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.
In 2015 I jogged 1,053 kms, yesterday my 2016 kms reached 1,061. Call it a meaningless achievement in one sense, for I set out to run further and more often this year, so of course I’ll overtake during the year. But I whinge on the track too much too often, so tomorrow night I’ll celebrate with a Choc Top at the cinema.
Barriers, frustrations, fear, disgust, qualms . . . I simply must record a rare, and hopefully not fleeting, emotion of triumph, bliss even. After working and reworking a convoluted four-page narrative, into place it fell.
I’m working hard but . . . although the chapter’s content is settled (almost), although the words are written (mostly) . . . this construction phase is only 55% done and I could feel desperate. Why can’t I bang it out and end up with a desk like this (photo by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash)? Onward . . .
Actually, the method – improvised upon impulse – is cut and staple. Desperation forces me to resort to non-digital text manipulation.
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.)
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?
It doesn’t take much. You bang out a scene and suddenly a voice says: “Such class! Why ever stop?”
It doesn’t take much. You wrestle with a scene and suddenly a voice says: “What utter nonsense. Why even bother?”