Living Creatively: I

Recently I’ve been thinking about my life, all the twists and turns it has taken. It has opened out now into a very gentle and lovely place, in a beautiful valley near the Border Ranges, which divide New South Wales from Queensland. Dominating the valley are the remains of a 20 million year old volcano, now called Wollumbin Mount Warning. This mountain is most unusual in its shape, and in the magnetic effect it has on the district. It was called Mount Warning by Captain Cook, because it was his first sight of land as he sailed up the coast, and is said to be the first peak to catch the morning sun. Wollumbin was added to acknowledge the indigenous groups of the area, although there is controversy among them over the authenticity of this name. One story says it means Cloud Catcher, which is most apt, as it often trails clouds around it, like  a woman’s fascinator. This intriguing word originally meant “a light scarf of fine knitting over the head and round the neck, [worn] instead of an opera hood when going out at night.” Another meaning for Wollumbin is “fighting chief of the mountains”. I think it has both moods, and many more.

The image above is my pastel painting of it, done early this year.

Living a creative life is difficult, as we all know, when we have to support ourselves and our families and earn a living. Few people in the creative arts are able to earn a living from their art. Most of us do all sorts of odd jobs or more permanent ones to make end meet. The downside of that is that it can take up a lot of one’s time, and may drain or suppress one’s creative energy.

Life can lead us on all sorts of byways. But more than that, the central purpose of life, for those of us who have children, is raising our children and helping them to find their feet. For women, traditionally, this has been their main occupation. As we have shifted, in developed countries, from the traditional monogamous family where the husband is the bread earner and the wife stays at home, women have had to balance child bearing and raising with working as joint income earner, or in many cases, as single parent and sole earner.

For me, this pattern has meant that I didn’t start to unfold my creative self outside of growing and loving my children and making ends meet until I was in my late 50s. When my son left school and began work, I went back to university. I decided I didn’t want a career, and it was too late anyway, I wanted to tell my story. So I wrote an autobiographical novel and theorised my life in the framework of the bourgeois family (more on that another time). Then I had a couple of years off, working in frail aged care, then went back to do a PhD. This time I combined my own life writing, interpretations of a medieval Japanese novel written by a woman and set in a polygamous aristocratic court society, and the theories of two radical French philosophers. My thesis was titled The Origami of Desire: Unfolding and Refolding the Desiring Self (f).

I have published several articles and essays from this. My next project is — finally — to publish my childhood memoir, This Place You Know, which weaves my mother’s story and mine to tell the story of how our family broke apart and we lost ‘this place’ we loved. I have been writing and revising it for 20 years! I also have written a memoir of my young adulthood, called Loss: a Memoir, which I hope to publish. The first memoir is currently being edited by a literary editor, who has given me great help in bringing it to be the best it can be.

So creativity can be a broken path. But it is very important to keep returning to it, not to lose sight of it or give up on it. Little things help, like writing this blog. I also do pastel painting, like the one of the valley above. I am in a pop-up art trail next week, and hope to sell some of my paintings so I can go on and paint some more.

What do you do to keep your creativity alive? I’d love to hear your stories.




Filed under the creative life

7 responses to “Living Creatively: I

  1. I enjoy reading your blog Christina, your surroundings seem mystical. .So much more interesting than the flat scrubby plains of the Western Australian wheatbelt which I have always considered my home. Look forward to your next post.

    • Thank you! They are mystical. I’ve lived in the wheatbelt too, and grew up on the flat Hay plains, and each had their mysteries. But I have to say this is the most beautiful place I’ve lived in. Nevertheless, the place you are born in or live in for a long time has a special power.

  2. Elisabeth

    Lovely to read about your creative journey, Christina and more so to think that you and I have shared a good part of it in more recent years. I keep my creativity alive by making sure I write for its own sake on the weekends and at other times when I can. In other words, I practise writing as much as possible within the constraints of my work and family life and for the rest I read, and engage with others and wonder about the world in which we live, particularly as reflected through the written and spoken word. I admire your ability to paint and provide visual images that words can only hint at. But writing is all I have, talent wise and I try to make as much of it as I can within the realms of creative non-fiction because I do not have a fiction writer’s imaginative abilities but there’s enough of the fictional in life in general, I reckon, to keep all our imaginations alive. As long as we attend.

    • Elisabeth, I am blessed that we met through our writing and have shared so much. I have lovely memories of sharing the anthology of Hidden Desires: Australian Women Writing, with you; your story in that was the first piece of yours I read, and I was so moved by its quiet outrage. I remember visiting you in Melbourne, how you hosted a reading of the anthology at your local library, and of sharing a room with you in Honolulu at the Life Writing conference, and again, being with you as presenters in Adelaide. We have shared so much of our life stories and you have been a great inspiration to me, in your tireless wonderings about your world, your life, and honest recreation of it. If writing is all you have, you have made it a very great all, and your attention never fails.

  3. What a beautiful place to live, Christina, and your pastel is beautiful. I look forward to reading your memoir one day soon! xx

  4. A beautiful post, Christina. Thank you. And thank you for the invitation to share. I try to live a creative life, not only through writing, but also through all the daily and ordinary things in my life such as cooking, my garden, a bit of craft, the way I arrange a bunch of flowers or place a cushion. I also try to create lovely memories with my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For me these humble things feel like the way to grow even older creatively.

    I look forward to reading your stories, soon.

  5. I love that pastel, Christina. I’ve been to Mt Warning several times on my jaunts up and down the East Coast. It’s interesting to hear about your journey because I really struggle sometimes to get those creative juices flowing. I’m always promising myself that I’m going to start the next novel this week, but something always gets in the way. I just have to make time 😉

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