EXPERIENCE – A WRITER’S FRIEND

Henry Handel Richardson – Ethel Robertson author of The Getting of Wisdom, Maurice Guest and The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney

I’ve just finished reading Henry Handel (or as I like to call her Ettie) Richardson’s memoir, Myself When Young.

I’ve been a fussy reader recently, picking up the latest literary best sellers, then putting them down again, unfinished. This though, I read all the way to the end.

Even though H.H. died before she’d completed the manuscript, her notes and her husband’s jottings were used to flesh out the final section. I found it a fascinating read. Not only because it gave us a woman’s perspective of Australia in the late 19th century, but also because her writing is such a pleasure. Clean and clear. Her voice carried me through, even without a plot driving the story forward. Even though she was writing almost one hundred years ago.

Her life wasn’t easy. Her father died young and the family struggled, despite their middle-class privilege. But she knew this:

“To a writer, experience was the only thing that really mattered. Hard and bitter as it might seem, it was to be welcomed rather than shrunk from, reckoned as a gain and not a loss.”

H. H. Richardson

I’ve been telling myself and my writing students the same thing for a long time now. As creative artists, all the shitty stuff that happens to us has value. It is the gold we mine for our stories. And a wonderful way to begin to be grateful for the traumas in our life.

EVERYTHING IS MATERIAL!

Every experience is be relished. Treasured even. No matter how painful. Because everything we endure increases our depth of understanding of the human experience and that is what writers need, more than any fancy turn of phrase, or fast-paced plot. Because we write to make sense of what it is to live in the world, of what is is to live a human life.

The more we live, in all the pain and muck and glory, the better our writing will be.

Thank you, dear Ettie, for your words and for your wisdom.

Ethel with her mother and younger sister, Lil.

Books are classics for a reason.

With lots of love

Edwina xx

WRITING GRIEF

A wise writer once said that grief is the primary impetus for writing. It is certainly what forced me to sit down and bring the stories out of my head and onto the page back when I started writing in 2002.

Through writing out the pain of my losses I began to heal.

By reimagining the circumstances and outcomes of my losses, I was able to glimpse another way of being.

By helping others to write out the pain of their hearts, my own heart began to mend.

Sunrise – Coolum Beach

We write to bear witness to our own pain, to leave a mark for those we love who didn’t have the time or inclination or the power to make their own. As writers we have the power to do all this. 

We can free ourselves from the endless reruns of traumatic moments in our lives by recording them on the page. But even more than this, by applying the magic of the imagination to the unchangeable facts of our losses, we can transform these stories into meaning. We can create hope and joy where perhaps none existed.

Better yet, the power of the imagination is so strong that the brain, after a while, can no longer differentiate between memories and our imaginings so our gentler, kinder, more hopefully imaginings begin to temper the trauma of the truth.

I have always written to search out or create meaning from the losses in my life. And it has worked.

I write my way into being. I write my way through emotions I can’t understand. By finding the right words, by giving my story structure and form, by giving my pain to imagined characters, I am able to leave behind my attachment to these stories of loss.

I am able to create beauty from what had previously only felt like ugliness.

So write! Write out your pain. Reimagine the stories you tell yourself and transform them. Create beauty from the darkness.

That is our power as writers.

“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well.” 

Ursula Le GuinGifts

A Guide Through Grief

If you need help getting started or are floundering in grief and need a helping hand, I’ve just released my new book A Guide Through Grief, which I hope will help you through.

You can buy it directly from Amazon as an eBook or Print on Demand if you are outside Australia, eBook only within Australia. 

If you’d like a hard copy here in Australia just CONTACT ME and I’ll send you one. Soon you’ll be able to purchase directly from my website.

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the self-same well from which your laughter rises is oftentimes filled with tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.”

Kahlil Gibran

Sending lots of love your way,

Edwina xxx

Big Moomin hug