‘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.’
What a great post Cathie. Congratulations on finishing that marathon. I can relate to that. I thought it would be a fun run too, but it ended up taking me five years to complete the 8 subjects in my Grad Dip. LOL - Now I'm in a literary decathlon trying to juggle all the different writing projects but it is fun. I love your analogy about passing the baton on to our readers. It's exciting to think that God can give us the inspiration and words to say to pass on to others, and then others can run with it and also pass it on in a never-ending relay race. Looking forward to seeing that novel and all the other pieces you write now that you're free as a bird from the study race. :)ReplyDelete
Thanks Nola. Being free as a bird does have its risks though - especially if an errant breeze threatens to blow me off course. Glad I have a friendly flock to fly with, to keep me on course.Delete
This is my second attempt to get posted.ReplyDelete
A thought-provoking post Cathie. I must admit the word, Chiasm wasn't part of my vocabulary even though I'd studied Greek. I found it simply meant a crosspiece. And of course that's why your poem fit. Yes we're certainly in a writing marathon. I guess that figures because as Christians we're engaged in Life's marathon with the Holy Spirit as our coach. Keep up the writing...perseverance makes us all winners in the end.
I heard the word for the first time in connection with its poetic form which utilizes a structure based on an X with parallelisms formed in a mirror image radiating from that central point. Often associated with Hebrew poetry. It appeals to my sense of order and symmetry and reminds me that even in the midst of chaos, God has things well sorted!Delete
Hi Cathie, your statement, "the best writing begins and ends in God" finds such resonance in my heart. I love your coach :). Thank you for blessing us with your journey and posting that crosspiece poem. And, of course, congratulations on your success! Looking forward to hearing more...ReplyDelete
Thanks Margaret. It's great to know such a fabulous Muse, isn't it?Delete
Thanks for your post Cathie and congratulations on finishing your degree. I love your poem and its chiasmic structure, its allusion to the balance between study and writing and the rest of life, and God as coach. I enjoyed learning about the structure of Hebraic poetry in Old Testament studies - quite different concepts than English poetry.ReplyDelete
I'm in the middle of my own study marathon at the moment (MA writing) - the first year & half I was flying with enthusiasm, but the last half year has been much harder to keep the motivation going. One year to go... But whichever way I look at it, it has been beneficial to my writing in so many ways - getting me back writing the novels I'd started long ago & stimulating me to write things I would never have thought of. Like my braided memoir piece - due to day. Better get back to it. ;)
Look forward to reading your novel :)
Thanks Jeanette. I pray that God will refresh you in your study journey and give you the boost you need to hang in there. I believe you have some important words to write that will change lives for the better; that's why God has called you to run the hard yards so that those words will have muscle and endure.Delete
Thank you Catherine for a very timely post. I am just over halfway through my BA and have reached the point where this degree is becoming a marathon of commitment. This will be my fourth year of study online and I am totally walking in faith now that what God asked me to do at the beginning is still valid and relevant for my future needs. I'm all enrolled for the coming year but am struggling to generate any enthusiasm. Hearing your story is an inspiration and if you approve I'd like to print out your poem above as a reminder about who is my provider and source of strength in ALL thingsReplyDelete
It always seems to get harder before it seems probable, doesn't it? I love Jeremiah's prayer (32:17) where he tells God, 'Nothing is too difficult for you.' Even more, I love God's reply in verse 27 where He tells Jeremiah, 'Nothing is too difficult for me'. It is good to know that when it is too difficult for us, God is able to provide the means we need to accomplish what He has asked. In 1 Kings 19:7, we learn that God doesn't just meet our needs once, but He continues to feed us until we have the strength to continue. Elijah was ready to give up and die, but the Lord sent an angel to encourage him to eat. After Elijah ate and rested, 'The LORD's angel returned and woke him a second time, saying, "Get up and eat, or the trip will be too much for you." ' If printing out the poem will help you feast on the Lord's provision and enable you to keep going, by all means do so, with my blessing.Delete
Great thoughts Catherine. I wanted to cheer when I read them, and no doubt many of us can identify with you.ReplyDelete
Thanks Carol. We have a great team and a great Coach. That's worth a few cheers for sure.Delete
Thanks Cathie for that lovely post. Congratulations too on winning that marathon. Well done. I loved your special poem - wow - very well expressed and beautifully laid out. You must be a writer! Thanks for the challenge of continuing on to win marathons as we writers do! May that novel find a place in the world and be a best seller!ReplyDelete
I'll agree with that! Anusha, I'm sure your prayers and words of encouragement at the Omega Writers Conference in October had a lot to do with getting me through the last leg as well. No one climbs a mountain by himself. :)Delete
Loved and appreciated both the blog post and the poem, Cathie. Thank you. And also for introducing me to 'chiasm'! Had not come across it before - and I'm a grad of Adelaide Uni creative writing course. One up for Tabor!! Blessings, Rhonda Pooley.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on completing your course. I learned something new today - chiasmus. Thanks. Always interesting to learn new words and their meanings.ReplyDelete
Well done on achieving your marathon-length goal, Cathie. (You with your coach. :) ) Yes, tertiary study certainly asks a commitment that can be grossly underestimated. Your celebration is well justified! Great points you've drawn. I really like the image of a writer passing the baton onto a reader, who then completes the relay. A valuable reminder to be mindful of a reader's enjoyment in all our efforts to produce literary works. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Congratulations, Cathie, re finishing your studies--a marathon effort, for sure, but so worth it! An novel will be a breeze after that!(?) I remember learning about chiasm in in my Old Testament studies at theological college--and James Cooper also talked about it in a workshop at the last Omega Writers' Conference. Somehow, it's such a satisfying form of poetic writing, don't you think?ReplyDelete
Yes, especially when it reminds us of the One who holds all things together from beginning to end. Ah Jo-Anne - the end of that marathon was just the beginning of the long haul! The novel is currently riding the storms and whirlwinds of life and reedits while I try to keep my eye on that divinely peaceful Centre.Delete