I write because I am afraid of the dark. I write because Erica Jong said, ‘everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow that talent to the dark place where it leads.’ So I did because I thought I had talent. I wasn’t prepared for how dark those places were. I wasn’t prepared to think that I had somehow subconsciously engineered the collapse of the twin towers so I could weep freely in the darkness without the light givers questioning my self-centredness. I wasn’t prepared for serial insomnia and tribal connectedness with people I had never met. I wasn’t prepared to think that writing meant survival and survival meant identity and if I could preserve an identity it meant I existed. So, like Plath, I write without fear and without hope.
When my daughter grew up and left home to claim another love I panicked. I know daughters grow up and go away as I had been a daughter once and still try to be one in a long-distance weekly phone call one these days. But who would sustain my narrative and contain my loss if she wasn’t there to share fragile daily moments of existence? So I tell frenetic stories of exotic places with eccentric characters who speak many languages but can’t explain loss in any of them. I write about mothers and magicians and abandoned homes with his/story and her/story and wonder if there’s a method in the methodology.
I write because I want to remember. I think of the people who live in countries that don’t rate a mention in this country and wonder about subcontinents and islands. I wish I’d paid more attention to geography when I was a child instead of wanting to be Heathcliff when I grew up because Elizabeth Bennett was seriously annoying. I wonder what happened to the uncle we called Uncle Walker and we tried to imagine him in purple tights riding a horse called Devil galloping by his side but my daughter doesn’t get the joke even though she smiles kindly and says, ‘that was delicious mum,’ of a meal that was cooked in honour of a homeland I struggle to remember.
And finally I write because I know of no other way to think and feel. If I didn’t write I would roam the streets in bag lady costumes, accosting young people at side walk cafes, listening to inept musicians in the malls, stalking my favourite writers in Fremantle and refusing to contain myself poetically when driving along the wide sunlit coast of my adopted hometown.