Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breakthrough Writing in Fiji
with Jan Cornall at Daku Resort, Savusavu Bay.

When you get off the plane in Fiji the first thing you notice is the way Fijians walk. It’s the slow relaxed gait of people from a tropical clime. There’s no point in hurrying and besides it’s just too darned hot. The rush, rush of our city-folk ways seems suddenly ludicrous and as you begin slowing it down and remembering this is the pace human beings are supposed amble along at.

It is just the kind of advice writers need. We think we have to push, push, push, to get our work out there, but first we need to slow it down to below the beat of our heart. Daku Resort in Savusavu Bay on Fiji’s second island Vanua Levu, is just the place to do it. This sleepy little backwater with only one main street doesn’t know the meaning of traffic jam or deadline. It’s all ‘rubber time’ here and so it should be in a writer’s world.  That doesn’t mean we slack off or don’t turn up to the morning workshop, but in a week of breakthrough writing, we let time stretch out so there’s room for everything.
 If you begin the morning with yoga asanas high up in the open air yoga shala, with a million dollar view over a palm framed tranquil bay, somehow you know it’s going to be a good writing day. Replacing the yoga mats with a big table and a bunch of determined writers who need a little bit of help, is always rewarding for me. I’ve come armed with a bagful of tricks, devious methods for helping them get  ‘doubting mind’ out of the way and let the writing do its thing. I’m taking them into sense memory via guided meditations, getting out the butchers paper and coloured pens, making them plan the cover of their book, the blurb on the back, quotes by famous people, foreward, dedication, publisher’s name and date of publication. ‘Just pretend’ I tell them when they give me the’ but I can’t possibly do that’ look. ‘ Make it up –isn’t that what writing is? ‘


 In no time all the ‘is it worth it, can I do it, will anyone want to read this crap’ self talk dissolves in the sweet frangipanni air and we are into our first mapping exercise and ‘show and tell’ to the group. Immediately we are all taken with the potential of one another’s work, offering constructive feedback, advice, ideas and applause. There is great power in the group process, for every day as our contribution to our fellow writers grows, so does their confidence.

As the writing hours wear on, the breakthroughs begin. One writer after nine years of waiting, gets her opening paragraph and a brilliant one it is too.  Another (instead of an after lunch siesta) strips a twenty thousand word prologue down to a thousand. A third finds her narrator voice, a fourth starts out with a ‘maybe short story’ and realises she has enough material for a novel. A fifth is encouraged to include an important strand in their book that another writing group has disapproved of. 


 And so it goes until by the end of the week, these writers can’t understand why they still feel so relaxed when they have all been working so hard. We pack our bags, sorry to leave, resolving to keep the slow Savusavu roll in our step when we arrive back in the land of the busy.’ Finish what you start’ is my parting advice and ‘remember, when it all gets too hard, just come back to the writing, that’s all you have to do’. 

Getting there : Jetstar to Nadi then Air Pacific to Savusavu 
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