The flame whispered to life within my hands. Leaping from matchstick to wick, it sealed my fate for 2012. Not that I have a witch’s powers (and not that I want them, except to zap the odd workmate into a walrus or fade the aches from my Nana’s bones), but there is a kind of magic within us and it can be found through the art of ritual.
Chilean-born author Isabel Allende inspired me 13 years ago when she described to Sharon Krum in Qantas The Australian Way how she locked herself in her writer’s cottage on January 8 each year and summoned her muses with the aid of candles, incense and meditation.
Such a ritual fast-tracks two early objectives for a writer – setting a fixed date to launch their writing for the year and creating a moment in time where they can tap into their creative powers. This is no easy task in our fast-paced society of digital deadlines and “omnipressive” internet. It’s hard to find a time or a place to be still. Few of us have the luxury of a writer’s cottage, or a quiet place to write, but we can make a promise with ourselves – setting a time where we light our creativity and mentally shut out the noise of the world. Making that promise is possibly the greatest gift that we can give ourselves as writers.
This year, I am making my writing promise two days earlier than Allende’s sacred January 8. The Queensland Writers Centre is hosting a Down the Rabbit Hole marathon (30,000 words in three days) from January 6, so I’m lighting my candles and joining the silent fray.
Thirty thousand words in three days, I can’t do that, I’ll be late, cries the inner rabbit. But the magic of Down the Rabbit Hole isn’t the final word count. It’s having the courage to set a date with your passion. This is a three-day opportunity to focus on your story and write what sentences may come, even if it only results in a dozen paragraphs. There are no shortcuts in any game, especially publishing, but when we dedicate real time to our art, our work grows in depth and intensity until it becomes something we’re proud of and hopefully something we’re able to share with others. The only way you can fail is to never start.
I now understand Australian author Kim Wilkins’ words that getting published is exciting but nothing makes a writer happier than actually writing. If we are courageous enough to put aside that time, we will find happiness. Every day.