Writing in Paradise: Day 1
|The gorgeous writing room at Daku|
Thanks to Arts SA, I’ve just returned from Fiji. Not just a holiday (though the snorkelling was excellent), but as a participant in Jan Cornall’s draftbusting workshop, a week of writing, reading, sharing, getting feedback and being inspired. I’ll post a six part series here summarising what we writers did each day as well as some of the writing that came out of the meditations and writing exercises.
We stayed at Daku Resort, host to a number of ParadiseCourses (not just writing – there’s yoga, singing, painting, quilting – yes, quilting). Daku is about a mile from Savu Savu on Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. Beautiful location and we were welcomed on the first night by Kenni and his family via a traditional Kava ceremony. We were then referred to as ‘family’ and every meal was eaten at a communal table. This was a powerful symbol. It helped to bring the group together. Writing is such a lonely business but this retreat taught us it doesn’t always have to be. Sharing both our writing and our meals gave us courage, strength and inspiration. And there was a lot of laughter and tasty food to boot! It’s not that we couldn’t do it on our own (of course we could!) but this kind of retreat eases the writer’s loneliness.
Day one: Jan asked us what we wanted out of the week. We set some goals, then created a treasure map of something we are currently working on. There was a variety of genre and form – historical fiction, fantasy, autobiography, crime and short stories. Mapping helps in the hunting and gathering process. I worked on a map of a short story (‘I Dream of Triangles’) – I thought it was nearly done, just had a little struggle with the emotional depth of the story and it had a weak ending. Easy to solve, right?
After drawing our maps, adding in turning points and major events, we got into groups and presented them. We were listening out for what struck us as interesting in each others work, pivotal moments, things that seemed important; we weren’t trying to solve problems, this was still exploring. Which is good, because my map looked like a dog's breakfast. Where did it even start and where the hell was the treasure? At the end of that session we were asked to consider: What questions were asked? What questions remain?
I was crushed … I had a page of questions that remained unanswered in my story. ‘Triangles’ wasn’t nearly done at all – far from it. The story had exploded out and I saw that I had a lot more work to do if I was going to write a story with any emotional truth to it, or a comprehensible plot for that matter. Oh dear. And then resistance kicked in .. When I re-read my journal entry from that afternoon and even the next morning there is such a sense of struggle, frustration, even anger. I was obviously pissed off that my story had been torn apart and was looking to blame the weather, the long travel in getting to Fiji, the other writers who didn’t understand where I was coming from, my bad explanation etc etc. But underneath all my complaining I knew this was just resistance, that I needed to do the work, that one of my goals in coming to the retreat was to find new ways of entering my work. And this was it. If the building has shaky foundations then it’s often best to tear it down, salvage the raw materials, and begin again. And so, in the afternoon I forgot plot and structure and began again. I even threw out most of the characters. Finally, I was on my way. But to where?