Kabbalah and Creativity

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The Kabbalah teaches that space is essential to creativity. In the 16th century, Shabtai Sheftel Horowitz, an Eastern European sage, wrote: ‘Before the Creation of the World, the Infinite One withdrew itself into its essence, from itself to itself within itself. It left an empty space within its essence, in which it could   emanate and create.’ (©Orna Triguboff).

I have been attending a series of talks by Rabbi Orna Triguboff, in which we study a text fro the Kabbalah in detail. Each session is enlightening, adding to the knowledge and wisdom scholars have given us for centuries. Kabbalistic scholars describe two energy channels: the left side for logic and understanding, and the right for spirituality, the ‘spark’ of an idea. These two sides merge in the centre, so that both logical thought and spiritual energy give birth to the creative process. In other words, according to ancient wisdom, we need both ‘inspiration and perspiration’ to produce a creative work. Neither pure, raw, imagery, or carefully structured thought are enough alone; an artist, writer or musician needs both. The meeting in the middle is where the final work is manifested.

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CREATIVITY

creativity1As most who practice the creative arts know, creativity comes from a place deep within the soul. To reach that place, we need to make space in our lives, and in our minds. As a writer, I can immediately relate to this concept, knowing that I have to make space, both physical and mental, before being able to access the imagination, or the ‘unconscious,’ the source of dreams and fantasies. A clear period of time and an uncluttered space are essentials for creativity. In today’s busy world this is no easy task.

Strategies for creating space include clearing one’s desk, emptying the day of other commitments, and turning off the phone. Other methods are the practice of meditation to clear the mind, and freeing oneself of the ‘baggage’ of the everyday world. (Leave the dishes in the sink!)

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There are so many obstacles to creativity. In my case a spell in hospital and subsequent recovery time all but sapped my creative energy, after the assault on my brain from anaesthetic and  Which is why you, my dear readers, haven’t heard from me for so long. Now, two months down the track, my energy is slowly returning. With it is a stirring of that mysterious force that can put me in another realm where the laws of everyday survival, metamorphise into a  freedom and release, where creative writing, painting, or musical composition can take place.

Creativity is defined by Wikipedia as ‘a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a literary work, or a painting).’ (Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia).

Where does this elusive ‘phenomenon’ come from? Some say only certain individuals can access their creativity. Others believe it resides only in the right side of the brain – a theory of dubious scientific substance. More on this in the next post.

Watching my grandchildren effortlessly produce an intricate. original drawing, or playing a musical instrument, it seems to me that perhaps we are all born with this uncanny ability, but somewhere along the way, we lose the clear joy and freedom so evident in those early years. Where do you think creativity comes from? I’d love to hear your views.

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Interview with Kristel Thornell, author of On The Blue Train

This interview with the writer of a novel based on the secret life of Agatha Christie gives me heart:

In December 1926, Agatha Christie, already the famous author of several detective novels, disappeared for eleven days. The press and the public were agog as a massive investigation employing more t…

Source: Interview with Kristel Thornell, author of On The Blue Train

Brushes with (Writerly) Fame

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While waiting for my novel to be published, and for the hoped-for fame its undoubted brilliance will bring (if only!) I must content myself by rubbing shoulders with the already famous. Even though these chance meetings are mere brushes with fame, perhaps they may magically transfer a whisper of their glory to my humble self.

Last year I was honoured to meet the Honourable Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female Prime Minister, after the launch of her book ‘My Story’.  I have long been an admirer of her strength and courage in the face of such mysogyny. Here she is signing her memoir. I was impressed by her grace.

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One of my favourite writers is Gail Jones, author of many wonderful novels, including my favourite,  ‘Sixty Lights’.  It was a thrill to meet her at the Darwin Writers Festival, and recently at the launch for her acclaimed novel, “A Guide to Berlin”. img_2499img_0340

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Darwin I met the playwright Mary Anne Butler, whose play, ‘Broken’, has won the prestigious Victorian Prize for Literature. was a hit at the Festival. Here she’s sharing a few words while signing my program for her previous play, “Highway of Lost Hearts”.

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After seeing Alana Valentine’s drama, “Letters to Lindy”, I was moved to congratulate her for writing about one of the grossest miscarriages of justice in Australia: the incarceration for over six years of an innocent, grieving mother. Lindy Chamberlain has been fully exonerated, yet nothing could make up for the cruelty of that sentence. Alana told me she hopes her play will help people who are still affected to let go of anger and imagegrief. img_5204

On a happier note, I spent some time with Marieke Hardy of ‘The First Tuesday Book Club  fame, when helping out  at the Darwin Festival. Her session,’Women of Letters’, in which women in the audience read letters they have written on a set theme, was a sellout. As you see, she was great fun.

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Darwin Mon Amour

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We were greeted this Dry season by a lively green frog jumping out of the toilet bowl. Forget your city ways, it croaked, you’re living with Nature in the Top End. I was not inclined to agree until said frog had been safely deposited outside, where it glared at us from the arm of a chair while we ate our first al fresco meal.

IMG_5033Each morning we’re serenaded by bird cries: the chirping of the spangled drongo, the warbling of honeyeaters and the olive-backed oriole, all species native to Darwin. We have two resident black cockatoos, a flash of red from their tails displayed in flight.

It’s been a season of blue cloudless skies by day, cool breeze by night, with locals revelling in their release from an unusually long buildup. Climate change makes itself felt here, with mangroves dying and dams diminishing in the practically rainless wet. Easy to forget this ever-present threat as we bask in Dry season warmth and cool off in the backyard pool in nearly every home.IMG_5037

A season too of music, dance and drama as the city comes to life with its annual Festival, held each August. Lights festoon the trees and people throng to Festival Park to watch vaudeville or circus shows, and eat their way through a variety of ethnic food offered by the many food stalls. Being so close to Asia, Darwin is one of Australia’s most multicultural cities.

There are darker aspects here: the recent revelation of children being tortured in detention shocking locals and the world. Along with hundreds of others we attended a rally to call for action to redress these injustices. There are many asylum seekers awaiting visas, some under threat of return to the countries from which they fled. I did a stint giving information about DASSAN (The Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network), founded by my eldest daughter, at the busy Nightcliff Markets, one of three held each Sunday.IMG_4949

Being theatre buffs, we enjoyed two excellent plays: ‘Lippy’ by an Irish company which had its Australian premiere in Darwin, and ‘Broken’ by Darwin’s own Mary Ann Butler, and for which she won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Both were excellent productions, and so easy to get to, compared to struggling through traffic jams ‘down south’.

FullSizeRenderThere’s plenty of culture here if you know where to look, from the outdoor Deckchair Cinema, showing mostly art films and serving yummy food, to the activities for Science week. We enjoyed solar-powered movies under the stars at Darwin’s seaside ‘de la Plage’ café.IMG_4759

We are now given the title of ‘Temporary Territorian’ after spending a good part of each year in these tropic climes over twenty years, not only in the Dry, but in all seasons. Our many friends here ask ‘How was your time away?’ when we return to Darwin, as if our home is truly here and we occasionally take a trip down south. They’ve even stopped saying ‘It must be the Dry ‘cos you’re back!’

The main reason for our visit is to catch up with close family, children and grandchildren, who are lucky enough to live here and to enjoy Darwin’s carefree lifestyle. But I have a sneaky feeling that even if they weren’t here, I’d still come back to Darwin!

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Ten Tips for a Writers’ Group

These tips from a New York based writer could equally apply to my Randwick Writers’ Group.

Reblogged from Lee Kofman at leekofman.com.au

Guest post by Tracy Sayre

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work in writers’ groups. Here’s a list of my top ten tips.

1.Find the group. Facebook is a great place to start. Post a message that you want to begin a writers’ group and you’ll be amazed by how many of your friends harbor a desire to write. Alternatively, you can contact bookstores, colleges, and libraries to ask if they know of a group you can join. There are also websites like Meetup.com that have information on local writers’ groups.
2.Keep it small. I think the best size for a group is 4 people. If it’s smaller, you won’t get varied feedback, if it’s larger, you spend too much time reading other people’s work. I’ve also found with larger groups people tend to cancel last minute because they don’t feel like their attendance matters that much.
3.Plan ahead. One of the worst things you can do is leave the schedule vague. We all dread that never-ending email chain where everyone’s rescheduling. From the beginning, decide when you’re going to meet, for instance every other Tuesday at 7 pm, and stick to it.
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4.Set the format. Determine if you want to read the pieces out loud at the meeting, or if everyone is expected to read beforehand and bring in their notes. Determine how many pages everyone is going to share and how many people will share at a meeting. Here’s what has worked the best for my groups: 2 people send their material a week before the meeting. They can share up to 20 pages. Members read ahead of time and come with prepared notes. When we’re discussing a submission, the writer does not talk. You can waste a lot of time explaining your decisions but at the end of the day, it’s more helpful to hear what other people thought of your decisions than for them to know why you made them.

5.No alcohol. I learned this the hard way. During my first group, we each brought a bottle of wine. By the time we got to the last piece we were tipsy and distracted. Now we don’t have any alcohol and the critiques are much more focused. I can come home and write when I’m most inspired by the feedback instead of passing out drunk!

6.Limit socialising. You can chat about the election with anyone, but not about the craft of your story. Honor the time you have with these people and focus on your writing. In my groups, we say the meeting officially starts at 7pm but come at 6:30 if you’d like time to catch up. This also helps keep the meetings a reasonable length of time. If the meetings start taking four or five hours you’ll probably end up canceling when you get busier.
7.Don’t be selfish. One of my pet-peeves is someone who clearly joins a group to just get feedback on their own work. They miss meetings when it’s not their turn to share, or they never have time to finish others’ submissions. I learn so much through reading the other members’ works. For instance, I found one submission really boring and I realized it was because there was no conflict. I had heard this criticism of my own writing but I didn’t understand how boring such writing can be until I saw it in someone else’s piece. Discussing works of other writers develops your critical eye and makes you a better a writer yourself.
8.Take a break. Every year or so, take a break from the feedback and discuss if the group is working for everyone. Is someone dominating the critique? Are the meetings getting too long? Have your goals changed? I’ve found that groups tend to lose steam after two years. This is when people start cancelling a lot or not submitting new work. Determine as a group if you need to take a break and reconvene with new focus, or if some want to drop out and make room for fresh faces. New members offer new perspectives. There’s nothing wrong with dropping out and there’s nothing wrong with starting a new group. You need to be among people who will help your writing flourish.
9.Do activities together. I went on writing retreats with my first two writers’ groups. We also hosted a public reading of our work at a local bookstore. These activities cemented the group and made us feel like we were moving toward something. Go to conferences together. Attend a reading of a favorite author together. Enjoy this amazing, creative connection you have – it’s unlike any other friendship.
10.Don’t take anything personally. I think the worst response is when someone has nothing to say about your writing: they either didn’t care enough or they don’t think you have the ability to improve it. Someone who points out flaws in your writing is spending a great deal of time giving you feedback and they are sharing it because they respect you and think you are capable of more. That’s a compliment. When negative feedback comes up it’s especially helpful to be in a group because that’s when you can determine if that’s one person’s opinion or if everyone in the group felt the same way. Either way, don’t forget that this is feedback on your writing, not you.