The nest was empty.
It was time to make some changes. I wanted to be myself; I wanted to be free from the stigma of being the wife of Bruce.
I enrolled in a Creative Writers Class at the TAFE College. To become a writer and change the world appealed to me. The class of ’78 was a group of ten people all with an agenda but not necessarily about becoming a writer.
‘Your first exercise will be stream of conscience. Write for ten minutes every thought that enters your mind,’ the tutor said.
I looked at him; then at my blank page; then into my mind – another blank. Finally a thought wandered along. I grabbed it and wrote it down. How I hated this lesson. I simply could not bring myself to write down all the silly, inane thoughts that came into my mind. ‘Times up,’ the tutor called.
We read out our pieces, the tutor fixed his eye of learning on me, I knew I had failed. ‘Gwen, you are incredibly disciplined.’ What’s wrong with that, I thought angrily, bowing under his condemnation.
Not about to quit I turned up to class again. ‘We will write another piece of stream of conscience again,’ the tutor announced. I groaned, there rose within me such a rebellion that I thought, whoa, what gives here? As the next couple of weeks passed, I was forced to do some heart searching.
I discovered somewhere in my 45 years I’d lost myself, I was a sham, a fake and I didn’t know how or why it had happened. I knew though, that if I wanted to be a writer I needed to break down the barriers and open up myself to life. I had built walls of self defence to save being hurt. I need to feel hurt, love, and joy no matter what. People would get hurt because I spoke from the hip, yet I had to be myself without shame. The changes were insurmountable. I would fail and did so many times.
The class of ’78 broke up at the end of the year but the course of my life was set. I would be a writer. I went on to study the art and craft of writing, gaining diplomas along the way. Already I was being changed, slowly, slowly.
I have failed to write the great Australian novel with two novels half finished. Instead there are many stories published in anthologies along with two biographies and several books written by other people and edited by me. You see, they are the stories of other people not my own stories. I’m still in hiding. The failure to feel and open myself up still lingers like a faint odour. A failed writer in many respects but deadly determined to enrich this world by what I have written even if it is another’s story.