Not many of my days are the same but the range they cycle through remains consistently varied. Let’s take a random sample, say, yesterday, and see what happened in 24 hours of my writing life…
Storm moving out to sea, Bondi Beach. Sardaka/Wikimedia Commons

Weather: 15 degrees and torrential rain. Bondi BeachEdge of the World.

It hasn’t stopped raining for four days, the sort of water-sheets you only get in sub-tropical or tropical regions. The wind is ripping through everything, blowing rain horizontally into places where it should not go and Bondi Beach has disappeared into a wet, white mist. I feel like one of the little pigs with the big bad wolf at my door. A good day for writing, I think… Fate picks up this gauntlet and my younger son wakes up screaming. He developed the Godzilla of tonsillitis overnight, waking every few hours, and this morning he has a raging fever and can’t move from bed. As I scrimmage for paracetamol and cool cloths and coconut water, I realise my basement has flooded. The carpet is sodden and the laundry is under two inches of water. I lay out every towel I own but it just turns the place into a cotton swamp. I put it onto the To Deal With Later list.

I make breakfast for my other boy and place Sick Boy on the sofa in the kitchen where he promptly moans then throws up. I put on a healing vibrations playlist and help him get as comfortable as he can be. He falls asleep and I sit watching over him with a pen and a pile of Post-it notes on the kitchen counter. I need to contribute Top Ten Tips For Writers; the sticky notes are a casual way to assemble ideas that won’t scare them away before I can catch them. I also decide I need to roast a chicken to make bone broth, and to confit garlic. It is procrastination disguised as pragmatism; I acknowledge this and do it anyway. I consider my Ten Tips as I truss the poor little bird: I think writing involves trying to create states of being more than anything… An idea for the piece forms but it might be all wrong. I let it come anyway. I have learned not to do violence to new thoughts too early; they can bear strange and valuable fruit if you let them grow.

The gutters are overflowing and I bend forward into the weather. It is important for a writer to be curious in any situation, especially an uncomfortable one.”

My older son is playing cards in the living room with a friend and I organise for them to go to lunch together. I run through the storm to the chemist for supplies before they leave. The gutters are overflowing and I bend forward into the weather. It is important for a writer to be curious in any situation, especially an uncomfortable one. Notice the graffiti in the cement today – all those arrow-pierced hearts… My feet are bare because the torrents would make a mockery of my shoes; I dodge the ruby shards of a broken tail light. Back home, I install Sick Boy in my bed where I can see him and talk to him from my desk. Right! I type, getting up every paragraph or two to check fever and administer water and medicine and change cool cloths and to let my boy know I am there. Fever can make you hallucinate and it is important to feel you are safe. I think my idea for the writing tips works…  I can’t be sure – it’s unusual – but I decide to commit to it. I focus and also manage to spill tea from a faulty thermos. My dog sits on both my feet which is helpful: I don’t want to disturb him so I will sit a little longer at my desk.

Author photo by Cindy Kavanagh

A potential paramour is sending me gallant, flirtatious messages from interstate and I feel magnetised to reply. I write more on WhatsApp than on my laptop but decide to accept that this is how it will be today. I am halfway through the piece. I remember I need to record a little piece to camera about Thunderhead today for my publisher. I change out of my purple Adidas trackpants and into my second-hand-but-slinky black Lanvin dress, fluted sleeves presenting my hands as murmuring swallows as I read the passage about wondrous gardens from my bedroom. It feels good to move my body, my hands. I leave my socks on.

The smoke alarm goes off. My broth? I dash downstairs.

The trick is not to resist the interruptions. Frustration drives creative energy away. I accept every break in flow, try to absorb every distraction, try to continue like those raging gutters sweeping all with me. If I were precious about perfect writing conditions, nothing would ever get done. Ever. Deep patience is needed: the patience to call on something greater than yourself but still connected to yourself, and to wait until you can access it. The writing process is about moving through the states of being: initially, visions and inspiration must be trawled for. This requires a porousness to the world around you, to what you read and hear and see; it requires you to be curious about what you feel and it can be very uncomfortable. I try to see everything with new eyes as if it had never been noticed before. It is also the part of the process when Blind Faith is useful.

Sky water continues to fall as if the clouds had forgotten how to stop shedding. In the kitchen I open windows and fan the smoke alarm – the steam has set it off – my mind still turning around the idea of icebergs and shadows as metaphors. The membrane surrounding Thoughts, whilst porous, must hold during the accomplishment of practical tasks or the mind risks shattering into an irretrievable kaleidoscope. This might be interesting for some writing but would be unhelpful for today’s task. I check on the bone broth, bubbling on the stove, and add more water, turn on the exhaust fan. Neither of us wants lunch.

The skeleton of the piece is done – it’s time to fill gaps, read and reread, razor any bloated bits, sharpen language. Will this do? My eyes sting and I realise I have forgotten to wear my glasses. They are new and part of me remains unconvinced that I actually need them. The penicillin is gradually helping Sick Boy; his grandmother comes over and I grab the hound and head to the park.

There is so much to wonder at – the play of light makes me giddy. When feeling compressed, look up: the sky always offers an opportunity to transcend.”

We are high above the city here and the sky is huge. There is a break in the rain and enough sunlight to cast the rainclouds into magnificent forms – sky cities. The grass is covered in water and it reflects the sky. Dog and I bound through the sky lake. I take photographs and listen to French electronica. There is so much to wonder at – the play of light makes me giddy. When feeling compressed, look up: the sky always offers an opportunity to transcend.

The light closes off suddenly, the sky lake vanishes, the water begins to fall again and we flee the park. Slick roads, rubber windscreen wipers screech, ticking indicators, red lights and bright lights, the oily macadam, horns, exhausts smoking, blend into one sense impression. Tomaso Albinoni’s ‘Adagio in G minor’ comes on the radio. I gasp – welling tears and goosebumps simultaneously. I have never forgotten the story of Vedran Smailovic, the Cellist of Sarajevo, who played this adagio in the bombed-out ruins of a marketplace for 22 days straight to commemorate the 22 killed in a mortar attack while queuing for food. By some miracle he survived each dangerous day, survived the siege. Such is the beauty and brutality of our lives on earth, completely intertwined.

I trudge through the watery basement with groceries, trying to ignore the flooding. The To Deal With Later list grows longer and longer – but at least there is a list! I realise I am exhausted. I run a lukewarm shower for Sick Boy to lower his temperature and serve chicken soup. A headache is starting to pound and I hope I have not caught the germs. I give the writing piece another once over and try to send it. The internet is down because of the flooding. I fiddle with hotspots trying to access my now almost bone-dry well of patience and manage finally to send it off. Now I have to prepare for a call tomorrow with an Important and Serious Person in one of the biggest overseas security agencies for a documentary project, but Sick Boy is afraid to fall asleep in case he wakes in as much pain as the night before so I administer medicines, fill the steamer, and lie next to him on the bed. We listen to the rain and feel cosy and safe together. Everything else must wait. It is important to honour what is most important to you. Everything else – like my personal acqua alta in the basement – will find its own level; time can be made to stretch and bend. Love powers every engine. It is the greatest expansive force in the universe. What you do from love – from a true place – has intrinsic value and that includes the writing. Do what only you can do. In this moment I feel a flash of joy and I surrender to it, I fall into it. Joy is the antidote to fear; joy is where love begins. Become the tide, is my last thought before I pass out from exhaustion, rise.

Miranda Darling is a writer, poet, and co-founder of Vanishing Pictures. She read English and Modern Languages at Oxford then took a Masters in Strategic Studies and Defence from the Australian National University and subsequently became an adjunct scholar at a public policy think tank, specialising in non-traditional security threats. She has published both fiction and non-fiction. Thunderhead, her fifth book, is published by Scribe.
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