Kia ora koutou, a warm welcome to the Diploma in Writing for the Creative Industries students who are joining NMIT’s Blog Network this week.
I’m only just back from the Byron Writers Festival, on the far north coast of New South Wales, where I got some great ideas about how to make the Nelson Arts Festival Page & Blackmore Readers and Writers events even more fabulous.
I’m also feeling inspired and ready to tackle the next draft of my memoir, Beyond the Blue Door. On the flight from the Gold Coast to Auckland, I nailed a new structure for the manuscript, and started writing the (new) first chapter.
Here’s a few other ‘take aways’ from the three-day event that I wanted to share with our students:
We are not as individual as we think: Miriam Lancewood
Miriam Lancewood is a Dutch adventurer who spent seven years in the wilderness on the West Coast of the South Island with her husband Peter. She emerged in 2017 and has spent the past year or so on the book tour and literary festival circuit promoting her memoir, Woman in the Wilderness. She told the packed audience at a session titled ‘Living Wild’ that necessity soon converted her from being a lifelong vegetarian to a hunter (whose first meal of animal protein consisted of the heart and liver of a goat, because these organs have a shorter shelf life in the wild than its flesh). Miriam said the space and solitude of living in the bush gave her time to reflect on how her reactions to triggers had been shaped by her upbringing.
“I would ask, is this me or is this how my mother would respond?” she explained. “It was an opportunity to examine our cultural conditioning. We are not as individual as we think.”
We lack the space to heal from brokenness: Jessie Cole
It goes like this on the back cover (and the author’s website): “As children, Jessie Cole and her brother Jake ran wild, free to roam their rainforest home as they pleased. They had each other, parents who adored them, and two mysterious, beautiful, clever half-sisters, Billie and Zoe, who came to visit every holidays. But when Jessie was on the cusp of adolescence, tragedy struck, and her happy, loving family fell apart.” Her memoir, Staying, reveals the impact two suicides in her immediate family had on her life.
I really resonated with Jessie when she reflected that there was no space for sorrow in her life when her half-sister took her own life, “Our society lacks the space to heal from brokenness.”
Anxiety is my Super Power: Sarah Wilson
You might know Sarah Wilson from her bestselling nutrition/lifestyle/cookbooks, I Quit Sugar (in its many iterations). In February this year, she shut down what was by then called the I Quit Sugar Empire (her website was reportedly making $4 million a year) to focus on new campaigns. At the Byron Writers Festival, she introduced the punters to her latest book, First We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety, which was published in February 2017.
I was fascinated with her musings on the link between anxiety and decision making, which are both controlled by the pre-frontal cortex. Her tip was to minimise decision making in the morning – by sticking to a set routine, which could involve adopting something like a daily yoga or meditation practice or could be as simple as eating the same breakfast at the same time each day – so that you can embrace the rest of the day with a sense of order.
Rather than trying to ‘medicate’ or ‘cure’ anxiety, Sarah advocates those who experience it to dive in and understand their anxiety (which, she points out, has historically served an evolutionary purpose) and harness it for good. “Anxiety when harnessed creates beauty in the world. Anxiety is my Super Power,” she claimed.