The room smelled stale. The sheets were not clean. The pink floral wall paper and king size bed did nothing to soothe him. His muscles twitched with agitation. He looked down at her, he smiled. Her big blue eyes stared up at him and she smiled too. He loved them like this. Willing to hand over their body, unwittingly handing over their soul. A single drop of blood fell from his mouth onto her cheek. She winced. “I think your nose is bleeding.” He continued to smile. He arched back and with a swift movement plunged into her neck. He gulped, drinking her in. As her viscous fluid – beautiful, sweet, plentiful – slipped down his throat, as he felt the diminishing thump of her beating heart, her body convulsing on the soft bed, it occurred to him that she did not scream. He paused. He looked at her. She appeared calm. No matter. He felt strong. He felt good. He felt vindicated. In moments, she lay lifeless before him. He stared down at her, cold eyes staring back at him. Immortality. The very definition of the circle of life. And yet, in that moment, the hunter had just become the hunted.
I decided this week that it was time to stop talking and to start doing. After a week crippled by depression, I needed to have something on which to focus. And so I decided to enrol on the Australian Writer’s Centre Creative Writing Stage 1 course. We have just completed week 1.
My nerves, frankly, are shattered.
As writers, there is such a vulnerability about our work. And that is scary. Poo-in-your-pants scary.
Firstly, we had to introduce ourselves. As I read each introduction, I wondered what the hell I was doing thinking I could be a writer. Everyone seemed to have much more experience at living than I did. I mean, I barely leave the house.
But then, a strange thing happened.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been doing Morning Pages. A strategy suggested by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. The idea is that every morning, before you do anything else, you write three pages. Three pages of stream of consciousness writing. Every morning. And you will find your creative spark.
I’ve managed to keep at it for about 10 days now.
During the week, motivated by my spurt of bravery for signing up for the Creative Writing course, I thought I might sign up for a degree in Creative Writing. (It is true, I tend to get over enthusiastic and ahead of myself). Reading through the units to be studied, I noticed that there was a unit called Horror Writing. I flinched. I do not like horror. I do not like blood and gore and suspense. My family tease me when I watch a thriller from under a blanket, peeking through a hole with my eyes closed and my hands over my ears. I am not joking.
But then I also read that sometimes that which we revolt against is the very thing we need to lean into, to savour, to sit with it, to overcome it.
And so I leaned in. I wrote a paragraph about a vampire in my morning pages (amongst other depressive stuff you seriously do not want to know about). It was stream of consciousness, no story line in mind, just writing.
Our assignment this week was to write a scene that left the reader feeling like the character’s life was about to change forever.
Easy, I thought. I can do that.
But the main character couldn’t be anything like us. It had to be someone totally NOT like us.
This was a problem. I am a depressive recovering alcoholic who writes about her experiences on her blog. By my very afflictions, I am a narcissist! All my characters and stories in my head are a derivative of me!
And so I looked at my Vampire and thought perhaps I could so something with him. And as I was writing, a pretty amazing thing happened. I started to think about extending the story. I started to think “What if?”
And before I knew it, I wasn’t focussed on my misery, my angst and trying to translate that into a character whose miserable story would become a derivative of my own life. No, instead I was developing a story of fantasy and wonder and amalgamating a gazillion different life forms and eras into one messy, but gloriously delicious story. Suddenly, rather than seemingly arduous, this writing journey took on new meaning, new zest, new life.
I’m not saying for a second that I am going to write a vampire novel, or become a gothic horror author. I mean, I might, if I can get some meat out of it. And if I can face my fear of gore. And if I can find my copy of Dracula, because apparently you have to at least have read that one to know something of the genre! And if I can go the distance. It takes on average two years to get a novel published for new writer, did you know that? That is from the conception of the story, to the published product. Two years! If nothing else, writers have to have faith and perseverance.
And so, here I am, finally starting this new journey. And that is what it is – a journey. An unknown journey. And who knows where it might end. It may be a short trip, or it may be a long one with a happy, serendipitous outcome.
But that is one of the joys of living, the unknowing. Actually, I don’t normally like that, but in this instance, I am liking it very much.
It just goes to show. Sometimes, you just have to take a leap. A leap of faith, a leap of vulnerability, and just give it a go. Go on, you know you want to. And I will be here right beside you.
PS: Please do give the AWC a go if you are thinking about becoming a writer (unsponsored plug there), they are fantastic!!
PPS: If you do buy The Artist’s Way, I do receive a tiny commission.