photo: Gareth Arnold
The third meeting of the Kent Writing and Wellbeing Network took place at the Beaney on Saturday 6th July, a radiant summer’s day.
Katherine Pierpoint led the writing warm-up. She talked about the work of the imagination and how it is concerned with the ‘innerness of outer things’ and the ‘outerness of inner things’. In writing, we move simultaneously in those two directions.
She invited us to write on ‘What I’ll miss most when I’m dead’. This led to a surprising – as usual, so perhaps not so surprising! – variety of pieces. My own response came in the form of a list that became increasingly concerned with random items (cheese, shelves, stars, toothbrush) and I found the exercise pleasurable – the ‘drunkenness of things being various’. Several people commented on the paradox of being dead and so not missing things.
She shared a poem by Paul Matthews, Things (from his collection ‘The Ground that Love Seeks’) that opens with that same given line. She also shared a poem by Víctor Terán in translation from Zapotec – I Know Your Body – a thrilling praise poem that you can read here.
The main presentation by Maria C. McCarthy was a moving account of how chronic illness and personal challenges led to her discovering writing. As a high achiever, illness, especially when it took time to get a proper diagnosis, brought multiple losses – health, work, relationships and financial security – leading to deep grief and a loss of identity. The discovery of creative writing – initially through exercises to learn IT skills – has brought much richness to Maria’s life but, paradoxically, her growing success as a writer and publisher is leading to increased busy-ness once again.
The talk raised many questions and issues. One concerned the ethical concerns around using the material of one’s own life in writing – something that also came up in Patricia’s talk at our first meeting. Maria set us a writing task based on one she’d learned from Patricia, consisting of the prompts ‘I would like to write about … but I’m afraid to because …. nevertheless I shall …’
My own response was to remain afraid to ‘name’ the subject but nevertheless, I felt some catharsis in describing ‘it’ obliquely:
I would like to write about … the cavern, the drop from the cliff, the turbulent sea, the crashing waves, the relentless tide, the black turbid water, the compression, the shadow it casts .. but I’m afraid to because there’s no way back, home, up, out, away .. nevertheless, I can peer over, cautiously.
The latter part of the talk included discussion on self-care and the need to monitor energy levels. Maria asked us to make some writing commitments. Hearing these shared was a powerful moment – there was a sense of many of us feeling regret at not always prioritising what’s most important.
In subsequent correspondence, Maria recommended Michael Nobbs’ site, Sustainably Creative: http://www.sustainablycreative.com/ott-490/
Maria C. McCarthy’s first career was in the voluntary sector, culminating in managing a mental health advocacy scheme in Kent. She is now a writer and publisher. Her website is www.medwaymaria.co.uk