Writing is a rather random thing.
Occasionally, a perfectly formed sentence, a poetic turn of phrase or snippets of intriguing conversation gallop towards one out of the blue. You need to be quick! Grab a pencil and try, at least, to pin down the tail of the thought as it races by. Sometimes you can’t catch it, and it is gone for good.
I was fortunate to spend this past weekend on Elana Bregin’s Autumn Writing Retreat at Solitude in Dargle. Hoping to absorb some of her wisdom on the mysterious writing process. “Confusion is the doormat of creativity,” she told us, “writing is often a messy process, but you must have chaos to give birth to a dancing star.”
The ever-so-slightly unruly writers gathered beneath the autumn trees, included a witty accountant in search of her real life, a young man getting to grips with the meaning of masculinity, avid letter writers, seasoned bloggers, teachers with tales to tell and lots of questions about life.
Elana’s gentle guidance, the quiet reflections, the full moon around the fire circle, cups and cups of tea and Rocket Cafe’s delicious food were perfect ingredients to tether our creativity.
We walked a little, talked a little, read a little, wrote a lot and spent some time in silence.
We learnt that what we really needed to do (according to Isabelle Allende) was provide the solitude and discipline, and the story would write itself. Constantly jotting down the ‘originating moments’ – ideas, feelings, sentences. “You want things to squidge out,” Elana encouraged.
We surrendered to the process, unleashed our inner storyteller and captured the unraveling tales before they vanished over the hill.
Then we shared our freshly crafted stories – of cheekily chattering yellow daisies, a small fierce woman in a flimsy blouse, whispering grass imbued with the spirit of life, one wild night with Frederico, dogs named Dandelion and Daffodil – some flash fiction, some poetry, many beautiful blessings.
The right side of our brains reveled in the colours, the conversation and natural inspiration. The left side was pleased to learn the basic structure of a story – about tension and plot, conflict, context and character development. I wrote this poem.
flick the switch
take the road less travelled
right is never wrong
kick up the leaves
leave the lists, the logic, the looking for loopholes
dive into copper cloud folds
revel in the moon rimmed glow
winkle out whatever is left of your imagination
turn right to write
watch mist rise, shadows shift
monkeys silent silhouette
stuff your suitcase with all it takes
launch the boat
it’s your journey to create
Nature, and, in particular Autumn, inspired many of us. There were puff adder and leopard sightings, sunlit monkeys, a whirl of black and blue as a sleek drongo snatched a freshly-freed butterfly in mid-air, a frenzy of frogs and incredible skies.
In the embrace of a copper coloured tree, I wrote
At the Autumn Ball
gowns of old gold dance in the low-slung light
avenues shrug off saffron shawls
skirts swirl kissed by the cinnamon sun
translucent sleeves flutter and fall
the clock strikes
the season turns
and then, it is winter
We explored what turns on our writing lights and what shuts them down. We searched for the perfect word, made new friends, swam in the dam and howled at the moon. We rebelled, we questioned, we danced in the leaves, we kept the pages turning.
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