Writing From An Indigenous Perspective: Part 2
The feeling that I didn’t have the right to write from an indigenous perspective was a major obstacle for me for a long time.
It prevented me from finishing a musical around the original idea for Loreless.
It held me back with writing the novel.
No matter how many people told me I was doing a good thing and not to worry about it, I was never comfortable with the idea.
I had to find a reason to prove to myself that what I was doing was an honourable thing.
I was afraid to insult people.
I was afraid that I would be disrespectful.
It was pure fear. It was unfounded.
Many years ago when I was researching the story I spoke to a great many indigenous Australians.
I stayed on an outback community and had conversations with Aboriginal elders there. I met people in other parts of the country and I was always met with the same response.
The one thing which stood out from those conversations is that people were open to me. They believed I was genuine, and I was.
It was something I couldn’t and didn’t fake. I was certain of what I wanted to say. I was just unsure whether I had the right to say it. And fundamentally, how to say it.
When I told them what I was doing I got nothing but encouragement.
They thought the story was important, that it should be told. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t indigenous. What mattered was that I believed in what I was doing.
They quashed any reservations. Except, I had to believe them.
It took longer than expected for me to accept that trust and belief.
My biggest disappointment now is that it took so long.
I squandered years avoiding telling the story. I found lots of excuses not to continue writing.
Once I forced myself to do it, once I made the decision to format it as a novel, the story finished itself. The form was as important as the contents.
It wasn’t easy but I got there.
However, that wasn’t the end of it. The most wonderful thing was that it opened a whole new world up for me. Because of it, I became a writer.
Since completing Loreless I feel I’ve hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since. I have shaken the devil off my back, so to speak.
A new novel has just been published and a third is starting its journey.
In the end, I was writing it for the people who encouraged me. Having that knowledge helped.
A few weeks ago I worked up the courage to contact the community which inspired me.
Even that was a major hurdle in my journey. Again my fears were unfounded.
They remembered me like it was yesterday, even though more than 20 years had gone by. They even mention recently looking at photos taken when I was there.
One of the women elders painted my guitar case at the time.
The worst thing is that not all the people who originally were there then, are still around. Time has taken its toll. Other members of Community are also coming to the end of their earthly days.
It made me sad, it also reinforced in me the desire to write more, to get it all down, to keep going.
The clock is ticking. I don’t know how long I have, but that is actually immaterial.
I just have to write as much as I can. Who knows what marvellous new stories will come to life.
And that is the most fundamental reason to take the writer’s journey in the first place.
Have you found your creative freedom in a round-about way?
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