Writing a novel begins with an idea and a sheet of paper, as it did for me back in 2001 when we were holidaying in Bali. We had left our daughter at home with family to enjoy a belated honeymoon at our favourite resort.
This year, they had introduced ducks to the pond that divided the property. I ventured out with bread and spend hours photographing them in every conceivable pose. Before the age of digital cameras, it was getting expensive, but I was beginning to feel inspired.
I began to draw them. Sketches at first. As my hand moved over the paper, names emerged – Cheeky, Spotty, Gia. I can’t tell how many hours I spent at the pond and drawing and imagining stories about this duck family with unique pom-poms on their heads and their antics.
One morning, the stories were gathering such force in my head that I raced out to buy an exercise book. Words tumbled onto the paper as I tried to capture every tale I’d imagined, every instance the ducks had shared.
Holidays end. I returned to my home in Melbourne to the drudgery of a senior management job, and the ducks disappeared into a drawer. I framed some of the photographs and one of the drawings, but the longer I looked at my childish lines, the worse they appeared. Eventually, they too disappeared.
Meanwhile, life continued. I was bitterly unhappy with the corporate world that seemed to throw challenge after challenge at me. It felt like groundhog day – budgets, staff issues, redundancy, a new role, money worries. Those days are a blur. When I revisit photographs, I’m always smiling, usually in an image with my niece or husband, or am in Bali. The memories are warm and embracing, like a fire you discover slowly burning in the darkness of a chilly house.
Year after year rolled away. Not knowing that I was going through a period of huge change, it seemed life was just getting plain cruel and no matter what I did, I could never find that elusive long term peace I craved.
Fast forward to 2011. My husband and I, wanting new opportunities, made the decision to try living in Bali. I could write, I mused. We could semi-retire and run our marketing services company from there, we convinced ourselves.
The writing began slowly. I managed to get one of the many books I had my head out and publish it on Amazon. Wow! Success! Now, just to wait for the sales! Duh, reality. It doesn’t happen that way, and months and month of work delivered an income that resembled chicken feed, in a monetary sense.
I would never call it a failure. But it was a learning curve. I threw time and money at it, longing to publish a successful book. And herein was where I was completely missing the point.
In 2013, I was chatting with an old school friend, Trish. We’d shared art class together and got up to all sorts of mischief in our Year 11 year in Far North Queensland. I had just completed a week with Jack Canfield, one of my heroes and author of Chicken Soup for the Soul and she was asking what I got out of it.
His hugely successful book The Success Principles had been devoured by me in 2008 but to that point, I hadn’t done a whole lot with it. But when I’d seen he was coming to Bali to run a retreat (and as he was on my vision board that I’d creating after reading his book), it seemed way too much like synchronicity. We forked out the dollars for me to go.
Partway through the week, I was getting a sense of doom for my eBook. There I was, thinking I would learn how to make it a huge success, but doubt was creeping into my mind. Second guessing became my mantra as I struggled with why the book didn’t feel like what I wanted it to be.
Jack finally hit the nail on the head.
“If you had that same book, with vignettes of locals intertwined – you know, Made the taxi driver’s story – I would buy it in a heartbeat!”
A penny dropped. My writing lacked soul. It lacked me. It lacked my essence. It was commercial writing, mixed in with a little bit of me sure, but my eye was on the dollars and not its service.
I raced home and began to write a business plan for a new book – a journey. My journey. Jack had mentioned the term Conscious Travel, so I googled it and chanced upon Anna Pollock, founder of the movement.
Then Trish revealed she wanted to write a book that showcased inspirational women through her passion, photography. I quickly explained what I had in mind, and before I knew it, she was on a plane to Bali and the Bali Soul Journals adventure began.
This book took five months to complete instead of 18. Experience had afforded me some speed.
Following its launch in early 2014, I set to marketing and sales of the book. There is no lie about it being hard work: more toil and strain, with a bout of dengue fever for both me and my husband thrown in along the way. I dragged out The Bootongs of Bali from the drawer, as I’d done a couple of times in the previous 12 months. When I did write, in those wonderful creative moments when you sit down at nine in the morning and get up to stretch at six in the evening, I wrote like a mad woman. The story flew from my mind and with no real plan of what was going to happen. I let the characters tell the story.
But by mid-2014, we were running low on everything – morale, money and joy. A friend offered me the opportunity to travel with her to Kalimantan in Borneo and despite the bank balance saying ‘no’, I took a leap of faith, and said ‘yes’.
On my return, I wrote out a plan for July. I would complete The Bootongs of Bali, and I would also finish a book on Kalimantan by the end of September.
This is when it is important to just go with what life sends you. I had written it down and signed it, just as Jack had taught me. On June 30, the first day of a dedicated ‘me’ month, the phone rang at ten in the morning. It was one of my friends from the Kalimantan trip. He was wondering if I would be interested in designing a book that would be a collaboration of his photography, a writer’s book and an artist’s collection.
It was to be on Borneo.
On 30 September, that book Looking for Borneo arrived in Bali.
Now, the Universe knows our limits and The Bootongs of Bali simply couldn’t be achieved alongside the other, but sometimes you’ve got to give a little slack!
With the launch of Looking for Borneo over on October the third, I was once again free to write. My ducks came out again and here I am today, writing my reflections directly into an almost completed manuscript.
I’ve been watching a bit of Elizabeth Gilbert this week, one of my hero-authors and a wonderful role model for humans as well. She’s spoken about passion and how it ain’t a party all the way. She’s spoken about purpose, and that once we figure out what it is, it is our job to live that purpose and be here to serve.
This week of writing, designing and dreaming has been a blur. But here it is, a manuscript in my hand, shimmering with newness, tremoring with fear. Will you like it, will it have too many mistakes? (I think faster than I type and with characters clamoring to get out of my head, it can get too intense to check split infinitives, something I do with glorious frequency.)
It’s been 13 years, but what an incredible decade and a bit it has been. As I look back, I can see a perfect plan. Distress in corporations was simply my soul telling me to STOP, GET OUT, RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!
Financial issues were telling me to let go, forget about the money. Once you follow your passion, money will take care of itself and somehow, it has.
The right people have appeared, some with violins, some with cheerleading pom-poms, others with daggers. I’ve pushed myself off an emotional cliff more times than I care to dwell on, and slowly, changed.
When I lifted the veil on my purpose, the lessons came thick and fast, and I suspect they will keep coming. Life is like that, and it is about facing them front on, and trying to remember that it’s not personal, it’s all part of the journey.
This book is as much about my discoveries as that of a little duck family I fell in love with in 2001. In three years, I have written daily, from musings, journals and love bites to Facebook, blogs, two books and plenty of material for other people. I’ve drawn, sketched and romped all over Asia with my camera and its growing family of lenses. And I’ve grown an appreciation for others that I never observed before.
There is one moment that many creatives can recall when their world was set on fire and they knew there was no turning back. For me, it was a message from Trish, co-author of Bali Soul Journals. She recommended a book by Julia Cameron that promised to awaken the right side of your brain. The Artist’s Way takes you on an 84-day journey with daily exercises of writing. Not for pleasure, not for any other purpose than to just write, write and write.
I began on January 1, 2011. I had been getting personal development training, chakra balancing and was working through some deep issues I’d carried for a long time. I still have the books but reading them is like reading someone else’s diary. They are too personal. I have changed, and the person who wrote these pages was in very deep pain.
There is also usually one person you can credit with giving you a wake up moment, and often it is the person who you least suspect until long after the fact. Trish is this person. With regular connections and long chats, combined with the many other connections and changes in my life, my creative spirit was reawakened. She knows it now, as I have told her, but she has been the most influential woman in my life, and I am so very grateful that she never gave up on me. Somewhere in the Universe it was realised that I needed someone to prod me gently, without any further explanation.
Now, this is the time for thanking people. If you have written a book, you will understand the journey it takes you on, and I hope reading this, you will come on it with me. I want you to experience the joys and fears and bravery of spirit, and emerge on the other side, victorious and feeling better for having made the journey.
It might seem a little grandiose as the book hasn’t hit the stands, is not yet a success and may never be a success. Although, Joe Vitale taught me earlier this year the art of remembering (The Remembering Process by Hay House). So in a way, I am writing this as an acknowledgement of the success I have already had.
This may be a simple little book about ducks. But it is my deepest pleasure to be able to share it with you – my fantasy world of spirits and talking animals and an idyllic paradise.
Thank you, Bill, for never questioning my desire to publish book after book and always supporting me and being my best friend on the planet.
Thank you Andie for being a wonderful friend. Through highs and a low, the journey we travelled together was important for both of us. Love you.
Thank you, Cheryne and Nanette. You gave me courage to be me and just write, draw and create.
Sandy, Jack, Patty, Alice, Chris, Mercedes, Jesse, Ade, Kate and all the ‘inspirators’ on the Jack Canfield Retreat – you guys rock!
Thank you to all the Facebook friends who have watched the journey, sending out cheers from time to time. In the solitude of a studio office, Facebook can sometimes be the only connection back to the human world. I spend hours and hours in silence (and would have it no other way!)
Thank you to Heather, who dedicated hours to reading one of the first drafts, long before I had a clue about what would happen.
Mark, David and Khan, what an honour to design your book for you and add to this whole experience.
Thank you Mum and Auntie Dianne for saying nice things about it at the right time and Kaitlyn, for being the kid for whom I began writing this story. Sorry, it took 13 years, and you are now an adult, but these things take time.
I don’t know what the next step in the journey is although Joe Vitale will be pleased that I remember how fun it was!
Now, to let this book go, so the next can emerge.
Thirteen years. That’s a long time but if that’s what it takes for the right words to appear at the right time, then so be it. Be patient with your dreams. As you can see, sometimes a lot has to happen before the right time arrives. Have faith. And live your purpose.