Writing about writing

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What is my writing voice?

Writing is a way to find answers. Feeling the pen, the scribble, keeps the chatter moving, opening the mind to the senses. Stops time and enables observation in words, documents experience which leads to understanding.

I started writing like most people, at school.

My HSC English teacher was Sister Nancy, she also taught English literature. I developed a love of expressing through the written word. She encouraged us to keep a daily journal. I still keep one, though less diligently. That’s when I started taking note of what my life meant.

Write a poem for homework– I wish I had kept it- it was the first time that my writing was featured in class as a great example. I was very embarrassed, and it was Sam Smitherson who made fun of my efforts. 

I telephoned him one day to confront him about why he kept staring at me in class. I admit I had the hots for him because I thought he liked me too and I wanted to know if he had the hots for me. I was deluded by the notion of falling in love.  I had come to accept that I was a wog and wogs could not possibly write good things nor have a boyfriend. That phone call confirmed the wog theory. I had the guts to make the call acknowledging the strength of that act. I have courage.

Before Year 12, my marks for English were pretty much on the average spectrum.  The red corrections would alert me to punctuationmessy handwriting and expression. That word “expression!” came up often because I was reminded to watch it-that is watch my expression- whatever that meant?

Even my mother said that my handwriting resembled the chicken when it scratches and pecks in the dirt, this scribble that was hard to read. I was also a messy kid. Reframing messy as being ‘creative’. And I am in that spectrum of the creative and thus the artist.

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My earliest memory of reading was the frustrating Dick and Jane books. Let’s not go there. 

My love of reading and self-development started with the Bible. The New Testament, which I received at my holy communion, I read it from cover to cover. At the same time my mother coached me in kneeling beside my bed every night to say my prayers. It became a routine. I was a master of routines, chores and demonstrated commitment to what needed to be done. Also known as obsessive compulsive disorder; I’ve noticed as a family trait. Reframed as diligence.

Faith gave me prayer and thus an avenue to poetry.  Church was also a place to sing and to hear my voice expressed in hymns. As children we were told to “keep quiet”, so my external voice remained dormant and naïve and my internal voice was lost in imaginings and became my writer’s voice.

Prayer taught me emotive words. I am now drawn to meditation, poetry and meditative practice. I enjoy writing meditation scripts. I like the idea of poetry becoming an experience that is held in the body as a purpose for self- healing. 

I am a poet and a kinaesthetic- in order to reflect through writing, I need to know what it feels like. I also need to observe a demonstration. I like to be taught and experience the act of learning. 

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Initially I write as if in conversation with myself- that is thoughts flow and I write them down, without editing. Then I come back to what I have written to reshape it. It feels like I am constructing, with threads- though I watched my mother knit. I dabbled in pearl stitch, embroidery and a basic sewing. I have this sense of making a tapestry. As I type it feels like the letters are making something more tangible, like a blanket, or a piece of fabric. I know my grandmother was skilled in loom work. I have kept her blankets.

Motivation to write comes from a sense of love and the psychology of being. I also have something to say, that will open my mind and reveal to others the courage to approach topics that may be taboo. Especially mental illness and its impact on clarity of vision.

In my youth I often asked, “Who am I?” As a mature person I now ask, “Who do I want to be?”

Comparisons of the little girl with the mature women and the bit in between is the link, become the vignettes that make fodder and embellishments for writing.

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When I am writing a piece, it’s punctuated with walking, cleaning or cooking. I get into my body to allow the unconscious to find the solutions before coming back to the writing.

I tell myself that I need to write more often. It’s ironic that my mother has so many memories and stories to tell, one of which alludes to her lack of education, and how our generation has to write things down to remember. The wisdom of pride in the ability to make the most of lack.

Writing gives me space to find solutions, quietly.  It helps me make sense of things. The day can throw things that unsettle, and then words ground me in presence. I figure stuff out, unravel the knots of illogic and reknit, retell it in a way that explores the psychology of understanding the self and the relationship to the other. Exploring the words and the way they fit together, in the same way.

I write my blog Kindred Link which explores connection. I blog from time to time. It’s loose, flexible and spontaneous. I want others to be enlightened by what I write. In this way the words become a lesson, not just an act of reading and a link from where we have travelled in life.

When I write I encounter:

  • expansion
  • growth
  • progress 
  • clarity

It’s like I am taking these notions out of myself and looking at them on the page then become a conduit to the psyche- a trance state that touches and opens the unconscious. 

I read non-fiction and I make notes, it’s a way to learn and to revisit and take it in to myself.

The voice is internal, 

  • it’s quiet and thoughtful
  • It’s sophisticated and fluid

It’s my authentic voice. I want to swap it over so that the internal voice becomes the expressed voice. It is alert, clear and purposeful. I want to speak without censorship to speak my words first and then write them down. I’ve seen writers hold Dictaphones. I was a theatre practitioner and often freaked about improvisation. I like to be prepared. The script became the safety net- a prop, the security blanket.  I write my own script. It is the writing that propels me. I prefer to write first then vocalise later and, in the vocalising, I hear and modify the voice and what it aims to reveal.

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I seek to also tell stories journalistically, the documentary. I am interested to write about methodology, practice and process like the by-line of my blog: traditions that are new again. Sharing knowledge is important, passing the baton through generosity of spirit.

When I studied black and white photography, I became skilled at processing and exposing the negative to the paper. Eliciting the final image was like an addiction, the need to reveal the frozen snap of time, the end of a long process. This is what it is like to write, the story is revealed in the act of putting words together, it reveals itself and is celebrated at completion. As I work with the words, thoughts splinter and nuance in the making of meaning. The ideas expand beyond what it actually is- becomes an elicitation of the human condition.

Do I explore facets of myself?

I usually compare and contrast the perceptions of the child, the insecurities and injustices, then the adult perspective to what is gained, learnt in the shedding of skin as the natural order of things.

I idealise and celebrate mum and dad.

I see them as key people who really were the foundation of my shaping. I want to understand them, to come to better know myself, so that the values that sit less comfortably with me are addressed- that their sacrifice is my gratitude and that their life is worthwhile. I have always had plenty- to reframe the notion of poverty and see abundance. 

Like being in the Ascolta writing group where we write and speak about our second-generation Italian experiences. The view of the world changes based on the experience and stories shared. In this forum I have come to appreciate my heritage and shared suffering. In turn it’s this dialogue that softens the adversity, owns perspective and improves what we write. I then observe my own power, and this strengthens me and in turn reciprocates to those who are in this space. I know what it means to practice forgiveness.

Other stimulus I gain from the sustainability movement and the act of planting – grows and creates fodder for writing. So many metaphors to stack ideas upon. Sometimes I use a thesaurus to expand the vocabulary of perceptions and epiphanies. 

I use the notion of being lost and found again. The discovery of finding myself in a space that I did not know I was in – like a surprise pleasant or not.

Sometimes it’s about doing what I do not want to do, like I’m being dragged into something and yet I am the one who creates it, based on what I filter. 

I also explore the feminist.

There is a tension between Italian and English language for me. I write in English, because it is my first language. English got the awards and Italian got low marks, so I came to think that my Italian was atrocious- mind you we did not study Calabrese. That’s considered a peasant language. Italian was considered posh by the Calabrese. I can only think that we were rejected by our own culture. I suppose English is the leveller- all Italians in Australia are equal when we learn and speak English- we are on the same page in that regard. In Australia languages are seen as foreign. I’d like to see that change so that languages are seen as opportunity to expand our global experiences. The words ti apre u ciraveru comes to mind which my mum used to say to mean to me open your mind. The word ciraveru when spoken sounds like a bird singing. It’s like the impact of language takes flight in the mind.

I am in conflict with the Italian language.

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As a new parent I wanted my 5-year-old son to learn Italian. While I was not confident or articulate in the language, I still took him to learn. I arranged a time to meet with the Italian teacher to explain that my son had a temper and to consider his learning needs. Also revealed that my Italian was not great, though I was willing to give it a go. I really need not have bothered, for this disclosure caused my son to be targeted and we were asked to leave.  I was very upset. My son was not a bad child. I don’t think any child could be bad. He told me that the whole class was hiding on one side of the room, and he was alone on the other side trying to defend himself with a chair. This was a very traumatic experience for him. I was supporting the need to embrace and foster language tuition. I’ve since lost faith in the Italian language- so I take English and make it work for me because it makes sense.

I am an Australian first. I have not been to Italy. I may be judged for this revelation. Owning a house was valued above travel and the means to travel has not been enabled for fear and the fear of the migration experience. Now confirmed with the COVID epidemic. Travelling will never be the same. I feel very anxious when I must prepare for a trip. Once I leave and arrive, it’s wonderful. I plan to travel to Italy.

What do I claim of my Italian-ness?  I look Italian and what my parents tell me of Italy- I use this in my story telling- however my stories are of Australia and what it means to be a second-generation Italian/Calabrese woman with Italian parents who reminisce about their homeland. They have reconstructed Calabria in Mildura, and this is enough. They have never returned- they only talk about going back- their memories have become embedded longings of childhood nostalgia.

I want to understand what it means to embrace global indigenous and local Aboriginal cultures and embrace the values of sustainability. Adopted into this way of being. The migrant experience is the exploration of displacement. The notion of being a misfit. I see diverse cultures and my Italian cultural heritage as belonging here. That my perspective contributes and makes life richer for the broader community as a result.

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