Monday, July 20, 2015

Just Write - Catherine Sercombe


I was enjoying a program called Bargain Hunt the other day. Contestants purchase antique and/or collectable items at one location then sell them at auction hoping to make a profit. One of the objects was an autograph book from the 1930’s which had a series of sketches and illustrations spread across its pages. It was both personal and share-worthy. I confess, I felt a tinge of jealousy – the most advanced drawing in my autograph books was a heart, drawn over a folded corner, with the instruction, ‘Do Not Lift’. When you lifted the corner, (as of course you were meant to do) the heart split in two as the words, ‘Now youf broken my heart’ appeared. Spelling was not the author’s strong point. Then again, he was only seven years old at the time. And yes, with or without his signature, I still remember his name.  


It is a long time since I have seen autograph books for sale. They are not so fashionable these days. As a child, I received three of them, from three different people, for the same birthday. Must have been a sale! I decided to invite everyone – family members, friends, even friends of friends – to write in the blue one. I made the brown one more exclusive, inviting contributions only from those people who were very special to me, mostly members of my family. I put the pink one away to use later.

The thing is, an autograph book is meant to have things written in it, so I wasted no time ensuring that happened. In two of them at least. Because of that, I have some wonderful gems of encouragement and inspiration and a whole lot of silly ditties that still make me smile – like this one:



1 1 was a race horse,
2 2 was 1 2,
1 1 1 1 race 1 day,
2 2 1 1 2.


(Hint: read one, one, two two etc)  


The pages in that book are well-worn and falling out. The one I put away for later? It’s still pristine. And mostly empty.



What’s the takeaway from this?  In the blue and brown books, I have good writing and bad. I also have a whole lot of wonderful memories. Some of those words are the only link I have now to childhood friends. The pink autograph book that I put away for later? It reminds me that, when it comes to writing, good intentions that are not acted upon create a whole lot of blank pages.

So we write. We write good stuff. We write important stuff. We write silly stuff. We even write stuff that seems pointless until, when we least expect it, the words remind us of something worthwhile from a moment in time that cannot be retrieved… oh but wait, yes it can, because you wrote it down! A lifetime later that moment is with you to relive and enjoy. 

My dad wrote this in my autograph book: ‘As you travel through life, try to make the things that could be, the things that are, lest at the end of your life you look back with regret and see only what might have been.’ 

I took his advice to heart. When it comes to being a writer, I was a late starter. But at least I’ve started. It’s no longer a ‘might have been’. Sometimes it’s hard work. Sometimes it is pure delight. But at least it IS.

So I encourage you to write. Good stuff. Important stuff. Silly stuff. Stuff for others to read. Hey – this is a blog for writers. I’m supposed to do that! But not as a harsh taskmaster. I encourage you to write because you love it. Write because it’s fun. Write because it fulfills you. Write because one day, someone might read what you wrote and discover a wonderful gem of encouragement or inspiration. Or perhaps they’ll burst out laughing at something silly and their day will be less tedious or trying. Or maybe they’ll say, ‘Well if she can do it, so can I,’ and something positive is perpetuated. Give your ‘might have beens’ a chance to germinate.  Haul out those blank pages… and just write.




Catherine Sercombe is a wife, mother, grandmother, creative writing graduate and published author from Queensland, Australia. She also manages an education business where she tutors and encourages students of all ages to meet their academic goals.

20 comments:

  1. So true. I found my mother's autograph book the other day...it dates back to the 1930's, maybe earlier. What a treasure to read words that old. Nearly everything I write these days is electronic. Sigh. I must return to my pen and my journals.
    Thanks Cathy.

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    1. There is a convenience and pace provided by electronic writing media that suits our current times, but I find myself still inclined to print hard copy, something tactile. There is, however, another aspect of hand-written work that is easily overlooked - the physical connection it provides with the writer. Knowing that their hand brushed across that page, their breath filtered through the paper, their thoughts flowed through their being to touch something still tactile even after they've moved on. I am very glad I still have objects with my parents' handwriting on them. :)

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  2. I started writing a few scattered pictures of storylines and character developments back in 1985 when I was in year 11 at high-school. Several times after school as I was clearing out and spring-cleaning my room I put my hands on those bits and pieces (some on scraps of paper) and was about to throw them out with the rubbish. I Paused. Listened to the still small voice; and placed the articles in an archive box. About twenty years on – and many other scrappy bits of unconnected narratives latter – one simple (seemingly normal) life engagement suddenly crafted the creative catalyst to connect all the bits into a coherent whole. In a flurry of plot developments, interconnects between all the pieces, and the emergence of a main character, I began writing something which has become a three part novel and life work. I am so glad I didn’t discard those bits and pieces thirty years ago. So when I write now - no matter how terrible I think it is - I store it in that archive box. Who knows what it might be formed into in the future? God knows, that even the scrappy rubbishy bits of our lives might actually turn out to be the treasure of a story that is yet to be written.

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    1. Oh Shane, I too can identify with the wonder of discovering scribbles (and experiences) that seemed unconnected to my mind were all integral to the story God had in mind. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here in the comments - very encouraging to everyone who doodles, and great justification for those of us struggling over the 'to hoard or not to hoard' dilemma.

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  3. Ah, memories from the corners of my mind.....Bursting into song here!
    I was once the proud owner of my autograph book, who knows where it got to. Then I 'advanced' to a visitors book. People's remarks were always complimentary. (After giving them a meal, what else could they be?)

    You made a great point about simply WRITING, Cathy. I do it constantly with radio program scripting where I'm time limited. That's why I love writing novels. I am trying to capture the ambiance of the Victorian Era which really fascinates me. I enjoy it most when readers have said something about not knowing much about that time period, and how the stringent etiquette and 'proprieties' affected so many lives.

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    1. Wish I could hear you sing, Rita. :) I am always amazed at God's ability to throw something remarkable from himself into the simplest writing. I suspect it might have something to do with him being the Word.

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  4. Thank you, Cathy. What a good reminder to 'just write' ��. I love your Dad's wisdom. I think your advice is the antidote to the blockages we have as writers sometimes. It's easy to try and write for others rather than ourselves - but it can stultify our creativity. While we do have to shape a work for an audience I think our first draft should be our delight. If we write for ourselves in God's presence who knows what gems might emerge?

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    1. Thanks Sue. My dad's wisdom has been a catalyst over and over again in my decision making over the years. I also love the way our heavenly father surprises us with delights and gems in those first drafts.

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  5. Thanks Cathie - A great reminder to just keep writing. I was at a memoir workshop yesterday and the speaker read out a bit of free writing she'd done when trying to work through a difficult moment in her life. Since it was free writing, it was totally just her own thoughts spewing onto the page without regard to whether or not it was 'good writing', but it really got at the raw emotions of how she was feeling at the time. Then she read out the section from her memoir that had been crafted from that raw bit of free writing. It was beautiful. So as you and Shane said, never discard those bits and pieces. You don't know what you might be able to turn them into.

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    1. Thanks Nola. I have also found that with the passage of time, fresh understanding emerges that paints those early writings with the most amazing highlights. I love it when God shines his light from a different angle to produce a whole new perspective.

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  6. Very interesting piece Cathy. Thank you. I love autograph books - have one from my childhood somewhere and hope I can locate it. Would love to have a read of it again. Thanks for jogging my memory. And thanks for more inspiration to keep writing - no matter what! Will take it to heart and WRITE ON! :)

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    1. Coming from you, Anusha, I feel doubly blessed and appreciated, for surely you are the queen of encouragement and inspiration! Especially through that inspiring and encouraging blog of yours. Jogged your memory eh? Then I anticipate even more gems from you in the future. :)

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  7. Thanks for the challenge to keep writing, Cathy. I too didn't start writing seriously until later in life, but when I did, I believe that all the other bits and pieces of writing I had done along the way really helped--including my many, long, weekly letters home to my parents when our children were young and we lived in a different part of Australia. And one of the reasons I keep up my weekly personal blog now is that I believe it's important to keep on writing. For me, it's a way of processing life's events and the lessons God teaches me--plus hopefully it may help someone else along the way as well.

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    1. My mum and I exchanged letters weekly for the first five years of my married life when we lived interstate. Once we moved closer to home, we tended to catch up with visits or phone calls. I looked longingly for her letters, and she mine. I wish I had kept them now - not quite sure why I didn't. We did move several times within a short space of time and I think a few things were sacrificed on the altar of practicality. I admire everyone who faithfully maintains a blog. I've yet to take on that somewhat daunting challenge. God bless you for being faithful to it.

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  8. What a great analogy Cathie - and how even what seems banal can become treasured for the memories and connections it evokes. Having lots of fun 'just writing' this month at Camp NaNo - and, I believe, congratulations to you are in order on finishing the first draft of your novel. Well done :)

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    1. Thanks Jeanette. I agree - Camp NaNo is a wonderful catalyst for 'just writing'. Perhaps that is why the topic came to mind! Now who was that strange woman that invited me to join her virtual cabin...? I really must thank her for making such a brilliant suggestion. :) All I have to do now, is ride the high of achievement long enough carry me beyond the murky waters of the next stage - 'just edit'. :/

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  9. Thank you Cathie for the encouragement. I like the message; to just write and not fuss too much about what we're writing. Yes, I love Camp NaNo too ... and about that editing camp; let's do it.

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  10. Hi Cathie thanks for your post....a trip down memory lane for most of us I think!
    My little green autograph book is 'somewhere' (along with Anusha's) and I have my grandmother's handwriting in there....my favourite grandmother the 'best' story teller ever!!
    Just keep writing...wonderful reminder!

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  11. Thank you Cathie. So true - I found my old autograph book from grade 6 - many of the pages had writing and it is fun to look back on.
    I also have a beautiful book I was given to use for something special - it is blank.
    Thanks for your encouragement to write

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