A strange visitation but I’m not crazy.

My earliest memory is of my parents reading me a story: narrative is my first conscious memory of the world. It’s something I treasure, and I’ve been writing stories since I could write, and telling myself stories since even before that.

About five years ago, one of these stories got serious. I was regularly catching the bus to work at the time – about a ninety-minute bus-ride either way – and I’d spend each of those one hundred and eighty minutes frantically typing away on the small blue Toshiba laptop with the conversations of suburban school children ringing over my head, creating a world, and events within it, and the characters – one in particular – who peopled it. For three hours every day, I’d inhabit that different world, a world taking shape under my fingertips and in the small universe contained by my computer.

Then everything changed. I moved, with my ex, and suddenly didn’t have a wonderfully long commute to work. Writing was something my ex begrudged me – he, not I, was the writer in the family – and it became impossible for me to write in a war-zone. Suddenly, far from having seemingly unlimited time to put into my writing, it became sneakily snatched in small, furtive moments. Attempts to prioritise my writing led to things I still don’t want to think about; the final argument about it led to my computer being smashed and hard copies of my writing torn up, right there in front of me. I put it aside, and resigned myself to the unmourned death of my writer self.

In the two years since Emancipation Day, I’ve occasionally wondered what happened to the main character, the gutsy, strong stranger I’d birthed from within my own mind. I thought about her in the past tense – like an old friend who I’d once known well, but with whom I’d lost contact, and with whom there was no chance of reconnecting. I thought of her with regret, but resignation.

And then, all of a sudden – and travelling seems to be the common denominator here – driving home from work, I found myself thinking of her, not with regretful past tense, but in the present tense. In my mind, she was out in the rain for a run, something she’d always enjoyed, found peace in. In the present tense. Then and there. Suddenly, in the weirdness of my creativity, she was alive again.

I’ve only had that one glance, and I’m a little apprehensive about the process of regaining connection with her – what if that fleeting glimpse, that fragment, is all I’ll get? But if nothing else, her sudden presence in my mind is a reminder of the indomitable nature of my creativity: yet another thing, precious and stalwart, which couldn’t be beaten out of me.

I’m grateful. And, strangely, I’m looking forward to re-acquainting myself with a person who doesn’t actually exist.


A sudden appearance and being a writer.

About a thousand years ago, I used to catch the bus to work. It was an hour bus ride, from Melbourne’s inner western suburbs into the outer north, and it was fairly spectacularly tedious, until I developed the bright idea of taking my laptop with me, and spending the daily two hours of enforced inactivity doing some writing.

I started writing without much idea of where I was going with it: only that there was some unformed character in my head, nothing more than a vague outline of a person and a hazy understanding of where she had come from, what she had experienced. It took weeks of writing before I even learned her name: Sophie. Weeks more before the outline of a plot concreted itself in my mind, became firm enough to be drawn out on paper. Crisp black ink on white printer paper, and a list entitled “things to research” which covered more pages than the plot outline…but it was there, it was something, and the more of myself I poured into it, the more real it became. The more real Sophie became.

Until we moved to Newcastle – and suddenly I wasn’t spending two hours of each day on a bus, and writing at home had always been discouraged – there was only one writer in the marriage, apparently, and it wasn’t me – and impossible: have you ever tried to write narrative over the constant din Foxtel sports channel? To say nothing of trying to hold onto the tenuous whisps of creativity in a war-zone of domestic violence. And so writing was something that was – along with almost everything else in my life – compromised to the point of non-existence, and I ceased to be a writer, and Sophie slowly faded until one day she was simply a part of my past – somebody I once knew, and had been fond of, but from whom I had drifted apart.

Even in my freedom, in the re-birth of my creativity and of my writer self, I’ve missed Sophie. I’ve wondered, absently, whatever happened to her – the way you wonder about the fate of someone you went to high school with, whom you’ve not seen since. I’ve been a bit sad about that – her story had potential, and to me she was real – but I put it down as just one of the many, many things I’ve lost and had to let go of in the last years.

Until, suddenly, in the middle of my weekly meditation group, there she was, in my imagining. Running through rain around the streets I created for her, wearing the red shoes I once imagined on her feet, the small cross pendant I wrote for her bouncing with her steps, her hair just slightly too long and needing a trim a few weeks ago. Suddenly, from thinking of her in the past tense, I was thinking about her here and now, and suddenly she existed in my mind once more.

I didn’t get a chance to write that image until now and I may choose not to pursue it, not to try to pin her down – to see what happens, whether she continues to solidify in my writer’s mind, whether she comes back to me. But she’s been there, all along, somewhere in the dark places of my mind, just waiting.

And weird though it is to have a whole person fully formed suddenly making a guest appearance in my mind, it’s kind of nice too. I’m a writer again.