A Time to Play

By Sue Trollip

I call my inner muse Flora and when she’s on a roll she replenishes herself nightly like Prometheus’s liver.

Flora is similar to a crop of mealies. When the rain and heat and soil are all at their optimum the mealies (Flora) flourish. When there is too much rain or an unexpected frost or badly fertilised soil the crop of mealies is weak or diseased, and the farmer has to contemplate selling some cows to make it through the lean months ahead. Similarly, when there is too much outside noise Flora loses concentration. When there’s a lack of passion towards the current project it’s difficult to drum up Flora’s enthusiasm and when she’s under or over stimulated nothing but a senseless babble erupts. Unfortunately for the farmer, if there’s a bad crop it affects his entire season, whereas Flora can be refuelled and rejuvenated in a couple of hours.

When Flora is unfruitful no amount of staring at a computer screen or tap-tapping at the keyboard seems to awaken her. That’s when I have to get creative in other ways. Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, advocates the artist’s date in order to fill the ‘creative well’ that will assist in refreshing your ‘artistic reservoirs’. She recommends going for a long walk or watching the sunrise over the beach and while I agree with this one hundred percent I do think that another way to jolt your inner muse is to release your inner child. Cameron maintains that kids ‘are not self-conscious, and once we are actually in the flow of our creativity, neither are we.’

Recently I took Flora to uShaka Marine World. Oh my, did she squeal like a toddler. Turns out it was the perfect mix of stimulation, water and sunshine. Flora bloomed. I on the other hand woke up the next morning feeling as if I’d been run over by a combine harvester.

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Delusional

By Susan Roberts

Sometimes I worry about my sanity. I am delusional. Delusions of grandeur, I think they’re called. For example, the other day I felt like Michelangelo.

Yes, I know it’s twelve years since I last painted a ceiling, but the little one over my toilet and shower is only about two and half metres square, so I thought it would be a simple task to slap a bit of paint over the mildewed spots; maybe even decorate it with a design of some kind. A fake painted skylight might be nice, showing a pale blue sky beyond, flecked with drifting clouds. I could scatter some luminous stars across it, to light up at night, even though it might freak out the cats. And any visitor who stays over. You know – the kind who is too embarrassed to switch on the light when he visits the bathroom in the middle of the night, for fear of waking me… yeah, yeah, dream on.

Like I said – delusional.

I didn’t think my little painting project would turn into this epic mission-and-a-half, though. It was easy enough to choose my colours, buy the paint, undercoat and brushes, and even to stick the masking tape around the tops of the walls. I waited for a suitably dry, sunny day – yesterday – and then I began to paint.

By the time I was a third of the way through doing the undercoat, my left hand was numb from gripping the underside of the one-litre paint tin. At two thirds, I had to take a break, drink some iced water and wolf down some toast to counteract both the sweating and my shaking left hand. The fingertips of that hand now have a nasty groove curving across them – an imprint that I think will be with me for a long time.

Later in the afternoon, I forced myself to finish the task. I am biased, of course, but I have to admit that my new ceiling looks like a masterpiece. And that’s just the undercoat. Oh, did I forget to mention that I didn’t get as far as painting the rest of my design? I didn’t even get the second tin open, in fact. But that’s okay – unopened paint will keep till the next project. Maybe I’ll decorate the wall behind the toilet – in about twelve years from now. In the meantime, I’ll just leave that gleaming white undercoat up on the ceiling forever, so that everyone else can admire my handiwork. I wonder if Michelangelo felt like this as he gazed up at his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I wonder if he felt this good, this satisfied. This sore. Oh, my poor aching back and hands!

Which brings me to my next delusion. Today I feel like Tutankhamen. No, not like a rich king covered in gold; more like a very old, aching person, whose well-deserved sleep was interrupted too early. Perhaps I should have painted over the bathroom mirror instead, then I wouldn’t have to see my resemblance to Tutankhamen’s sleep-deprived face and hunched, shrivelled body reflected back at me, looking exactly like a corpse that should have been left in the peace of its sarcophagus for another century or two.

Tomorrow I think I’ll be Rip van Winkle.

A dream coming true?

By Michelle Dennison AWA Julianne Alcott

A few weeks ago, I received the email that most writers only ever dream about receiving . . .

‘I am delighted to let you know that we have decided to offer to publish your manuscript. If you are happy to take this further, then I’ll send you more information, and a draft contract you can go over with a fine toothcomb, and we’ll go from there.’

I think I stared at the screen for a few minutes, my brain trying to register what I had just read. It took a long time to filter through all those neurons, and leap across the necessary synapses, before the information made an impression.

I sent this particular novel to a publisher because it was the first one I had completed. I sent it, because I had done all I could; it needed to go to the next level.

The idea came to me when I was seventeen… 1990 to be exact. I wanted to write love stories, but hadn’t had any personal experience with actually having a man in my life.

No problem . . . I just invented one.

His name was Nick Donovan. He was tall, dark and handsome. Elegant, suave and very comfortable with himself . . . My dream man. I still have the sketch I made of him, gazing thoughtfully into the distance and wearing a decidedly 90s sweater.

My main character also had a sketch drawn of her. She was short (like I am) and blonde (not like I am). I called her Samantha, Sam for short.

So there the journey started for the three of us. A journey that was to break us, mould us, and see us change into quite different people.

At the end of 1990 I met a man. We were never together romantically, but being around him made me re-consider what was important when looking for a member of the male species.

This one was a mechanic… He had absolutely no dress sense, awful rusty car and greasy hands, but I found that these things didn’t matter to me. He was friendly, genuine and really cared about people. He spent hours in a borrowed tuxedo posing with me in my back garden, because my camera had broken, and I had no photos of my matric dance.

Nick Donovan had a drastic makeover. I had learned the importance of character, and the value of a good heart, and the new Nick was immediately more realistic. He was sometimes annoying, often exasperating, and a constant source of anxiety to Samantha as she has to decide whether she could have a happy life if she allowed herself to love this man.

Gradually the story took shape. Sam and Nick would be separated, and it would be caused, somehow, by the fact that Nick is an identical twin.

It was only when I did a year of psychology at college in 2003 that all the pieces fell into place, and I knew what I wanted this novel to be.

Finally, in 2011, I had done all the work I could on ‘Greater than Gold’. We had made the journey together. It had grown up as I had grown up. The time had come for me to let it go, as all parents must do with their children.

To let it spread its wings and send it out into the world to make a life for itself.

It is a comfort to me to know that our journey together has not yet finished.

Between the Covers

By Penny Mitchell

So, there I was, shutting down my business laptop, having successfully finished designing an office newsletter, when I realised that I couldn’t lay my lids to rest and kiss my pillow just yet.

My blog was due and my waking and sleeping hours were fully booked. I felt like my life was pouring out of one jug into the next in a stream of infinite action.

My definition of exhaustion is ‘falling into the rapids between jugs’ and surfacing before the last bubble of air leaves my lungs. Swimming was out of the question and so now the rain clouds blotch the rising sun and I sit down to blog before breakfast.

In my previous space, entitled ‘A giant step’, I referred to my fears as a writer. I am happy to report that a healthy clutch of readers got stoned enough for me to rock.

There’s only one thing more thrilling than living and breathing your story and that’s waking up to find that your bed isn’t empty. In the hidden hours, your readers slipped between the covers and experienced your passion. They didn’t just leave a few bucks on the dresser, they turned over and over and said, “Do it again.”