Every week, I say how honoured/thrilled/excited I am to host this week’s Writer in the Attic. I know I’m repeating myself and sounding clichéd, but it’s true: every week, I am truly honoured, thrilled and excited to post each story.
As I read the stories that come in, I’m often rendered speechless, not just by the events they outline, which are often heart-wrenching in themselves; and not just by the words and their melody; but also by the intangible something underneath—the power of writing. Or as Glenda Janes, today’s guest in the attic, calls it, the saving grace of words.
I held my breath as I read Glenda’s piece, moved by this beautiful, aching story that tells of the saving grace of writing, even when it seems trite and futile and doesn’t give us the answers.
By not writing, I was forcing another loss on myself; certainly not one as drastic or final as death, but a loss that nonetheless created a pretty big hole in my life.
Glenda Janes is a music teacher and writer who lives in Melbourne. She has been writing seriously since joining a creative writing class at her local Neighbourhood House in 2007. Over the years, this has become a most supportive writing group. She has written three novel-length works, two of which sit dormant in a cupboard. The third, which she believes to have the most potential, is resting before the rewrite. She also derives pleasure from the shorter form, with stories and essays having appeared in anthologies and magazines as well as The Sunday Age.
The Saving Grace of Writing
For many different reasons the general consensus is that 2016 was a difficult year. For my family and me, it was death that cast its pall over several months of the year. The first loss was my mother-in-law whose life had come to a natural end at the age of 85. Fair enough.
But then within a period of less than two months, a friend’s brother died unexpectedly, a 14-year-old girl at my daughter’s school died of a seizure, a dear friend of over thirty years succumbed to Motor Neurone Disease, and finally a mother’s group friend died of breast cancer at the age of 48.
These deaths impacted on all aspects of our lives. Questions were asked; unanswerable questions, I knew that, but when faced with deaths that seemed so wrong, the questions came unbidden and couldn’t be avoided.
I would like to say that, ‘Writing got me through the grieving’, but that would be misleading.
Grief doesn’t go away; it just becomes a fraction easier to live with as time goes on.
Too often the last thing I wanted to do was write, and I didn’t. I simply didn’t see the point of it. I continued journaling, venting madly, trying to find answers. I wrote in my diary, recording daily activities. I dredged up three ‘positives’ for each day, because I thought it would help me appreciate the life I still had.
As November approached I contemplated not participating in National Novel Writing Month. I had successfully completed the previous six years of writing 50,000 words in thirty days but, by October, I wondered if I had the energy or desire for it for another year. I had thought to develop an already established but minor character from the previous year’s NaNoWriMo but struggled to be enthused by the idea.
Still coursing through my head were questions: What was the point of writing? Why create fictional characters? What purpose do they serve? What was the point of creating whole families and their associated problems, particularly when real life has more than enough that we struggle to deal with? Further, who would care about these characters?
I realised then that I cared and didn’t want to let my creations go; that even if I was the only one who would ever care about my characters, then that would be enough to continue developing them and finding out what makes them tick.
I also knew that by not writing, not developing characters I’d created, I was robbing myself of the pleasure that writing had previously given me; by not writing, I was forcing another loss on myself; certainly not one as drastic or final as death, but a loss that nonetheless created a pretty big hole in my life.
Writing is an escape as well as a temporary distraction from the realities that life can throw our way. It opens up a world of fictional people I don’t know but whose secrets I uncover over the course of writing their stories. I also like discovering that, given their heads, these characters laugh at the plans I have made for them and go off in directions I couldn’t possibly have anticipated when I began.
So on 1 November, I began writing and twenty-three days later, I completed my seventh NaNoWriMo. When I reached the 50,000 word mark it was clear that there was still a substantial amount to be written to finish telling the story. Over the following two months I added a further 35,000 words until I had the satisfaction of writing The End.
As a result of daily writing and creating, and the passage of time, I rediscovered my passion for writing and realised how much of a solace it can be.
I still can’t work out death but as far as I know nobody has yet, so the randomness and injustice of it will have to remain a dark, aching mystery.
But for those of us left behind, life does go on and sometimes it’s something as simple as the routine of participating in a writing event that kickstarts the writing life and the rediscovery of the enjoyment it brings.
WRITERS IN THE ATTIC
If you’d like to write a piece for Writers in the Attic, please let me know by clicking here.
I’ve had an influx of essays recently, and I’m booked until mid-April, but that just means you have a couple of months to write one! I really enjoy reading them and would love to post your story, so please don’t be scared to take the plunge!
600-1000 words is a good length, and all I ask is that the topic is writing related. It can be anything to do with your writing life or what writing means to you.
I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces and send a small gift as a thank you.
I have rejoined the land of the living and write this with a bounce in my fingers as I’m definitely on the downhill run with my edits. I finished rewriting my novel over the weekend, and am about to re-read it and tweak any bits that don’t flow—I’m sure I’ll find a few!
My deadline is the end of the week, and after that I can return to my usual blog and newsletter (see below) transmission, which I’m looking forward to. I’m so grateful for the writers who’ve kept my blog’s heart beating over the past month while I’ve been otherwise occupied—thank you!
Due to the above-described edits, I’m running behind with everything, including my newsletter. Despite that, please sign up, as I promise it will come, and it will be interesting! Also, if you’re on the subscriber list, you’ll be in the running for this month’s giveaway, which is a beautiful book: ‘Books I Have Read—Books I Want to Read’.
It’s illustrated with decorated papers from the Olga Hirsch collection, and also has quotes from writers and famous people. It’s so exquisite, you might not want to write in it!