Writing freely with Stephanie Dowrick

Recently I attended a full day workshop, ‘Sustaining Your Creativity’, with the extraordinarily graceful and calm-inducing Stephanie Dowrick at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre. This year my creativity is getting a pretty big shot in the arm through the MA in Cultural and Creative Practice I’m undertaking, and with the wonderful writerly people I have contact with in the real and virtual world.

Stephanie didn’t start the workshop with the traditional introductions, but gave us time to settle in to the space we were in and with each other. It was a mixed group in terms of life and writing experience with one person coming from Adelaide to attend. Stephanie spoke in her lovely and considered manner about the need to pay attention to our writing and to try to quieten the inner critic and inner saboteur. In fact she suggested that all too often we welcome the inner critic in through an open door and invite it to take up position on the chaise lounge and make itself very, very comfortable and allow it to subvert our thinking and writing.

She asked us to name the characteristics a writer needs to have and we came up with a list including tenacity, having a ‘zing’ of boldness, persistence, self belief, hope, curiosity and drive. Stephanie spoke about writing or any creativity being ‘a marriage of innocence and experience’.

Then, our last task before we met each other was to do some free writing on the topic of ‘What I want most from my writing is …’ and also to reflect on what inspires us most. I always enjoy free writing tasks but they usually only happen in a workshop or writers group situation. I liked this task because I think it’s good to articulate what your writing, or whatever your arts practice may be, means to you.  This was my offering (unedited).

Writing free with Stephanie DowrickWhat I want most from my writing is … to help me to make sense of some of the more complex things I see in the world – perhaps not complex but the simple that is made complex and complicated by the many chattering voices. The voices that chatter not so much through my phone, but around me and which I too often let in. The voices and opinions let in through Twitter and Facebook, that by clicking through expose me to ideas and thoughts that are not kind; are not compassionate. But am I right to block these out and only ‘follow’ those of like mind? Am I right to silence by not clicking through and ignore the not kind, the not compassionate? Can I, through my writing bring to notice the need for kindness and compassion?

Speaking recently about the Philosophy of Poetry, a PhD student* from UWS said that poets have empathy. Poets make sense of the world for others. My immediate response to this was that we need more poets in parliament for there is little empathy at present. In fact, it seems under the guise of protecting asylum seekers from the predation of people smuggling, all compassion has been  lost.

What I want most from my writing is to be that poet whose sense of empathy and compassion sounds an alarm bell to others that we need to join our voices to be heard and not say’ I am only one person – one voice.’

 *Writing and Society Research Centre, PhD student, Gavin Smith presented ‘ “What is the Poetic Experience?” – An Argument in the Philosophy of Poetry’ on Tuesday, 23 July, 2013 at the Writing and Society Research Centre. Gavin’s research revolves around poetry and the experience of poetry, seeking to understand poetry and the poetic experience from a diverse range of perspectives, from the philosophical to the neurological.



About Robyne Young

Writer, creative writing teacher, editor, columnist. Literary lover. Short story collections, The Only Constant and The Basket and the Briefcase available via website.
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