How I Write – Lillian Sciberras
by Barie Benoit
I have never been a prolific writer and, although I have some finished work, I haven’t published a book in a long while. Yet, the writer inside of me persists, and I know that she and I will coexist till the end. This lack of quantity may well be connected to an innate indolence, but also to a mode of writing which fails to observe what most of the writers contributing to this series have advised: to sit and write every day and not wait for inspiration to drop by. There are months when the writer within lies dormant and there have been times when I suspected that the coma would remain indefinite. Yet…
I don’t wait for inspiration, but when it whispers I listen. When the whispering becomes slightly more than a murmur I find myself fidgeting inside my head and searching for pen and paper. Eyebrow pencils have had to do when no pen could be found, and bills or envelopes have been used when no virgin sheet was available. There are times when I am woken early in the morning with a flow of words, ideas, phrases in the making, urgently needing to cascade onto paper. There were times when I used to keep pen and paper handy by the bed.
Mostly I write poems, and there are places or instances where writing suggests itself and trickles naturally. Sitting quietly in a library awakens a desire to start to write, and I have often had the same urge inside an art gallery or museum. It is not the first time I got the itch to compose a poem while listening to a concert, which is not outwardly the courteous thing to do. The weather, especially the stirring of nature preceding or following the autumn rain, has also been a source of inspiration, as has the incessant motion of the sea.
Stimulating conversations with particular individuals can have the same effervescent result. Reading or re-reading significant authors also injects a similarly vibrant effect, when you find that the writing mode can suddenly be engaged. It is intriguing (and worthy of study) how, under certain circumstances, the creative thread is communicated and passes on from one individual to another and from writer to reader to writer.
The themes I write about in my poems are hardly original – love, life, death, justice or lack of it, the passage of time, the eternal questioning of why we are here, the search for purpose and meaning, the occasional glimpse of humour, sometimes of irony. They have been the stuff of writing since time began. So, in a sense, my writing has been not unlike a diary; a blog if you like, long before the word came into use, where events that were significant to the interior dimension have somehow (successfully or less so) been recorded in my folder (electronic and paper) in a continuum that has meaning primarily for me.
Much as I am happy to see my work in print I do not necessarily write with a reader in mind, unless that reader is me. Then, the result has to pass a minimum test of whether the piece is to be kept (even if for further revision), or to be thrown away.
Apart from literary writing I have written and had published a sizeable list of professional papers in my academic work which, for better or for worse, has seen a level of productivity far more prolific than my literary output. The inclination to continue with creative writing, however, has persevered nonetheless.
I ventured into short story writing over 20 years ago, and have had four stories published with two of them gaining prizes and one translated into French and published in Paris. My snail’s pace of writing, however, has meant that stories of which I hold a first draft have remained in that state of limbo awaiting the fulfilment of my pious intention to revise them once I am retired from paid employment. Since retiring, though, I have begun to write down childhood memories mostly as an exercise to give voice to the wistful nostalgia that begins to haunt you in your 50s, and increases further in your 60s. Maybe it is also a way of reuniting in its golden years a treasured family now mostly passed away.
Writing sustained prose of course is different to composing poetry and calls for another kind of discipline and commitment. Yet for me both require that my mind be free of the debris that gathers with daily pressures and deadlines that cloud the creative pathways. So my search for tranquility goes on, with the hope that on those rare and intermittent occasions maybe inspiration may be cajoled to join me.