Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

The Art of Concealment

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I have reached the end of my TAFE term feeling less confident than when I started. Wondering what this whole writer’s journey is all about, wondering if I am staring at failure, shaken to know that I have invested three years in a novel, only to find myself caught in a maze not quite knowing how to get out.

Enter the Victorian Writers Centre. It is one of those unsung heroes of an institution that sits alongside public libraries and state schools. An institution that runs on a AAA battery, for the good of a community. In this case my community, the aspiring writer I share my body with.

Every month or so, the Victorian Writer, the VWC’s magazine, arrives in my mailbox. I read it avidly, circling competitions, classes and mentoring opportunities like wishes in the sand. I also read its articles.

This month, there is an article by John Armstrong called The Art of Concealment. I am going to quote from it liberally because it has touched my soul:

“About two thirds of the way through each of my last four books, I’ve made a resolution: this is the last time I am ever going to put myself through such misery again. At this stage I feel like I have been working on the project forever and it’s never going to be good enough.”

Perhaps I am normal, I think. Perhaps I am a writer after all.

“I have gone through this enough times to bear with it – I hate it but I don’t stop. It’s not that I know all will be well – I don’t know that. It’s much more like an addiction.”

This has resonance with me. Ask my family. I am tired, stressed and distresses, yet I turn on the laptop day after day like an old alcoholic, determined to keep going (yes, I know, I need to take a break). Here is my final quote:

“My core experience of writing is that the pursuit of writing is that the private image of perfection creates a lot of mental disturbance. And that one has to bear the disturbance, and not be too terrified of it. And not let others see much of it. It’s an art of concealment.”

Do not be terrified. I repeat the phrase over and over as Jesus walks to me across the Sea of Galilee.

Do not be terrified that you can’t find the perfect opening line.

Do not be terrified though the waves are high and you can no longer see the shore.

Do not be terrified when conflicting opinions come flooding in.

Do not be terrified. It is an old liturgy, made new for me.

Relax, take a break, this is normal.

Do not be terrified.

Listen to that gentle voice of reason — that still small voice.

Do not be terrified. Let the old made new wash over me.

Do not be terrified. Trust in God – yes, why not! and celebrate the writer within.

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4 Comments

  1. Andrew

    the highs and lows of the creative spirit

  2. I can appreciate the tug of war with your book and the battle of conflicting opinions. My two supervisors sometimes gave strong opposing positions. In the end they are just opinions. Step out of the boat and see what happens. You’l either sink or walk.

  3. Lee

    It’s just writing. Writing is fun.

  4. Hi Liz,
    Re – the challenge of writing.
    Whenever I am half way through writing a book I always ask myself what I am trying to achieve.
    I sweat blood through the final quarter of a book and swear I will never do it again.
    Last week I finished writing my fifth novel.
    This week I am looking at starting my next.
    To be a writer you must have conviction and you must be slightly mad!!
    Marg Muir
    PS: I’ve just replied to your question on the HNS Yahoo board about sailing ships.

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