I’ve always loved writing, ever since learning about the magic of books once I was able to decipher words for myself. The spirited Jo March was a heroine of mine as she was for many young girls of my time. Her Professor Bhaer‘s advice on writing ‘from the depths of your soul’ about what you love in life has stayed with me.
Jo’s throw-away comments of herself in Little Women as ‘ugly and awkward’ also resonated with me, as did her transformation through imagination; ‘Late at night my mind would come alive with voices and stories and friends as dear to me as any in the real world. I gave myself up to it”. So I’ve ‘scribbled’ from childhood: diaries and letters and accounts of life written for my dolls and imaginary friends. Through adulthood, writing became an aspect of my professional career in health and education: reports, policy, learning materials and newsletters, although I continued pouring my heart into a journal. In the past decade the focus has been academic articles, theses and a book. Despite learning certain skills through such writing, very little of my adult writing has emerged ‘from the depths of my soul’.
I’m entering a transitional phase of my life – semi retirement – chosen partly because of age and partly as an existential choice to take some different pathways over the next decade in the face of my inevitable finitude. As part of this transition, I’ve been writing a blog called ‘Turning Sixty’ as a way of reflecting on these changes and seeking to hear about the experiences of others. I’ve been finding the world of blogs provides a fascinating glimpse into the inner worlds of others, as well as giving me ways to learn more about writing. In particular, being a member of the Queensland Writers Centre, with access to their newsletters, workshops and the fascinating ‘Empty Page’ blog has been wonderful.
So as well as being in a transitional phase in life, I’m experimenting with making a transition between academic / professional writing and creative non-fiction. Through writing the blog, having discussions with others in networks I belong to, and visiting courses and websites, I hope to learn how to draw on some of the ideas I’ve gained from academia, but find better ways to express these ideas through the heart and soul as well as the mind. Ideas from philosophy, social theory and neuroscience, for example, about authenticity, wellbeing, memory, social justice and sustainability seem to offer something worthwhile to conversations about life choices and mindful living.
In my blog, which covers an eclectic range of topics (from philosophy through aging to travel), I link to another site each week and also post a photo that reminds me how grateful I am to be basically healthy and happy as I approach sixty. This week the photo is of my laptop companion, named Varuna in the hope of channelling inspiration from the Writers Centre at Katoomba.
As this week is Queensland Writers Week, I’ve decided to put out a call for writers at a similar stage or with similar intentions. I was going to call for older women writers (not to exclude men, but because there are different emphases in issues of aging for women and men) – but ‘older’ doesn’t quite capture what I mean. Support is available for emerging writers, but they are often younger people with different concerns. Networks exist for experienced writers but I’m not exactly in that league. Maybe there’s a need for a network of emerging writers who draw from the lived experience of half a century on earth. Emerging experienced writers. Are you out there?