A singing bird – reading leads to writing which leads to reading

Despite the best of intentions, I’ve strayed from the routine I’ve been nurturing. Actually, I did so intentionally. I have been wilful and made a fully intentional detour.

After all, life has to happen like that sometimes.

My life does, at least.

It only becomes an issue when the detour needs to come to an end. That’s where the best of intentions come into play. Detours and diversions can be so (let’s be honest) seductive.

This is a recurrent theme in my reflections. What I’ve realised is that I’ve arrived at a point where I need to take time to do what gives me joy if I’m going to stay focused on the other things. There might be joy in them, the other things, but … sometimes I need to be sure of some respite.

There is a Chinese proverb that I have always loved: Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come
A thought to carry

I always think of the bird as joy and creative energy.

The joy of reading

Most of my life – day job, study, recreational time – revolves around words. As a rule, that works for me. I love what I do. Mostly.

There a moments, though, when my heart sinks. Just a little.

Another discussion about Oxford commas, anyone?

But words and everything that goes along with them are what makes my heart sing. Reading and books, word games and word play have been at the centre of my world. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader.

I’ve always loved putting words together. In my head if there’s been no paper or, in those early years of school – it was that long ago, a slate.

  • My great-grandmother, Old Nan, was legendary for wanting to read everything. She was voracious. I didn’t know her for very long. She was 97 when she died and I’m not sure I was even at school. But the memory of her – of her reading, along with the family stories – has stuck.
  • When my dad accidentally caught my arm with a cigarette as we walked along a crowded street he consoled me (not only by obviously being devastated that it had happened) with a wonderful book of poetry.* I remember choosing the book from the shelf in the bookshop, the shape of first poem (even though the exact words escape me now) and its illustration. It was about looking into a fire and seeing fairies dancing. I read and read that book. I loved it.
  • My prized possession as a child, lost when I left home, was a book of fairy tales. Each story had one illustration. The only story I didn’t read – because the picture featured a man pinned to a tree by a snake – was ‘Sinbad the Sailor’. The others I pretty much knew by heart.

So, I’ve always been a reader. Words have always been my thing.

I don’t have time for a bookclub and my solution is time out for a sizable detour. It’s an indulgence, if I’m to be honest, especially as far as time goes: the Perth Writers Festival.

Three days of listening to writers and readers. Three days of catching up with friends, some of whom I hardly ever see these days. With some it was a quick chat in queues – or in passing as we crossed paths in the race to the next session – and with others it was a lunch and conversations that peeled away the years in between meetings.

They were three days of knowing there was other stuff I should be doing but that I was doing what I needed to be doing.

I imagine this also explains why I went to PWF16 with a plan to attend poetry events and sessions but kept finding myself listening to people talk about writing crime stories.

Start of Australian Poets Festival: 9x5 The Big Read WA Poetry
Standing room only

I went to sessions that were packed. There was standing room only for some.

I caught some spoken word sessions that made my heart sing. I’ve heard about Barefaced Stories, so that session on the Friday night was always on my horizon. Sketch the Rhyme – freestyle rap meets Pictionary … What’s not to love?

Joy and effervescence

Amongst it all, I have made progress with my thesis.

I have clarified what I think needs to change with the shape and direction.

Reshaping the project continues to be confronting. That’s obviously the point. If I didn’t need to respond and make changes, I think pursuing the topic would be an empty activity. The changes come from making discoveries and deepening understandings.

It comes down to the words and, to be honest, the chase. Hunting down ideas is part of the game. It’s what I love about the process.

Along the way, I’m hoping to be more balanced and remember that joy in being a reader and a writer. It is being a reader and a writer that brought me to the project. I am staying alert to moments that fizz because ideas work and words are right.

I’m hoping for some of those moments while I’m drafting the next chapter and making ongoing revisions.

A moderate haul from the bookshop at the Perth Writers Festival 2016
In the wings

 

*I suspect I only felt its heat, not an actual burn. There was probably no real need for consolation…

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