IMG_3560It’s 5.49am as I sit down to write.

A good time for beginnings.

On the road, setting off before sunrise always bodes well. It makes me mindful of my footfall. It makes me listen, when too often I get lost in the delirium of sights.

But still, there’s nothing quite like watching the sun peep over the horizon. My stride lengthens and my spine lifts, like a sunflower reaching for its vitamins.

Well, I’m seated, and there won’t be any light for a while yet, but nonetheless, I feel hopeful about my work for the first time in a few days. I’m on a long camino, currently. There are two books being walked, and both of them look to have long distances still to travel to the end of first draft.

Last week I had a roadside meltdown about one of them. Well, about my ability to follow it to its Finisterre.

I lost my way. Lost direction, lost stamina, lost my footing. I lost faith – in the project, and worse, in myself. The only good thing that can be said about this meltdown was that at least I wasn’t carrying a pack when I fell.

Or perhaps I was. Expectations are a burden. We need our goals, but they are different to expectations. A goal keeps us on track, pulls us forward, draws us on when the spirit flags. But expectations…well, they seem to be different. They can buoy us, oh yes. But they can also turn, in a second, into stones underfoot, or thorns to block the path. They can bruise and bite and sting. They can weigh us down down down…

And they are self-made.

When I walk, I rarely have expectations. I just step out. Yes, I might aim to make it to a particular place by nightfall, but I don’t hold that thought as I walk. I’m just wherever I am. That’s why I can have my impossible but real flying-walking days.

And I do have such days at the desk, very occasionally. But mostly it is not flight or weightlessness that I experience as I write. It is plodding. Plodding in faith. A particular kind of faith that is stolid and rhythmic and silent. A kind of faith with few moments of euphoria or achievement. A kind of faith that lets someone or something else lead, because I have to acknowledge that when I write I don’t even know the location of my Finisterre. I’ve no idea where I am being led. I just have to keep the faith and turn up – even more than when I’m on the road.

When I lose faith and try to guess the road ahead, or worse, look back to see where I’ve been, there is strife. I stumble. I crash. I fall. And getting up is hard. The expectations crush my spine and push me into the dirt. Getting up can be nigh on impossible.

Or it was last week.

But this morning, for some inexplicable reason, I am back on my schedule, waking pre-dawn and whirling to the desk. Letting the keyboard lead the fingers and not worrying about the mind, that slippery little sucker that can play such dirty games. This morning, faith returned. Or at least, hope did. Maybe it is hope that keeps me going. Only hope. Maybe faith is a bit too big an ask. But hope will keep me here today, my spine curling and straightening, my eyes blinking at the screen, and my fingers making the soundtrack that is not entirely unlike the sound of feet on a road. I will think of them that way. It will help.

This journey toward draft’s end is about fixing my eye on the horizon and keeping on. On and on.

So what’s new? That’s what we are all doing every single day, isn’t it?

May your road be straight, your day be clear, your spine rise up and expectations fall out of your pack to be replaced by hope.

Have a sack full of hope, and forge on. Here comes the sun…



10 thoughts on “Walking and writing

  1. Ailsa

    Aah! The sun rises. Hope lifts off. Your words paint the skies as beautifully as any physical reality – such a gift you have! I was in Canberra on Tuesday – to attend a lecture by historian Dr Christine CHEATER on “Stealing Boyhood” – four oral history stories from the archives highlighting in this NAIDOC week the dreadful legacies of the Stolen Generations – the stories we heard explained – with the voices of the men – were from those institutionalised – taken from families, from language, from country – and all the attendant tragedies of having no control over self/destiny – or past! While driving to Canberra I listened to Robbie BUCK ABC RN along with guest presenter Leila GURRUWIWI (formerly the Marngrook Footy Show) as Leila spoke of her life (born Yirrkala/raised Bendigo) and then they spoke with Ishmael MARIKA and Rosealee – from Yirrkala – and Yirrkala Art Centre Director Will STUBBS. He likened the difficulties faced there when in 1963 the Yirrkala Bark Petitions for Land Rights were rejected at first by Paul HASLUCK (quite illegally so) to a Basketball Team movie – the good guys vs the Evil Team – and in the nail-biting finale the good guys come from behind to take the pennant. It was mentioned that the Bark Petitions were/are on display in the National Parliament Building – so I was able to go and see them – powerful as objects – more so their influence on official national understanding of “terra nullius” as so much nonsense! On my return drive to Sydney I listened to interviews with others of significant Indigenous backgrounds: playwright Wesley James ENOCH; and educator Chris SARRA. So proud to be Australian I am – and thank goodness for the national broadcaster!

    Chin up, Ailsa – best wishes with your writing!

    1. Jim!
      What a rich and inspiring string of days you put together for yourself. I’m always touched when I read your missives. I watched the ceremonies for the anniversary of the Bark Petitions last night and was so moved by the Yirrkala people. You make me feel I should get in the car and go to Canberra – which, with everything else that has been happening there in these past weeks, is quite a big thing.
      Thank you, as always, for giving me such a flurry of connections and reminders. Yes, proud. And grateful to have made your acquaintance courtesy of this curious means of communicating.
      Gracias. Enjoy this sunshine!

  2. We always come back up Ailsa! We live by creativity’s highs and lows and the rollercoaster contrasts. When we’re up, we have to come back down, and most important is when we’re down creativity lifts us back up (back on our path).

    Swear as we might that ‘it’s all over’… I don’t think it ever will be.

    1. Thanks dear Soula. I know you are right. And it is amazing how quickly the lift can come sometimes. The worst for me is when I lose sight of the benefits of letting myself “lie fallow”. I get so driven, and sometimes a little enforced stop is a mighty fine thing.
      That said, your stops are enforced with a heavy hand, and I hope the pressure is not causing pain for you.
      Your work is testament to the healing of your art. So beautiful.

    1. Hi John,
      Yes yes yes. So good to be alive. And to have the eyes to see such a day. The skin to feel some sunshine. And the prospect of a book – always such a thrilling moment. Hope I don’t let you down. Thanks for seeking it out, and I trust it will inspire you to hit the trails in that remarkable part of the world. Buen camino!

  3. Re:
    ” Plodding in faith. A particular kind of faith that is stolid and rhythmic and silent.
    It’s 5.49am as I sit down to write.A good time for beginnings.”

    Do you know that you have almost subconsciously solved your own problem with this post ?
    I’ve been reading about shamanism and shamanic journeys and the key to the journey is to create theta rhythms in your brain.The shamans do this by using monotonous 4-7 beats per second drum beats or rattle shakes which makes the brain resonate to that rhythm and create theta waves.These are the brain waves the mind is usually in between the dream state and waking state.
    Usually when people see ghosts standing at the foot of the bed their mind is in this state (I’m not suggesting it’s the mind playing tricks here,either) of theta brain waves.These are the best waves to get in touch with the unconscious part of the brain,which is a goldmine for writers,musicians and artists.
    This is usually the part of the brain that will hand you best sellers on a plate.You know the stories of artists who say the book was dictated to me from somewhere else,like the book wrote itself ?
    Here’s an example of theta music in this You Tube –
    Leave that running in the background when you are writing and your brain should sync into theta rhythms,you don’t need to actively listen to it either,your brain should sync in with it.
    When you walk your footfalls would probably fall into a theta wave of 4-7 beats a second,so your walking rhythm should put your mind into theta automatically.Maybe what produces the flying visions you write of on your walks ?
    Sunrise is the perfect metaphor for theta rhythm because sunrise and sunset are a visual expression of being between sleeping and waking.
    The book I’m reading at the moment,’Awakening to the Spirit World’ was co-authored by Sandra Ingerman who you see in this clip –
    She might sound a little bit nuts in that clip raving on about her guide Isis
    (in a Jungian archetype way),but I assure you she is a smart lady and her work is worth investigating.
    This is a better clip of hers –
    There are other theta music clips on the net too if you don’t like the one I suggested above,but give it a try when you next sit down to write and see if that gets the ideas flowing into your keyboard.

    1. Oooohhhhhh so much here.As ever, huge gratitude.
      The screenwriter David Roach swears by going straight from bed to the desk, with as little break between as possible. Catching that waking/sleeping state and working from there. It fits in with all you are saying.
      Will investigate the theta stuff, and check the links. My internet is incredibly dodgy just now – part of the reason I have been sporadic with posting on the blog. But I will find that music asap.
      Thanks so much Darren. Brilliant tips and tucker for the brain.

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