Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

A strange, surreal week involving long awaited goals and archaic parish practices

This week has been a big one. So, big it's interrupted my blogging schedule. What? You didn't even notice. I have, in fact, been dancing with the devil.

Here's how the week panned out.

Saturday – I flew to Adelaide for the fiftieth birthday of a friend. Andrew had been working in Chicago all week. So, I met him at the airport. I managed to get through security without ringing alarm bells. Checked my bags. Didn't think I'd left anything behind. Though, when I met Andrew in the Qantas club lounge, he said. 'Gee. You're travelling light.'

'Yes,' I said, glancing at my bags. 'It's only one night.'

When the flight attendant called our flight, I gathered my belongings. That's when I noticed my back pack was missing. I made a piston-hearted dash to security, praying it would be safe in a cupboard somewhere nearby.

It was.

I filled out the necessary forms, showed ID and tried to make knowledgable comments about the contents of the back-pack. This was where I started to come unstuck. I told the man I had a power board in my back-pack, forgetting I'd transferred it to my Crumpler earlier. The man gave me a dubious glance. I started babbling. 'There's a cooler bag in there (don't ask) and a red toiletry case and my hearing aid drying out kit and…

The man held up a silencing hand. 'The cooler bag's enough,' he said, 'you're cutting into my lunch hour.'

At this point I was feeling pretty rattled. When Andrew announced he was ducking into the loo before boarding, I followed. Through one door. And another. Right until I caught sight of the man at the urinal. Andrew heard a gasp, he told me later. The sound of doors banging. When re-united, he shook his head and said. 'And you want me to travel to Europe with you?'

Monday – Andrew headed off for a week long hiking trip in Tassie. After I'd dropped him at the airport, I started typing like a woman possessed. Went to my writing group. Announced I would finish the re-draft of my manuscript the following day. Received all manner of appropriate, writerly encouragement.

Tuesday – I wrote like the devil was on my tail. Didn't quite get to the end of the final scene. With about five hundred words to go, I pedalled off to my Welsh class. Now normally, after class, a few of us have a drink in the bar of the Celtic Club. When my friend, Dai Tren, asked if I'd be staying. I said, no, in Welsh, I had only about five hundred words to write and I was going home to finish. At least, that's what I thought I said. From the incredulous look on Dai's face, I knew this wasn't the case.

'What? You only write five hundred words a week!'

I pedalled home with Lucifer still on my tail. At around midnight, I finished the final, polished five hundred words of my novel. I wanted to jump up and down. Shout. Break out the champagne. But…you know, it was only me and my dog. So, I did the next best thing. Wrote on Facebook. And Twitter…and any other social media outlet that would let me.

I didn't sleep much that night. I hovered like a star on the ceiling of my delight.

Wednesday – I edited the first five chapters without a hitch. They were brand new. I had decided, early on, to start the re-draft in a completely different place. I'd sweated blood over those early chapters. But they were in pretty good shape. It was the next chapter, chapter six, that caused a surge of panic. You see, sometime, while re-drafting I've learned to press the delete key. How to re-write without hanging on to favourite paragraphs. This chapter was my first unlearned attempt at this process and I saw with crushing certainty that it needed radical work.

My heart started to pound at this point, I kid you not. How was I going to hold my head up? I'd told people, I'd finished. This would take days to re-work. I calmed myself by journaling. Threw in a bit a of cognitive therapy (as my medical man in a cardigan would have recommended). Realised, I might not finish the edits this week. And that it didn't matter. I went to bed almost sure of how to proceed. More journaling at dawn (who'd ever write a novel) and I knew exactly what had to be done. I banged those three re-written scenes out in a few hours. You see, I've learned to kill my darlings with the unflinching nerve of a sadist

Thursday – I realised the devil wasn't such a good dance partner. I started to restore a bit of calm and order to my life. So much calm, that I failed to notice the address of our Vestry meeting. Rode all the way to the Vicarage, only to find the meeting was at the church, about five hundred metres from my house. Okay, so maybe there was a bit of demonic pedaling at this point. But, hey, it was a good workout. And we prayed before the meeting. So, I'm exorcised.

I'm enjoying being parish secretary (although, it could be the end of worship as we know it in the City of Moreland). It's great to be taking ownership of what is happening in our small community on Sydney Road. I sat tapping the minutes into my iPad, in an aura of good-feeling-ness, until, at the conclusion of the meeting, a vestry member passed me the minute book.

'You have to cut the A4 pages to down size,' the vestry member explained. 'And paste the minutes into this book each month.'

I glanced at the Vicar, expecting him to refute this statement. Turned disbelieving eyes on my fellow vestry members. 'The rules say the minutes have to be kept in a bound book,' someone explained. 'It's not much cutting. We print the pages out single sided.'

Now call me naive. But when I took on the role of parish secretary, I imagined typing minutes, drafting letters, archiving official documents. Making a meaningful contribution to the life of the church. But never, in my wildest dreams did I envisage cutting down A4 sheets of paper and pasting them into a book.

It was odd. But, hey, I can do odd for God. I took the minute books, feeling like I'd morphed into a female version of Frank Pickle from the Vicar of Dibley. As I pedaled the short distance home, I found myself wondering when these strange, keep-minutes-in-a-bound-book rules had been instituted. Some time back in the twentieth century, perhaps? Before PCs and printers and desk top publishing? For I must confess, as I laid those minute books on my dinner table, I couldn't help wondering whether, despite losing my bags at the airport and walking into the mens's toilet, I was, in fact too sane for the Anglican communion. 🙂



A little wisdom from Family Guy


Passing the Welsh test


  1. You’re not insane. You’re a writer.

  2. DoomGoblin

    Hmmm – wait until July and the transitional arrangements for the new Parishes Act (or equivalent) – lots of good thinking and rationalisation – it may well be that the binding nature of the act on minutes has been sorted…..

    • I suspect the the binding nature of the situation is a misunderstanding. There is nothing to stop one taking A4 pages to office works and getting them bound. But…one step at a time. 🙂 I shall cut and paste for a while.

  3. Sounds like a pretty standard week for a writer, particularly in the thrall of final edits. Take as long as you need. There’s no rush. But I can’t wait to read the entire mss when you’re ready. 🙂

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