Yesterday, I finished a book that shook me to the core. You see, I’ve been feeling sort of uninspired as of late. Nothing new on Netflix interests me, and I’ve been cycling through shows from my teenage years that invoke nostalgia, longing, and make me fall in love with the characters all over again. Book wise, I have a big list, but it’s been a while since I picked up a novel and was instantly allured. As in, I have to buy this and read this right now.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart was that kind of book. One of my favourite botanical illustrators, Edith Rewa, posted some images earlier this year about a magical book cover she had been working on. A collection of hand drawn, Australian native flowers frame the cursive script on a black background. The blurb gives enough away to enchant you, but masks the mystery well. Instantly, I was hooked.
Although I’m currently on a spending ban whilst we save for New Zealand, I couldn’t resist it’s calling. The story just seemed too darn good.
And it was. Without giving anything away, Alice’s story hit me fucking deeply. There were sentences in there that made me shiver with marvel, cry in longing and gasp with familiarity. Holly Ringland, the author, has such a whimsical way with words that both shatters your bones and sends your spirit soaring. I haven’t ached for a fictional character in such a long time.
As I mentioned, I finished Alice’s story last night, at peace and a little sad that it was over. I devoured that book in three sittings, but ensured that I sipped every sentence slowly and purposefully. I’ve never had much interest in the Australian outback, but now I have an urge to explore. The same goes with flower farms – I’ve always loved a fresh Australian native bouquet, but never considered where my flowers came from, and the stories of those who grew them.
I’m writing this insanely long summary, because I was genuinely moved by this novel. So much so, that it has awakened something in me that has sat contently for a few years now. My passion for creative writing.
Since launching this blog, and dipping in and out of studying, my stack of novels have taken a backseat and remain safely unfinished in a folder simply called ‘Writing’. I used to write all of my stories with pen and paper, but over time I became paranoid that a fire or flood would consume my words so I avoided my Carrie Bradshaw moment and made backups.
Those backups represent some of the toughest years of my life. I tend to write more when I’m in a bad place – not on purpose, but because it is a safe and positive outlet to channel my darkness into. My notebooks have been my anchor when nobody else could console me. I’ve spent days dreaming up characters in situations far more dramatic than mine, and found a comfort in giving them happy endings (at least in the plot summaries).
Ever since I was a child, writing was what I wanted to do. I loved elaborate plots, and magical story lines and make believe that brought people joy. It’s no surprise that my favourite series of books are all fiction, and typically involve some type of magic or science-fiction element. Hey, I like to imagine.
In high school, they tell you writing is a difficult career – there’s no money in it, it’s hard to ever ‘become something’, let alone be a successfully published author. Print is dying, magazines aren’t hiring, and you can forget about getting a job at a publishing house for your love of words alone.
Everywhere I looked, there was encouragement for my passion, quickly followed by a tentative dose of reality. It’s great that you love to write, just don’t rely on it.
After hearing this for so long, I thought, fine, I’ll focus on journalism. I’ll get a job writing for a music magazine. Writing books can be something I do in my spare time. But writing books isn’t something you can just do in your spare time. At least not quickly, anyway.
High school finished and I took a year off. Finally, the mixed signals were drowned out by working life. A working life (combined with a hellish relationship) that stripped me of all creatively and bold thinking.
Despite it all, my blog lives on, and is now a creative outlet that I love dearly, and am focused on growing. But is it making my readers feel something? Am I inspiring you to write?
That’s the difference between blogs and books. When I read a blog (particularly those of the fashion and travel variety), I think, “damn, how lucky is this person that they’ve resonated with the right audience and have the right look that brands want to work with”. I might love their photography, or their recommendations for shopping small, but I’m rarely enchanted by their actual writing. They’re good, don’t get me wrong, and they obviously know how to communicate their message to their audience, but they don’t offer me the feeling that books do.
A feeling of possibility and excitement. Wonder. Magic. Healing through words. Genuine stories. Months of hard work, all edited and printed into a bound stack of pages.
When I find a good book, I want to write. I want to be as good as the author who’s inspired me. Right now, that’s Holly Ringland, who is completely taking Australia by storm with her debut novel.
The first thing I thought, after knowing that the writing bug is back, is “will I ever be as good as her?”. It’s a classic case of unhelpful self doubt weaseling it’s way into a lovely moment, but it raises a valid point nonetheless. Will I ever be able to write like Holly? Probably not. I haven’t had the same experiences or adventures that she has. But I’ve had my own, and that’s really all that matters.
So, if you’re an aspiring writer out there, I hope that you’re keeping the flame alight. I hope you back yourself and stay true to what you love, and keep working on that book even if it’s been four years and you still won’t tell anybody what the plot’s about.
Here’s to sticking to our passions and writing even though it isn’t seen as ‘cool’. Here’s to being the dork who inspects notebooks to see what the paper quality and line spacing is like. Here’s to literally dreaming of story ideas, and actually taking the next step to write them down and bring them to life. And here’s to bloody good books – something the world will never have enough of.
Till next time,