For many people, writing and artistic creation can be at its most innovative, and most dynamic, during tough times. For me, whenever I have a hard time, whether it be academic, personal or otherwise, I find myself turning to writing stories or articles, or picking up the guitar and writing a song. Its cathartic, and it makes you feel yourself again, in all honesty.
In May this year, my father was very badly injured in a farm accident at our house, and is now a paraplegic. Obviously, in the weeks following, writing and academic needs became the last thing on my mind, as our family all came together, surrounded by amazing friends, to process what had happened and look after Dad as he went through his operation, and became settled with his circumstances and with hospital life.
Suddenly, I entered a stage myself where I saw nothing should be taken for granted. Seeing my own Dad struggling to do even the most basic things like eat, drink and brush his teeth was really hard to process. However my Dad made adament that he was not going to give into this, but instead said "I want to cry tears of happiness for the rest of my life, rather than tears of sorrow or sadness."
His determination was awe-inspiring to watch, and it made me determined to finish my academic studies. Macquarie University had very generously given me an extension on all my final works, including my final writing piece for ENGL307. I started looking for ideas, and settled on one involving a sparkler bomb on a beach, and a boy trying to fit in. Seemed to work, so I started my first draft.
About 300 words in, I hit a creative brick wall. The story wasn't going anywhere, I didn't feel like I was part of the character. One night I went to visit Dad, and immediately he could tell that I was exhausted, and something was up with the story. I told him that I creatively was stuck, and that I felt distant from the story, that the character I was writing wasn't someone I connected with: It wasn't me. He suggested that I instead go from my own experience, and write a story of this whole circumstance that our family found ourselves in.
At first I was a bit hesitant, but the more he talked the more an idea formed in my head of a boy whose father had been injured, and he would go to a party to try and feel happy again with his friends, and, despite his circumstances, gains an acceptance that he had no control over what happened, and in a way, attains a catharsis.
I wrote for a few hours that night, which was the first draft of this piece. I went through multiple drafts, changing circumstances and adding in characters and ideas, and the more I wrote, the better I felt; the story, in itself, ended up being a cathartic experience for me. It allowed me to acknowledge for myself that everything had changed, and that rather be negative and pessimistic, instead be hopeful, and glad for the time I had with Dad.
When I eventually finished and submitted the story, it had cleared a lot of things in my head. I appreciated the care that people had showed to our family during this time, and this story was my catharsis, my way of processing what had happened, and all the different ideas and thoughts that had come into this situation. Partly for that reason, I didn't even care what mark I got for it. The story had done its job for me, and I didn't care what people would think of it. It was real for me, and that was what mattered.
My father said it was best story I had ever written, and everyone else in my family said that it made things clear in their heads too, particularly Mum, who really saw a lot of similarities to her own thoughts too. I ended up one mark of a D for this piece, which I didn't really care about much.
My tutor Michelle warned me about writing for catharsis. She said that "whatever people say about writing for catharsis, it is often a tough, tough way to do it, and is often not cathartic at all." While her guidance during this semester has often been very useful, this time I disagreed. I feel that some sort of acceptance for me was achieved, and because of that, this is a story that I am definitely proud of, even if it may not be quite perfect in every way.