Creative Recovery or How to Reboot your Writing Mojo

BB cover front page

Bjelke Blues has been going great guns and I’m thrilled about that. We even scored a review in The Weekend Australian!

Bjelke Blues review, Fitzgerald, Weekend Aust 9-11-19 (lo res)

Review of Bjelke Blues, Weekend Australian 9/10 November 2019

Thanks to everyone who’s been buying copies. It’s been a huge year’s work, collecting and editing the work of 44 other people, then promoting and marketing the book as well. On top of it all, I caught the dreaded lurgy which drained the very last of my own creative energy.

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But I had a screenplay to write. Due at the end of the month. I sat down at the computer and searched my brain, my heart, but I had nothing left to give. I was done! An empty well without a drop of inspiration. I’d pumped myself dry.

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Most creative people experience patches like this. Some call it writers block. Others, burn out or exhaustion. I run retreats helping other people to find their creative selves, but in the meantime I’d lost my own.

How was I going to find it again?

Luckily I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Hope they’ll work for you too.

artists way

  1. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – regular readers of my site will know that this is the book that started me writing. It’s still the first place I turn when I need to reboot my writing mojo. Working my way through the exercises slowly but surely ideas started to flow again. My favourite affirmation this time around is “Through the use of a few simple tools my creativity will flourish.”

 

  1. Take the pressure off. When I start thinking about my writing tasks as hard work then I know I’m in trouble. Writing is fun! I love it because I get to muck around in my imagination, make stuff up and play. So get that “life is a serious business” frown off your face and lighten up!
woman smiling

Put on your happy face!

  1. Get into nature. Take your journal and a pen and just sit with your back against a tree or look out to the sea or listen to the birds a while, then write down everything you see, feel, hear, smell, taste. Free write for no other reason than to record that one moment in time.
The Reader Crowned with Flowers, or Virgil's Muse, 1845 Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

The Reader Crowned with Flowers, or Virgil’s Muse, 1845 Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

  1. Buy yourself a treat. It’s best of course if it’s something to do with your writing/art form like a new book on writing, a novel you’ve always wanted to read, a new set of colouring pencils or a recorder, but any treat will work just as well. I bought myself a mattress topper. I love it so much I think I’ll marry it!
    Woman bouncing on bed

    I love my mattress topper!

     

  2. Do something you don’t usually do. Paint a picture, climb a mountain, go for a swim. I played the piano. I had lessons for years as a child but these days I rarely play. The other day I sat down and learnt a new piece. It made me feel very happy.
Child playing the piano

Happiness

  1. Give yourself some proper time off to do NOTHING. Yes, I mean nothing. For some of us that’s really hard to do. Luckily for me, I was babysitting my brother’s kids in Dubbo and my internet wasn’t working so time off was forced upon me. I read. A lot. Talked to the kids. Went for walks. And guess what? Ideas for my screenplay started to flow in like magic.
woman sprinkling inspiration from the moon

Like magic!

  1. Give yourself permission to write absolute crap (or do a shitty painting- whatever). Then sit down and get stuck in.

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If you’ve completely pumped yourself dry it will take a bit of time to fill your well to a point where you’re ready to produce again. Be gentle with yourself. Gentle is my new favourite word – the world right now needs a whole lot of gentleness.

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My secret writer’s block buster is meditation! Those or you who’ve attended my workshops will know how helpful some brain clearing and positive visualisation can be for rebooting your creative mojo. At my latest retreat my friend Maria recorded my guided meditation for busting through the inner critic and building creative confidence. Try the guided meditation and see how it can free up your writing. Let me know how you go.

I got my screenplay done and it wasn’t even crap. Once I started writing it was great fun to do.

Good luck with your own reboot. What are your favourite tricks, techniques to help unblock? I’d love to hear about them.

Happy writing – or just lying around dreaming 🙂

Lots of love

Edwina  xx

RELAX AND WRITE IN THE MOUNTAINS!

Dateless LOGO NO KOINONIA

PLEASE NOTE – THIS RETREAT HAS BEEN POSTPONED UNTIL Friday 26 – Sunday 28 APRIL 2019!

RELAX AND WRITE YOUR WAY TO WELLNESS!

I’m excited to announce the next Relax and Write Retreat – this time in the mountains west of Brisbane – from Friday 5th October to Sunday 7th October 2018.

I’m holding a special retreat in a beautiful mountain-top location, for women to relax with gentle yoga and meditation, and get writing with inspiring creative workshops.

The lovely people at Koojarewon Retreat, in Highfields – 12 kms north of Toowoomba, are turning the entire place over to us, and they’re providing all the meals, so it should be truly relaxing, even if the accommodation is pretty basic.

 

It’s dorm style but we have plenty of room to spread out through the dorms to claim a patch for privacy. And, best of all, the bathrooms are inside, so there’s no traipsing out to facilities in the middle of the night. Keeping the accommodation “rustic” is how I’m able to keep retreat prices affordable.

 

It’s important to me that these opportunities are available to all women. I know how difficult it can be to spend money on yourself, especially for something as seemingly frivolous as a retreat.

But what is it they say on airplanes? Make sure you give yourself oxygen first, then take care of the person next to you. And that’s what retreats like this provide, a bit of oxygen, breathing room, nurturing for the nurturers, so we are refreshed and renewed and ready to take care of everybody and everything once again. Writers and creative artists in particular need to ensure that their own tanks are full enough to keep the flow of creativity coming.

air hostess

Each day begins with a gentle yoga class, followed by creative writing workshops suitable for beginners through to more experienced writers wanting to renew passion for their projects. Healthy vegetarian meals are provided so all you have to do is let go of all the busy-ness of every day life and surrender to the peace of the mountains, stretching, breathing and writing your way to wellness.

Air hostesses with food

Come away from your weekend feeling refreshed and renewed, with a suitcase full of story ideas and hints and tips for improving your writing. See reviews from previous retreats here: https://relaxandwriteretreats.blog/about/reviews/

COST includes
• two nights basic accommodation
• all meals, morning and afternoon teas and supper
• two yoga classes
• three, two-hour creative writing workshops
• introductory relaxation and writing session

$360 per person for the entire retreat

You can get more information and book by contacting me at kublershaw@optusnet.com.au 

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This retreat promises to be extra special and I’m very much looking forward to meeting a whole new group of amazing women and listening to their stories.

Be like Heidi and come and join me in the mountains to find your legs again.

Heidi

Lots of love

Edwina xx

 

HERE COMES ANOTHER ONE!

dawn hands

Happy New Year!

And so we start all over again , a new year, new plans, new dreams.

I’m filled with enthusiasm for the year ahead as I move into doing the full rewrite of my screenplay – Dear Madman. It has changed so dramatically working with my mentor, Stephen Lance, that it bears little resemblance to the novel manuscript I wrote based on the true story of a tragedy in my family history. So much so, even saying the screenplay is “inspired by true events” is a bit of a stretch.

Yet, it’s something I’m wildly excited and inspired by. Suddenly writing has become a whole lot of fun again. YAY! Thank you Screen Queensland! Thank you Stephen!

And thank you to all of you who’ve been here with me through this whole long lonely writer’s journey. Your support has been invaluable.

Wishing you all a wonderful year where your writing dreams – and other dreams too – all come to fruition. Most of all I wish you the joy of creation without fear or pressure – just because it’s fun to do 🙂

There’s magic in the air. Anything can happen!

happy snoopy

HARRY – a short story

Back by popular request – an oldie but a goodie.

Dear Harry — more truth than fiction in this one, I’m afraid. Still miss the bugger.

Harry story

HARRY

by Edwina Shaw

I keep looking for Harry, expecting to see him loping along some West End street, his long arms swinging, keeping time with his giant strides. He’s always found me before, whenever I’ve returned, a sign of being home. But not this time and I’ve been back for years. The priest told me he’d gone, but I didn’t want to believe him. I was sure he was wrong and that one day I’d be driving along Vulture St. and there he’d be, calling out my name in his deep brown voice; come running and give me a hug.

The first time I met Harry was in the English Student’s common room in the early eighties when we were both studying at the University of Queensland. He was swilling red wine in the middle of the day, and entertaining his cronies with stories of his lustful adventures.

“So there I was at this brothel in the Valley – you know the one – and this prostitute, I’m telling ya mate, she really stunk! I mean it. Like she was rotting on the inside – odour of fermenting uterus. Disgusting! And I just couldn’t do it, you know, the smell was really off-putting. I’d had her before but what can I say, must’ve been a busy day. So I go down to the office to complain and get a better one and what do they do, the bastards? Throw me out! Don’t laugh, I mean it. A couple of the big meatheads they have there come running and chuck me down the stairs. Tell ya, I’m lucky I was so pissed or I might’ve hurt myself.

Anyway I drag myself home, walked all the way to West End, my wallet had disappeared, nothing in it anyway; knocked on my girlfriend’s door and what’d she do but chuck all my stuff at me through the window. So I just rolled up on it and slept right there on her steps. She didn’t let me in, nup, not even the next day when I had the worst killer hangover and could feel the bruises from the bouncers. What a bitch hey?”

And the cronies all laughed and agreed. All women were bitches and couldn’t be trusted.

That was Harry.
I sat with my back to them, my shoulders hunched to my ears in silent fury.
The next weekend he was in my bed.

One drunken lunch hour, over a cask of wine, the force that had so violently repelled me swung a hundred and eighty degrees to attraction. Drowned in alcohol soaked lust, I ended the afternoon by leaping into his arms and wrapping my legs around his waist. We sank into cheap wine and cigarette kisses under the sandstone arches.

I brought him home to my flat. He had the money, the alcohol, and the pot, I had the accommodation. He stayed for weeks, brought his suitcase full of stories and poems and let me read them as we lay together in bed smoking joints. I loved his long lean body next to my soft, small round one. I came up to his breastbone.

Harry’s father had only one limb, an arm. The other three were blown off in the Vietnam war when Harry was only a baby. It must have been hard growing up with a father with only one limb, scarred inside as well no doubt. Generational scars Harry carried with him.

But he had scars of his own, ropey, raw-meat burn scars all up one leg, a firebug’s legacy. He was a convicted arsonist, a sometime inmate of mental institutions, an alcoholic, a prize-winning playwright, and a poet. His words were hard and deep, beautiful in their brutality and bloody imagery. Their power could silence even the drunkest rabble at the Story Bridge Hotel poetry nights. When he read his dark eyes blazed and I imagined he was Dylan Thomas and I was his lover. Not his wife. Never his wife.

One day I came home from university and Harry had made an altar to me in the study. A sculpture of pure white tissues, a red ink stain in one corner, with a photo of a seven year old me in my communion dress in the middle. Even then, when I knew that he had seen inside me, the truth of who I was, I didn’t stop using him.

He loved me, I think, but I wasn’t even sure I liked him. I liked having him around. I liked the comfort of his body and the haze of his pot. I envied and admired his talent. I didn’t ever trust him. I didn’t ever really know him.

All I knew was that his suffering ran too close under his skin and I was afraid that if I didn’t protect myself his pain would rub off onto me. His suffering was raw. Mine was carefully bound up and tucked away. Safe.

I didn’t ever love him, or didn’t think I did. Not until now when I miss him and realise that his presence in my life was no accident, find myself still waiting to find him again.

Harry brought out the worst in people. I was cold and hard with him and drank and smoked even more than usual. His best friend, Phil, a pale, vapid fellow with glasses, did whatever Harry told him to.

One night, Harry dragged Phil along to the house of a girl he’d met in the psych ward and Phil tried to have his way with her on the lino. She called the police and had him up on rape charges. Harry came home and told me all about it as if it was the biggest joke ever. We made a shrine to Phil, the white rabbit, and laughed. Phil went right downhill after that. He talked about lying his legs across the railway tracks in front of a train because he didn’t think they’d put a cripple in jail. Harry thought it was funny.

After my student allowance finally came through after many penniless months, I went to Sydney to celebrate with friends for a couple of weeks. When I returned I discovered that Harry had been sleeping with another girl in my bed. By way of an apology he told me he’d read my diary and knew I didn’t love him so thought it couldn’t hurt me. It didn’t really. I hadn’t expected anything different.

I threw him out. I didn’t need his money anymore, anyway.

Harry kept trying to come back to me. One late night he arrived straight from a brawl at the pub, battered and bruised and incoherent, but with a huge bag of pot. So I let him in. I bathed his wounds and smoked his dope then closed my bedroom door and made him sleep on the carpet in the lounge room. He even wanted to stay there. I said he could. Till the pot ran out.

I didn’t want to let that bleeding soul under my skin. I wasn’t taking that risk, especially not with Harry.

Not long after that I escaped Brisbane for good, or so I thought, escaped to Sydney, joining the mass exodus of the eighties and the Joh years. Away from Brisbane, I never thought of Harry, or only the occasional passing thought as to whether he’d ended up in the gutter yet. That’s the future I’d always predicted for him with a hard laugh.

Five years later I returned, and there he was loping down Vulture Street looking exactly the same.

“Hey Harry!” I called, and he came running. I took him home, drank his wine, smoked his dope, tore off his clothes and used him up. Just as I had always done. But this time in the morning when I looked back at him still lying in bed as I got ready for work he looked sad; like he finally understood what I’d done and for the first time I felt guilty. I turned my back and left him. Without a word.

It was another three years till I saw him again. I was back from living and working overseas, back home in West End, a baby girl in my arms and a wedding ring on my finger. I was at a rally in Musgrave Park campaigning for some cause or other as Harry and I had always done.

He’d been justly infamous for his protest rally antics in the Joh anti-march era. He would don a tie, bluster through the front line ferals and International Socialists, get into the government building without a second look from the police, and wreak havoc with paint bombs.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, that of all the thousands of people at the rally, I found myself standing next to Harry.

He looked worse; grey and jaded, and I could feel the sadness running close to the surface of his cheerful greeting. It felt good to see him and with the glow of my new motherhood I was kind to him; I think. Though I couldn’t resist flashing my wedding ring in his face and flaunting the beautiful baby at my breast.

“Can I have some of that?” he asked.
And I realised that that was all Harry had ever wanted, some soft mother love. And all I’d ever given him was hard, bitchy Mummy; putting him in the corner. I touched his hand to say goodbye and felt the tie that bound us, but I was wary and didn’t offer my number. I didn’t want him turning up on my doorstep late one night. I knew he was using. I didn’t want any of that near me, not anymore. He was wearing his track-marks like a badge of honour.

Then, a year later, I was taking my toddler to the local park, and well known beat, when I ran into a mutual friend, a priest we’d met in our uni days. He told me Harry was dead. That he’d overdosed a few months earlier. That he was gone.

I accepted it at first, but then I wasn’t so sure. Can you believe a priest? Can you believe a priest visiting a beat in broad daylight?

So I hope. Hope that one day I’ll be driving down Vulture Street or Boundary Street and spot those slow loping strides from a distance.

“Harry!” I’ll call. “Harry, come running.”

 

BACK ON THE HORSE THAT THREW ME

The horse that threw me

The horse that threw me

 

I’ve been writing a long time now. In 2002 when my children were small, I first dedicated time each day to a creative writing practice and used to spend naptime typing in a fury to complete a novel.

Since then my beautiful babies have grown into young adults and I’ve written another five full length manuscripts, one of which has been published.

Not for want of trying.

Much as I try to convince myself that rejections hurt less over time, it’s a lie and I know it.

The elephant hide I’ve tried so hard to develop has worn as thin as an old cotton sheet in places, tearing at the slightest tug. I’ve tried to chuck it all in, get a normal job like other people. But that hasn’t exactly gone to plan either.

I want to write. I still want to write. It’s how I make sense of the world. How my brain works best, what I enjoy most, get most satisfaction from, what I’m best at.

And so today, I’m dragging out the last half-baked rewrite of “Dear Madman” and seeing what I can salvage. If I can figure out how to give it the voice and form it longs for.

I’m scared of that horse, it’s big and fiery-eyed and stomping its hoofs. But I’m getting back on, goddamn it! I’m going to cling to its mane as it bucks and twists; it won’t throw me again. I’m going to ride it, as fast as I can, as far as I can, wind in my hair

IS WRITING A HOBBY?

If I don't write I go mad

The other day a well-meaning relative set my blood boiling by referring to writing as my “hobby”.

So, is my writing a hobby?

NO. It’s a full-time job I’ve been working at since 2002 and hold a masters degree in. It’s not something I do in my spare moments like crotchet, it’s something I do every day, that fills my thoughts and propels me through life.

It’s a calling, something I am compelled to do even against my better judgement on how best to earn a living. It is a passion to make sense of the world and life itself through words, a yearning to create something of beauty from the chaos of experience.

As I tell my students, writing is not something you choose, it chooses you. You know you’re inescapably a writer when something dreadful happens in your life, and instead of just living it, being there in the moment and grieving or crying or whatever it is normal people do in a crisis, you are thinking of how to write it. How to wrap words around it and make it better. What title it should have.

I don’t know if this is a blessing. Sometimes it feels like more of a curse. If I could turn the switch off, I would. Even just for a moment. But then I’d turn it back on again, because for better or worse, I love it.

So, no, dear cousin, writing is not a hobby. It’s who I am.

What about you? Is writing your hobby or something much more than that?

WRITING THE BODY COURSE

Happy Yogi

Happy Yogi

On the 31st of January, I am running a half-day WRITING THE BODY workshop through the fabulous Queensland Writers Centre, combining my twin passions, yoga and writing.

I have enjoyed a regular daily practice of yoga since 1993, and currently teach professional dancers at a local university. I’ve been doing yoga longer than most of my young students have been alive! It’s certainly the only thing that makes it possible for me to keep up with them, if only for a couple of hours.

However, yoga is much more than a physical discipline.  It is the perfect remedy for healing a multitude of woes, working on the emotional and spiritual planes alongside the physical in every pose.

Writing is a sedentary profession. Like most people these days, I spend far too long sitting down in front of a screen. A daily yoga practice helps keep my body pain-free and my mind clear. It also helps to build that discipline which is so necessary for those of us on creative paths –self discipline. Otherwise known as bum glue!

happy writer

happy writer

In the WRITING THE BODY workshop I lead participants through gentle yoga exercises to help relieve common postural problems writers encounter, such as sore necks, shoulders and lower backs. But more than that, we will discover how to express the sensations of the body through writing and use yogic techniques to go deep within ourselves to unearth the stories held there.

It’s going to be lots of fun. I hope you can join me. Click here for more info and to sign up.

Free mini-massages for every participant!

You can combine my course with another session on journaling which looks wonderful. I guarantee you’ll come away feeling more relaxed than you have in years, with a renewed enthusiasm for writing.