I’m proud to welcome writer and artist, Threasa Meads, to the attic this week. Please read on for a beautiful piece about being brave in your writing.
Threasa is the author of two liminal autobiographies, Nobody and Mothsong (Rare Bird Books, 2016), and a visual artist with a PhD in creative writing from Flinders University. Nobody was shortlisted for The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award in 2008 and awarded a Varuna Fellowship in 2009. In 2012, Threasa was emerging writer in residence at the KSP Writers’ Centre.
Threasa has a passion for nurturing writers and building creative communities, and since 2009 she has taught in the School of Humanities and Creative Arts at Flinders University, where she is currently an associate lecturer. Her writing across genres has been published in local and international journals. At present she is developing her thesis into a computer game, researching the memoir which follows Mothsong, writing a magical realist fiction novel, and painting up a storm.
You can find out more about Threasa here.
Be brave with your words
When I was a very little girl I didn’t want to be a writer; I wanted to be a secretary as I believed that you could only have a bob haircut if you were a secretary. I gave up on that idea when I learned that your hairstyle wasn’t tied to your occupation. At the age of ten, I still hadn’t got a bob haircut, but decided I wanted to be a writer.
It started with a simple piece of homework. I was in the backyard when I told my mum that I had to write a story about home. I asked her what I should write.
Mum pointed at the back veranda and said, ‘Write about the grapevines.’
They seemed like such a boring option, so I asked, ‘What do I say?’
‘Say they’re multi-coloured.’
That was when I really looked at them. They were multi-coloured. It was as though I was seeing them for the first time. There were so many colours. There were green grapes and brown ones. Purple ones in different shades. The light shining through the leaves made the leaves different colours too. There were dark green leaves, light green leaves, yellow leaves, orange leaves, and some were even white. The vines were light and dark brown wood, and in some places, they were soft and green and curly and easy to snap. Some up high were like curious cats’ tails reaching to get into the house. It was then that I saw that the vines were wild and strong. I saw that the house was a part of the vines and not the other way around. I realised that left alone and uncared for, they would grow to cover every wall and window of that house until the multi-coloured grapevines swallowed it in one big gulp. I never looked at those grapevines the same way ever again, or at anything else.
My teacher said my story showed imagination; I told him that I wanted to find new words like multi-coloured to describe everything, and he gave me a thesaurus. In it was a sparkling word, a word that shone like a precious gem in an ancient crown found in a treasure chest dug up from the ocean. It was the most perfect word to describe the sky’s endless hope and magic.
The word was azure.
It was the first secret to the beautiful universe that I had learned. I’d discovered the real word for the sky that I believed no one else knew. There were many secrets in my life, but this one was a different kind of secret, a happy secret wrapped in light. As I grew older I sought to uncover all the magic of words through watching and listening and reading. I believed that there were beautiful secrets hidden everywhere and I was determined to discover them, to write them down.
By the time I was twenty-one, I had a suitcase full of words. I’d upgraded the bag as the amount of writing had grown, kind of like a hermit crab does with a shell.
After already being out of home for more than four years, I was at a turning-point in my life where I was concerned that I was addicted to writing; I couldn’t go a day without writing a short fragment of a story or a poem. I’d even finished the first draft of my memoir. As a way of marking a new beginning, I decided to hold a bonfire and burn all my writing: I lived with this overwhelming urge to tell stories, yet I felt that I was uncreative in every other way, and hoped that through stopping writing that I would be forced to learn how to paint, sing, and dance to express myself. To do this, I believed that my last eleven years of writing had to be sacrificed. I lit three sticks of incense (because everyone knows that three is a magic number) and I poured out all my pages and lit them up. I think I may have sung ‘The Rainbow Connection’ by Kermit The Frog. It has always been my go-to tune for anything heartfelt.
My writing-fast only lasted about three weeks, but over the next several years I did study a little acting, have singing lessons and begin painting.
It wasn’t until I was around twenty-eight that I realised how much I actually needed my writing. I didn’t know that my writing had been the glue holding together the pages of my traumatic memories until the glue gave out. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, I finally surrendered and admitted I needed help with healing the open wounds of my childhood. I have been so very lucky to have the support of loved ones, friends and professionals.
Most of all, I am grateful to have had my words. My writing has been my lifeboat.
This year, at the age of forty-two, I published two liminal autobiographies (I call them liminal mainly to address the limitations of the autobiographical form). The first one, Nobody, employs the choose-your-own-adventure structure to illustrate the complexity of navigating trauma. It is my story of growing up in Australia in the eighties in a violent and abusive world. Nobody’s second-person narration and choose-your-own-adventure form work with word and image to convey the intimate exchange I had with my fragmented selves while writing and reveals the claustrophobia and confusion of PTSD. With Nobody, I ask people to see the threads of complicity connecting individuals and communities to the ongoing issues of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse.
The second book I published this year, Mothsong, is a little different. I wrote it as part of my PhD at Flinders University, and it is a journey packed with healing and new discoveries. Mothsong celebrates art’s capacity to facilitate and map posttraumatic growth. It is my testimony of healing from child abuse. Through poetic prose, artworks, and personal reflection, Mothsong maps my ongoing journey of healing from the trauma of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. In Mothsong, the moth is a very special symbol of the soul’s urge to find the light, to heal—especially the soul trapped in the darkest of night.
My writing gives me hope for a better future. Words have power.
My writing has held my hand as I navigated the darkest labyrinth of my memories.
Again, and again, my writing has set me free. I’m not saying it has been easy. Like so many other writers, I’ve had to move mountains of shit, dig deep into my chest cavity, battle tear-tsunamis, and brave my own despair to uncover a grain of light, a glimpse of the complexity of being human in my writing. Through doing this, though, I’ve learned one of the real secrets to the beautiful universe: the true magic in writing. It is so simple, but so powerful:
We write so that we can understand ourselves a little bit better, and so the world can feel and see and understand itself just a little bit more because we are brave enough to share our stories.
I have a few more essays for Writers in the Attic to come before the Christmas break, and then I’m hoping to return sometime in January, 2017, depending on where I’m at with edits for my book.
If you’d like to pen a few words about your writing life, please contact me via the Contact page. A good length is 600-1000 words, and the topic is writing and what it means to you. I love brave, honest stories, because, as Threasa has mentioned above, not only is that how we understand ourselves better, but it’s what speaks to others, too—nothing beats a ‘me, too’ moment.
A reminder that you can sign up for my monthly newsletter, and receive a copy of my short story, ‘Metaplasia’. I also run a monthly giveaway and all subscribers are automatically in the running. Apart from all of that, you’ll get to be the first to hear my news!
Threasa’s essay touched me deeply. such a courageous lady. I have always believed that writing is therapeutic.
Thank you Delores
Yes, this essay touched me, too, and you’re right, it takes courage to write like this.
Writing is good therapy, and there are sound physiological reasons behind it: putting experiences into words helps ‘process’ them and integrate them. A very necessary part of healing from PTSD.
Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂
Dear Delores, thank you so much for reading my piece, and for sharing your response. I am moved that my words touched you deeply. Thank you for honouring my courage. Kindest wishes, Threasa
Ah Threasa, loveliest of writers. Your words have always enriched me even as they leave me in tears. It’s good to read about some of your writerly beginnings here. Brave, courageous and ever evocative writer. Thanks.
I’ve only just met Threasa, but I can see that what you write is so true—it’s lovely, enriching writing. Thanks, Lis. x
Oh, Lis! I am grateful to be in the company of such inspiring writers such as yourself. Thank you for your kind and appreciative words, for sharing my journey, for encouraging me. Kindest wishes, Threasa
Dear Threassa. Even though I’ve never met you nor have I had the good fortune of talking with you, I feel I know you from your experiences. Your writing is wonderfful but your insight and compassion is even more so. I’m crying out of selfish hope that I might one day see the light as you have. I’m going out today to buy your books. Thank you. Ps: It was most encouraging and inspiring your mother saw the colours too????
Gill, keep writing with self-compassion and you’ll start to feel lighter, I know you will.
I love your comment about the colours—it *is* a lovely thing for a mother to say! x
Dear Gill, thank you! My heart burst reading your response to my words. I am so incredibly moved that you have reached out and expressed your connection to my experiences. I write to grow and heal and to forge a deeper connection with myself and the wider world, and I also write so that I may share a little hope, a little light with others.
I listened to the most inspiring podcast the other day of Kate Tempest’s opening address to the 2016 Sydney Writers’ Festival that you might appreciate (https://omny.fm/shows/sydney-writers-festival/kate-tempest-2016-opening-address).
I agree with Kate Tempest that our stories have the power to transform our lives, that they bring us together as a community. I firmly believe that sharing our stories puts us in touch with a deeper sense of humanity that is bigger and stronger and filled with hope. I am sending you all the colours of the rainbow as a reflection of the colour and light you have within yourself, with the heartfelt hope that you discover more of your rainbow through your writing!
Thank you for wanting to read more of my writing. Please keep in touch.
Kindest wishes, Threasa
Now that’s what I call being born a writer. I love the story about the grapes so much.
Me too, Pinky! Yes, some of us are born writers—others (like me) take a bit longer to get there. Thanks for reading and commenting. xx
Wow, Michelle. Thank you! It’s such a gift to receive your appreciative words. I shall tuck them away in my sparkling jar of encouragement for those days when I am doubt-filled. Thank you for reading my piece. Kindest wishes, Threasa
Writing as a lifeboat. Such a succinct and relatable metaphor. Sometimes just thinking about words, if I am unable to or can’t bear write them down is calming, if not quenching. Threasa, your sentences are amazing! M
A lifeboat is a pithy and apt metaphor for the life-saving ability of words. I’ve felt the relief of putting words to feelings and memories myself, and I saw it time and again as a doctor. The benefits can’t be overestimated. Thanks, M, for your insight. x
Dear M, I love that you find such solace in even thinking about words! Quenching is such a gorgeous description of the experience words can offer. Thank you for reading my piece and for offering such a moving appreciation of my writing. Kindest wishes, Threasa
Yes indeed….writing (like visual art) is balm for the soul. Thank you for featuring Threasa Meads Louise. I just loved reading this.
I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this, Asta! I believe all of the arts—music, literary, visual, dance—are a balm for our souls and we’d be much lesser people without them. Thanks for commenting. xx
Dear Asta, the arts are such a balm for the soul, yes! I’m so grateful to you for reading my piece and sharing your response. Thank you so much for appreciating my words. Kindest wishes, Threasa
Threasa word-weaver! What a beautiful passage. Thank you for taking me on your life-saving boat. Molly xx
Couldn’t agree more, Molly. Thanks for visiting. 🙂
Thank you, Molly! xo
What a beautiful post. I agree that writing can help with traumatic issues from the past (I think that’s what has drawn me into writing – and it is giving back so much more!). Thank you so much for sharing your story Threasa. It was very inspiring.
I’ve half-written a post about how writing about trauma and putting it into words helps process things that have happened to us—it’s well understood and backed up by neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. It will take me a while to write, but I really want to as it’s a pet subject of mine because I, too, have felt the benefits.
Thanks for your comment, Marie. x