It had been a long time since I had spent six whole hours at a creative writing workshop—so long that I wondered if I could even do such a thing anymore. Nevertheless, it was with a sense of almost awed expectation that I set out recently to drive to the NSW Writers’ Centre for a one day course entitled ‘Remembering your Creativity’, conducted by Sue Woolfe. I wanted this day to reignite my passion for novel writing—but was I aiming too high? After all, it was boiling hot and I knew the Centre was not air-conditioned. Hmm.
Fifteen of us sat with pens poised as our first session began, the fans whirring above us and some participants already mopping their brows. Yet, as our presenter explained her approach, all that fell away for me. In an instant, I realised what an absolute gift from God this day truly was. Here we were, being encouraged to remember the creative things we had enjoyed doing as a child. Here we were, being invited to write in a free-wheeling fashion, to decrease our conscious, logical brain activity, to be still and dialogue with ourselves. And, for me at least, that also meant dialoguing with God.
Throughout the day, Sue guided us through various activities in a gentle, affirming way. Here an exercise arising from a scene on a power point slide that, for me, evoked strong, almost overwhelming images from a visit to Turkey some years ago. Next, an exercise inspired by looking at our neighbour’s hand, which brought back a whirl of childhood memories of my old music teacher, as she reached across and gently showed me how to play something I could not seem to master. Then came a one sentence story starter, followed by a photo on a power point slide of a woman’s face. And at that point, I knew for sure God was right there with me, speaking insistently, whispering words of encouragement in a way I could not ignore.
Firstly, God used the story starter sentence to show me I had fallen into the trap of being all things to all people, believing I was indispensable, and almost losing myself as a writer in the process. But then God also spoke clearly through the photo we were given. You see, this beautiful woman bore an uncanny likeness to my grandmother—which left me gobsmacked, as the novel I had to put aside in all my busyness last year was one inspired by this same grandmother! As I wrote reams during each exercise—changing points of view, having our character move, respond to someone else and so on—God seemed to say, ‘See how I can restore the joy of writing to you—and tie it all in so well?’.
I wonder if any of you have had a similar experience recently in your writing journey that you might like to share with us. Wherever you are at, however, I want to encourage you all to remember your creativity and allow yourselves the joy of writing without any strict agenda and with the abandonment of childhood. Later, your words can be shaped in whatever way they need to be. But for now, remember your own creativity—and also that you belong to an amazingly creative God!
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, Soul Friend and Becoming Me. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.