Writing for Small Spaces (ABC Open Blog)

Writing for small spaces

I knew my writing was good when my friend told me he read it in the toilet.

This post is by guest blogger Mary-Lou Stephens.  Moo (as she’s affectionately known around the studios) is a radio broadcaster with ABC Sunshine Coast.  Her memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation was released this month. 

I didn’t mean to become a writer.

Not of books anyway.

I always dreamed of becoming a famous songwriter. I played in bands, put out CDs and did the endless gigs that being an independent musician requires.

It was a fun journey but eventually led nowhere. The doors remained closed.

Writing prose came later and quite by accident. I returned home from a trip overseas with only twelve photos taken on a disposable camera.

A friend pointed out that photography was clearly not my thing and suggested I write about my trip instead.

I did, imaginatively calling it “My Holiday”. My friend enjoyed it so much he kept it in the toilet and read it on his regular visits there.

He told me this was high praise indeed. Higher praise came when he recommended my work to a journalist who was looking for a new columnist for the local paper.

A door began to open. But first there was an ordeal of fire. The journalist asked me for some sample columns.

“Don’t be surprised if I tell you can’t write,” he growled. “Most people can’t.”

I sent him three sample columns and waited nervously.

He rang back that very afternoon. “You can actually write,” he said. The surprise in his voice was obvious.

I wrote a column every week for four and a half years.

Much encouraged and with a lot of words under my belt, I moved on to short stories, a novel and a memoir.

For years now I’ve been writing never knowing if anyone, besides my writing group, would ever read the result.

A publishing deal is the prize is it not?

 Maybe, maybe not.

My memoir has just been published and I am grateful, thrilled that the reviews have been favourable and amazed that people I’ve never met are reading it.

But caught up in the heady spin of publicity I find myself growing anxious.

Am I enough?

Am I doing enough?

There is so much involved with getting a book out into the world, what else can I do to make it happen? A publishing deal is not a full stop, it is an ongoing commitment to do my best for those who have invested in my words.

It is not until I pause, find the space to clear away the clutter of my endless To Do list, and immerse myself in the writing that I find peace and a true excitement. It is a joy that comes from my soul.

This is where the doors swing wide open and angels sing.

I am connected at last, not lost but found, in the words and in the journey.

This is a gift, the true prize. Writing in itself is enough.

And if the toilet is the only place it’s read, that’s enough too.

Mary-Lou Stephens’ memoir Sex, Drugs and Meditation was released this month through Pan Macmillan.

IMAGE CREDITS: Author: ABC Open Sunshine Coast

2 thoughts on “Writing for Small Spaces (ABC Open Blog)

  1. Dearest Mary-Lou,

    I had been contemplating embarking on a 10day meditation retreat as a means to discovering a new direction (turning 51 and looking for a new purpose). Within hours of thinking about it, I stumbled across Sex, Drugs & Meditation at the airport book store. I haven’t finished it yet (at page 161 – I’m still in the international airport terminal) and I’m tempted to go to the back pages to see if the retreat lead to the enlightenment you were craving.

    Your honesty about your life is inspiring – so brave. There were some things you wrote about your thoughts during the meditation and when I relayed them to my husband I could hardly breath from laughing so hard. I dare say, if I embark on my retreat journey, I will probably be distracted thinking about your words. Im refering to your interpretation of the chants – “A blonde miner, a naked judge, and a dirty birdy”. Very funny.

    Again, thankyou for your honesty, your bravery, and for being an inspiration. We all have that endless mind chatter that follows us relentlessly – to various degrees. That’s why these buddhist practices are so popular. Your story hopefully will let others realize the absurdity of mind chatter and perhaps your path then has been to be a guide for others.

    Cheers.
    Roslyn

    1. Dear Roslyn

      Thank you so much for writing to me from the International Terminal. I am impressed. I myself am in a hotel room in Townsville. Tomorrow I’m presenting my very first talk on the subject “Change Everything by Doing Nothing.” It’s all about meditation, naturally.
      Perhaps you’ve reached the end of Sex, Drugs and Meditation by now and discovered just how much meditation changed my life, and in ways I wasn’t expecting.

      I hope you do a 10 day sit. They’re not easy but they are brilliant. I’ve done seven of them now and I know I’ll do more.

      Much love

      Mary-Lou

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