‘Last piece of assessment – complete! Happy dance!’
I recently posted those seven words to my Facebook status. They marked the final strides of a marathon I began three years ago, when I enrolled in Tabor Adelaide’s creating writing program. For seven words that were so easy to type, winning the right to type them took much disciplined effort, many taxing training sessions and even more unruly bouts with angst.
We writers constantly line up at the starting blocks. Sometimes we’re running a fast blog sprint or a 200 metre short story dash. Some jump hurdles by writing outside their comfort zone; others embark on a cross-country exploration of history or memoir. Long distance bravehearts pace themselves to finish that novel, or series. Some of us are crazy enough to try a literary decathlon. One thing is certain; every race takes preparation, inspiration, dedication, commitment and the support of others. We’re more like relay runners than individual athletes. We pick up the literary baton and run with it, producing the best text we can; our fellow writers, friends and family members urge us on from the sidelines; editing moves the text forward in an effective slipstream; publishing increases its momentum through polished presentation and aggressive marketing, just to get that all important baton to – not the finishing line, but its starting position! It’s our readers who pick up our literary batons and run with them. Our task is to make sure they enjoy the run, making it a win-win experience for all.
To be honest, when I signed up for this creative writing gig, I envisaged more of a fun run than a marathon. I wanted to try tertiary study, and creative writing seemed far more appealing than … well, just about everything else I could think of. Tabor offered external study options and Christian lecturers. My choice to enrol seemed like a no-brainer, really – until that first day in February, 2011, when I sat alone at my computer, sporting a stylish set of headphones as my new fashion accessory, poised to listen to the orientation lecture. As I positioned the mouse on the starting blocks, ready to click ‘play’, the enormity of the task ahead exploded like the shot of a starter’s gun. I was off and running, but did I have the wherewithal to reach the finish line? Maybe. Maybe not.
What I needed was a strong, central motivating factor, a personal coach if you like, to inspire me as I ran. In literary terms, I needed a strong chiasmus, a central point of intersection to connect the beginning with the end of my study story. As I tackled my first assessment task, a chiastic poem, the perfect Chiasm offered to become my writing coach:
Now that I’ve finished my study marathon, there’s no time to rest on my laurels. A novel is already calling me to the starting blocks. Can I get that baton ready to pass? Maybe. Maybe not. But my Coach and I will give it our best shot.
Catherine Sercombe is a wife, mother of three, education business manager, tutor and creative writing student who lives in Toowoomba, Qld. Described in Christmas Tales from the Upper Room (2012, Pantaenus Press) as ‘a creative and talented writer whose work reflects an infectious love of language’, Cathie says, ‘From A to Z, surely the best writing begins and ends in God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1-2). That’s an epidemic worth spreading.’