Wednesday, 16 July 2014

In The Beginning Was The Word: How A Writer Becomes.

When I was five years old I sat in a hot kindergarten classroom in Fiji and watched as my teacher wrote the letter "e" on a red wagon and pulled it over to the word "cap" to make "cape." Blew. My. Mind.

Learning to understand words is incredible powerful. We start making sense of the world around us. And if the world you're living in is confusing and hard, learning words and their meanings can help immensely. I attended nine more schools. I sucked at school. Woeful. SO DUM. But I always topped my English classes, especially in creative writing. In 1988 I attended a school in England. Dorky, bad glasses, painfully shy. I came first for a short story in English so my teacher made me stand up and read it out. The entire class started laughing at my Australian accent. Burnt bright red but you know what happened when I kept reading anyway? The class shut the fuck up because my story was GOOD. My story shit on all of their stories. Mine was the best. When I sat back down, something had shifted.

Words are powerful.

My grandmother really saw me when I was a kid and she nurtured my love for writing. "You'll write a book one day, Eden. But only after you've had enough life experience."

During some of the darkest times of my life (probably not the life experience nan had in mind) I always had this feeling at the back of my head - But what if you get through this, Eden? What if you get through it all and you end up writing about it and telling other people they can get through, too?

I've written chunks, reams, chapters of words for a book. Just like me it's disjointed and haphazard.

I've written this blog! And won stuff, for it. Did big things, because of it. Every time somebody compliments me for my writing I don't like it. Very occasionally I go back and read old blog posts and I can't STAND them, so I'll keep writing until I get it write, right?

It's taken years to come into my own as a writer. It's taken my whole life. And now, at THIS moment of my life, when things seem just as dark if not worse than my twenties, I am relying on two things to get me through: my family, and my words.

Every person on earth is born to create. We paint, cook, sew, dance, garden, graffiti, shape, weave, act, perform, photograph, film. We experience who we are by what we create.

Mine is to write. How do you write? You just put sentences together, over and over again. Live your life fully and then describe. What do your feelings feel like? Probably the same as my feelings, we just use different words. Don't just tell me it's raining. Tell me the rain fell onto your head and you stopped to tilt your head back and opened your mouth in the middle of a busy street and in that moment you stopped caring so much about what other people think after a lifetime trying to impress.

Write crap that you'd never show anyone but sifting through that crap you'll find one hidden gem that can go on to be prize-winning, noteworthy, fucking WHITE HOT. Or something just for you, that you know is good, and you can tuck it in your pocket to take out on a rainy day when you have nothing. NEVER underestimate the power of good grammar, because you'll need to misuse it later. I like to write the bones first, see the skeleton. Or the bones first, see. The skeleton. Flesh them out, pad, decorate, slip a nice slinky dress on, twirl your words around, admire them. Then strip them bare like a bear barely there, all the way back down naked and shivering. Dip your words in acid, chop them up. You have to destroy them to see what's left because what goes for you can't go past you.

To be brutal with my words, I must be brutal with my words. And THEN serve them up on a plate with a sprig of parsley from my grandmothers garden.

A prayer can turn into a cathedral. Believe in your art. It could save your life one day.

"The Blue Stocking Poetry Jam is a spoken word event held in Sydney's Inner West. We showcase local and international poetic talent backed with music or multimedia. Currently at St Peter's Town Hall every third Thursday of the month. We invite you to come along with a friend to perform your words, spoken, written or improvised."

I am SO EXCITED to be a part of the Blue Stocking Poetry Jam tomorrow night. Come! I think there's still tickets - ten bucks. I love that people will gather in an actual room and celebrate words with each other. Still not sure exactly what a jam is? I'm thinking it's like how a group of musicians get together and have a jam? No biggie. No slam, which is a full-on competition with judges. (Not to be confused with the lesser-know Poetry Ham, where people get together and profess lovewords for bacon.)

As I was writing my piece for the Australian Poetry Slam heat the other week, I cried and raged and pounded the table. Madwoman. Almost gave up because why bother doing anything. But I wrote it and when I performed it to people that night, the energy dissipated through the room and people felt it because I felt it. A piece on grief written and performed while I am still grieving. Performance art on steroids.

I'm working on a few pieces at a time. Some people call it poetry but what is poetry, really? It's just a bunch of words put together, arranged just so. Like a piece of music. Poetry is the way you open your eyes in the morning and become your consciousness again and draw back the covers to face another day with the same face you had on yesterday and nothing has changed in the whole world except you. It's a curve, a dimple, a freckle, an arch in a back. Poetry is a black cat in a red book on a white shelf. It's the way you describe that dream you had about your grandmother when she left you those eyeballs in a glass of water next to your bed and when you popped those eyeballs in, man, the whole wall disappeared and suddenly you saw ALL of the colours of the landscape in the world because you finally decided to stop drinking.

Poetry is a small red-haired girl sitting quietly, watching the "e" in a little red wagon change one word into a completely different word. The sound of the chalk on the board drowning out the teasing from other children because her skin was too white, not a beautiful brown like theirs.

I never fit in. Anywhere. Still don't. So I stopped trying, and wow you should try it. Tastes like freedom.

There's a blog called Toddler Planet by Susan Niebur. Before Susan died of cancer, this was her mantra:

“All that survives after our death are publications and people. So look carefully after the words you write, the thoughts and publications you create, and how you love others. For these are the only things that will remain.”

I'll be doing three pieces tomorrow night like Goldilocks - a little one, a medium sized one, and then a big kahuna one. If you can't make it I promise to show them all to you one day in a big reveal, Computer. In words and video. It's you who are responsible for this, after all. Thank you for reading my words. My words are all I got. Thank you more than you'll ever ever know. xx

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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