation to see if people could be tricked.
The exercise designed to look at places and perhaps describe them using an aspect with some creativity. To think of how places are presented or could be presented in a more interesting way, perhaps emphasising an aspect that may define a birthplace and somewhere else that appeals rather than writing a one-sentence statement:
“Hi, my name is Mairi and I was born in Scotland but always dreamed about visiting Samoa and managed to do that a couple of years ago…”
I rewrote this to introduce myself to the class while thinking about the writing advice of showing rather than telling!
Hi, my name is Mairi. I was born where lochs and glens adorn postcards and men are not embarrassed to go without trousers, and our national musical instrument was declared a weapon of war.
A few years ago I visited a country and climbed a mountain to visit a grave, went to church and prayed for their rugby team to win, and ate banana pancakes.
I love the sense of humour and hospitality in my birth country and that warmth of welcome and fun was also experienced in the foreign country of my dreams.
Reflection, Rewriting and Road Maps To Fresh Ideas
It is surprising what people came up with when they had to think about their birthplace and what aspects they described to give clues to others – for those writing memoirs it gave them an opportunity to consider a more intriguing or inviting introduction too.
- Aboriginal name in the address
- a hospital nearby that is still a medical facility
- a Mediterranean country
- not an ally in WW2
- speak a language as easy to learn as English
- a Melbourne suburb still regarded as exclusive
- streets of shady trees nearby
- it claims Luna Park, the Victory theatre and a huge junction
- a capital city
- landlocked apart from the northern border
- turbulent history but now thriving democracy
- peopled by immigrants from many cultures
- some of the most fertile land in the area
- potatoes the favourite crop
- part of a soldier settlement deal
- a hot and dangerous country
- people speak Afrikaans
- southern hemisphere
- third planet from the sun
- southern cross never sets over hometown
- mell of Kugloff cake in the air
- often hear the sound of violins
- cottage close to the Danube
- hot and dry but lots of oranges are grown
- lots of Aussie songs written about this foreign place
- sung about in Gilbert and Sullivan productions
- artists’ colony
- filmed endlessly
- rocky coastline
- it’s the end of the world…
Sometimes it is impossible to know where you are headed without reflecting on where you came from. Understanding your heritage, your roots and your ancestry is an important part of carving out your future.
Technology and transportation today give us the opportunity to learn, often first hand, about the rest of the world. You may not have had the privilege of travelling overseas but had the thrill of talking with foreigners online, writing to pen pals, or working beside people from overseas, or maybe even have immigrants or visitors as neighbours.
The world shrinks and differences are less the more we learn and understand about each other. Everyone is capable of dreaming about crossing borders, venturing into the exotic, trying something new.
In class, we shared stories about dreams of visiting or actual visits to Vietnam, Italy, Malta, Greece, Galapagos Islands, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, USA, Germany, France, New Zealand, Ireland, Russia, Spain, South Africa, France, Hungary and Sweden, China, Poland, Pacific Islands, England, Scotland, Israel and Chile…
Ideas For Writing At Home
Needless to say that after the first exercise we all knew a lot more about each other and of places that could become settings in our stories and poems.
- the friendliness and delicious food of Vietnam and how easy it is to hire mobile phones and pushbikes
- Malta has several islands and lots of churches and is the only country to be awarded a medal of honour for valour during WW2
- Ithaca, a Greek island has close links to Italy with the people coming and going in ancient times without animosity
- the delightful birds on Galapagos Islands were made famous by David Attenborough and the Origin of The Species filmed there
- it is a spiritual experience visiting Uluru and walking around the sacred rock
- a visit to Gallipoli gives a new appreciation of its significance in the Australian psyche and of war – the terrain, the cove, the rows of crosses commemorating war dead and the statues in the streets of heroic Turkish soldiers.
- Morocco has amazingly bright, colourful architecture, beautiful places of worship and exotic culture displayed yet marred by the differences between rich and poor
- Egypt embodies a sense of history and place – the awe touching buildings that have stood for thousands of years
- the water is blue, so blue and blue in New Zealand and people laid back
- Christchurch devastated by an earthquake and so many beautiful buildings lost
- Ireland a place to start the history of many Australian families
- beautiful beaches in Fiji but humid – everyone says Bula – hello
- Paris may have the most prestigious art galleries in the world but people need to learn to clean up after their dogs
- The Moscow metro is cheap and a great way to travel around the city
- when you visit Hungary you may get a feeling you are under surveillance – cameras everywhere
- the significance and beauty of historical buildings a wonderful reason to visit Barcelona, Spain which is renowned for its architecture
- beware the risk of getting gastro on cruise ships in the Pacific…
The Task If You Want To Write Too…
Write at least 300-500 words explaining your connection to and love of your birth country and the favourite foreign place.
- Or perhaps you have a vivid memory to share – good or bad.
- Maybe travelling advice
- or write about a character you met
The exercise, or listening to others may have prompted an idea for a short story or poem.
At Longbeach Place in Chelsea where I teach Mondays, they have a wonderful YarnArt group which hosts a community story trail each year. There is a magnificent knitted peacock in the entrance hall of the centre and I’ll leave you with its symbolism.