Last year I wrote a book, well a novella really. A collection of work on wildness. It was a vulnerable work that laid a lot of me bare. The kind of first work that needs to come out before anything else can. I write a lot about the darkness, difficult characters with difficult lives ignoring the one moment of silence and driving toward implosion instead. Complex relationships, women who make the ‘wrong choices’ and men who take advantage of them. People who… People like me.
I kept diving deep down into the pain of the past to fish for stories. A kernel of a memory. A hitchhiker jumping a counter with a knife while I unwittingly waited in the car. A nine year old child who asks her older neighbour to punch her repeatedly in the shoulder until she can’t feel it anymore. A woman identifying her husband in a morgue, her boyfriend in a line up.
Each time I went fishing it dragged up the past, and the more vividly I remembered it the better I wrote. But what came after were the things that I needed to push back all the memories again. Booze. Cigarettes. Food. Like somehow by stuffing them all down again I could control when they came out. But I may have well taken a giant dump on my body. There was nothing about what I was doing that was healthy. What I needed to do to write was working though and I was afraid if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to write. There was a vulnerability in the chaos and dysfunction that sparked words. Good words. Words that made people cry and gasp and laugh.
I’ve been on quite a journey lately. I’ve poked and prodded all these bits of myself and I’m sorting the remaining dysfunctions caused by a life marked mostly by survival. I’ve taken an hiatus from writing creatively for the past few months while I work out how I access the wildness in my characters and their lives without the things that drag me backwards. To maintain a sense of wildness in my own.
It’s important to me, in my work and in my life. That sense of adventure. Although my sense of risk has got smarter and less reckless over time. I think that happens when you reach middle age, as you balance the edge between not dying with the not living.
I’ve been working this past week reviewing work at a festival here in Tasmania. It’s full of the bacchanalian. The wild, the rebellious and the extreme. I’ve been stone cold sober in the middle of it. Taking photos and reviewing and getting a spectacularly close up opportunity to experience music and art and celebration. I’m inspired by the wild sweaty performers, the 5am revellers and the groupies. But I’m tucked up in bed in my pjays in front of the fire with the dog by 11pm.
I feel one step closer to feeling like shedding the dysfunction doesn’t mean stopping the writing. Let’s hope.
Photos by me- The Dirty Three @ Dark Mofo