Breaking Through: Writing with Jan Cornall

Breaking Through: Writing with Jan Cornall

When you get off the plane in Fiji the first thing you notice is the way people walk. It’s the slow relaxed gait of people from a tropical clime. There’s no point in hurrying and besides it’s just too darned hot. The rush, rush of our city-folk ways seems suddenly ludicrous and as you begin slowing it down, you remember this is the pace human beings are supposed amble along at.

Creative Writing Workshop - Jan CornallIt is just the kind of advice writers need. We think we have to push, push, push, to get our work out there, but first we need to slow it down to below the beat of our heart. Daku Resort in Savusavu Bay on Fiji’s second island Vanua Levu, is just the place to do it. This sleepy little backwater with only one main street doesn’t know the meaning of traffic jam or deadline. It’s all ‘rubber time’ here and so it should be in a writer’s world. That doesn’t mean we slack off or don’t turn up to the morning workshop, but in a week of breakthrough writing, we let time stretch out so there’s room for everything.

If you begin the day with yoga stretching high up in the open air yoga shala, with a million dollar view over a palm frond framed, tranquil bay, somehow you know it’s going to be a good writing day. Replacing the yoga mats with a big table and a bunch of determined writers who need a little bit of help, is always rewarding for me. I’ve come armed with a bagful of tricks, devious methods for helping them get ‘doubting mind’ out of the way and let the writing do its thing. I’m taking them into sense memory via guided meditations, getting out the butchers paper and coloured pens, making them plan the cover of their book, the blurb on the back, quotes by famous people, foreword, dedication, publisher’s name and date of publication. ‘Just pretend’ I tell them when they give me the ‘but I can’t possibly do that’ look. ‘Make it up – that’s what writing is, isn’t it?’ In no time all the ‘is it worth it, can I do it, will anyone want to read this crap’ self talk dissolves into the frangipani air and we are into our first mapping exercise and ‘show and tell’ to the group. Immediately we are all taken with the potential of one another’s work, offering constructive feedback, advice, ideas and applause.

Creative Writing Workshop - Jan Cornall

There is great power in the group process, for as every day our contribution to our fellow writers grows so does their confidence. As the days wear on the breakthroughs begin to happen. One writer after nine years finally gets her opening paragraph and a brilliant one it is too. Another (after lunch) strips a twenty thousand word prologue down to one thousand. A third finds her narrator voice, a fourth starts out with a ‘maybe short story’ and realises she has enough material for a novel. A fifth is encouraged to include an important strand another writing group disapproved of. And so it goes until by the end of the week these writers who have achieved so much marvel are feeling so relaxed all they want to do now is write.

Jan returns to Fiji in 2012 for another week of Breakthrough Writing from 17 – 24 March, 2011.
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Writers Get Creative Amid Palms in Fiji – News article from Yahoo!7


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