Writing Big Year: The critique group from heaven

90 minutes on a Tuesday morning each fortnight. Three pieces of startlingly different fiction from three talented Melbourne writers. The Inner City Writers’ Workshop has a membership of some eight or nine. To join you submit a sample and the existing members are polled. People drift in and out, one year hammered by life and day jobs, another year freer to create. Like all writers, not everyone ships enough product to readily sustain writerly dreams, but my abiding joy within this critique group is the clear and obvious quality of writing.

Critique groups, I’ve seen a few, I can tell you, and inevitably, until now, either the quality or personality aberrations have led me to flee. For me, ICWW is the long haul.

What then in the presence of greatness?

I was awed, a couple of weeks back, to spend a few moments watching Pedal Pete (aka Peter Arnott) complete yet another Everesting, one imbued with grief after the death of his niece. I watched him glide down his steep Everesting hill (he’d end up ascending and descending 150 times), not a muscle moving, a study in aerodynamic skill. He banked at the bottom, turned round. I watched him effortlessly rise up out of his seat and pump ferocious leg muscles smoothly, powerfully, as he made his way back up the road. I imagined myself doing this once, twice, three times, hey, maybe four, but could contemplate no more.

We’re besieged by images and stories of super sportspeople, to the extent that they rarely excite awe in us. Too many of us invent narratives in our heads that allow us to dismiss performance or skill that we ourselves can’t find the willpower to work towards. It’s as if we imagine that the extraordinary is, after all, ordinary.

I watched Pete and the question that surfaced startled me. In the face of such talent and dedication, what should I ask of myself? Does this sense of awe just wash over me? Or does it compel me to find something to tackle, to strive to master it?

(Photo courtesy of Brendan Edwards – check out his varied and fascinating cycling blog.)

Jogging Big Year: I smile!

It seemed my jogs were of two types: I head off with leaden legs and huff all the way, or I bound away, run as fast as I can until the halfway point, and then struggle to the end. Yesterday, for the first time during this Big Year, felt different. Descending my first hill with ease, I wondered if all that repetition had changed me. Why not just run my 10 kms in comfort, almost out of breath but never out of breath?

What a run! Light on feet, barely noticing breathing, attentive to the world. Towards the end, I approached a stern-faced, elderly Indian woman pushing a pram, and the young boy gazed up at me, and . . . and . . . I beamed a smile at him. Who would have thought that possible?