Is it worth

Is it worth

surrendering your passion

for ego

giving up your heart

to credentials

embracing a statement

instead of feeling

a paper instead of flow

Is it worth

coming home

with a degree

instead of life skills

with a certificate to work

instead of licence to live

ellina zipman/Melbourne/2014


BOOK, etcetera

“That was but a prelude;

where they burn books,

they will ultimately burn people”

Heinrich Heine. 1834

“It is like when Nazis burnt books. Now the book stores are being closed one after another”, – I hear a friend’s voice in my head.

I am standing in front of an empty store in Glenhuntly Road. There is still a sign “Dymocks” hanging overtop. The empty carton boxes are splattered on the floor. The shelves are still hanging on the walls, empty.

I did not know that it closed down. I ambled down to the shop on my rare occasion now of visiting the area. We used to come here very often, me and the kids. It was a regular occurrence. We spent hours just sitting in the quiet area and deciding on which books to buy. We would make special trips for birthday presents or specific reference books – My son loves History and Science. I would often wander in on my own when in a bad mood and in need to lift my spirit. I would always find the new-age section quite helpful. The travel books for my tour-guiding. The entire collection of “Harry Potter”.  “The Guinness Books of Records”. “The History of Jews in Food”.  That book I bought for a friend’s wedding and decided I liked it so much that I had to have my own copy.  The store had to place a special order as they only had one copy.

Now I am standing in front of destructed cultural space that was for most of the years of my children growing up, our favourite home of BOOOKS.  Instead of  lined ordered perfection of cultural domain, disarray and disorder. The tall imposing floor to ceiling windows, that used to always colourfully display new publications, are now collecting dust.

I come closer to the neglected shopfront, disappointed at purposefully coming to that place (like in old times) and not finding it there, not having the opportunity to enter that books-filled space. I feel like a character in a science –fiction movie who’d return back to home planet to find that all the memories are gone, that all is changed.  A typewritten half- torn sign sticking to the window on the inside: “After 15 years the Dymocks Elsternwick family business is closing its doors. John and Elaine would like to thank all the customers for long-term ongoing support.”

My younger daughter’s voice is saying in my head: “Did you know that BORDERS in Chadstone has closed down?” That was our other “family book space”. We’d go there in the evenings and stay until shop closed for the night at 10pm and just sit and browse through the books, and read some pages from here and there.


Those driving thoughts

Many creative thoughts come to me when I am driving.  Hands on the wheel, eyes focused on the road, my mind relaxed and the thoughts swim freely in my head. So what to do to keep them? These thoughts are so fragile, like fragments of a bigger picture. By the time I arrive at my destination they are gone.

I try to keep a pen and a paper always at hand. A pocket notebook is the best because of its small size and adequate thickness. But I often scribble on tissue boxes, newspapers and shopping receipts. I stop at the curb of the road and jot down a line. I scrawl while waiting at the rail crossing or traffic lights. I record my thoughts on to some sort of audio device. I also try to train my memory to remember a delicate thought until I can write it down.

And if all fails and the lines of my future masterpiece abandon me, I comfort myself with the thought that if they are important, they will come back.

About Writers’ Block

I don’t believe in writers’ block. I did when I was younger. I went about my mundane business, waiting for an inspiration to arrive and hit me like lightning. I would write fast and brilliantly and create a masterpiece in an hour. After that, I would not write for weeks, waiting for the next strike of lightning. I believed inspiration worked like this: it hit me fast and was full of colours. It took me through orgasm and left me luxuriating in that post-state of satisfaction and pleasure. Then came depression, the time where there was nothing to write about. My mind was a mess of schedules, lists, tasks; my body overwhelmed with constant routine of work-shop-work, work-chemist-work, work-kids-pickup-work, work-bank-work, work-taxidriving-work, work –waitingforkidsactivitiestoend-work, work-housechores-work, work-clean-up-work, work-answer important call from school-work, work.

I did not believe in myself. That was the root of the problem. I considered it a basic fact that great artists didn’t go short of inspiration. They created so many masterpieces because they were always inspired. I did not realise that inspiration was work. One had to sweat at it, invest time and effort; to free the mind of garbage to allow the creation to come forth.

Joseph Haydn, one of the greatest classical composers of Western musical culture, affectionately known as Father Haydn, would compose every day. He got up early in the morning, said a prayer to God to grant him inspiration, and started working.

Johan Sebastian Bach’s input into the Western Art music has been at times described by biographers with the use of metaphor: a room, completely filled with manuscripts from floor to ceiling, from one corner to another. Bach composed over 1100 music works. Given that he died at the age of 65, he would have had to produce on average 16-20 compositions per year, provided that he had started to record his music when he was five.  For Bach, writing music was his job. He was doing it on a regular basis. If he had difficulties being inspired, which we will never know, he overcame them with his persistence and diligence.

Thomas Edison, the great inventor, considered invention as 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

Mark Twain believed “if the writer does not sweat, than the reader will.”

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all,” Anne Tyler argued.

Writing is work. It is fun for those passionate about it, but it is still work. I learnt this simple truth when I met Claire Gaskin, my creative writing mentor at Sandybeach Centre. By the time the road brought me to Claire, I already realised that writing was something I could not live without. For me, it was a need, like drinking and breathing. I carried notebooks in my bag. I scribbled on envelopes and tissue boxes. I had a diary that I would enter sometimes. And I would still create on inspiration, not really searching for it or being proactive.

Claire taught me, that as writers, we have to take responsibility for inspiring ourselves: taking on a project, researching a theme, trying a new form, using an automatic pilot and doing free writing exercises.

Writers are recording artists. We write what we hear and what we see through the prism of our own feelings and personalities. If we have nothing to write about at the moment, then it is time for gathering, hibernating information in our minds, allowing it to settle until the time when it is ready to become a creative production.

There is always something to write about. As life continues, so do the words come. If there are thoughts in your mind – there are words. Experiencing block means a writer has nothing to say, nothing to share with others. Then just wait, gather, collect, harvest the stories.

Writing is a discipline. Those who have developed a habit of regular writing, cannot complain of creative blockage. They, probably, have a number of projects going on at once. If writers’ block is a “condition” or type of illness, I would describe it as the condition of being lazy, not putting in enough effort. Don’t complain of the writer’s block if you have not invested time and effort.

If you call yourself a writer, then write. Write. Write. Write. Have a notebook and a pen with you at all times. Scribble on paper. Jot down whatever comes to your mind. Stop at the curb of the road and shorthand those thoughts or the words people say.

ellina zipman

30 May 2015/Melbourne

Writing about writing

This is a blog about writing. Plenty has been said about this matter by others. Still, I have something more to say. Maybe the same. Maybe different. I can’t keep the words to myself, guarding them like treasures. I want to share my thoughts and my passion. You have your own passion, I am sure. Perhaps, we can blend them together, changing the taste and the spice.