I have long admired Cate Kennedy. I first met her when she went to Mexico as a volunteer with Australian Volunteers International in the 90s. I worked for the organisation and met all the volunteers both before they left and after they returned. Australian Volunteers were a unique breed – adventurous, generous and curious – driven to explore others, live as they lived, and share skills and knowledge.
Last weekend I experienced this generosity in Cate again when I attended a Writers Victoria workshop she facilitated called Avoiding Conflict Avoidance: Jump-Starting Stalled Stories.
A soggy Saturday was perfect weather for a writing workshop dedicated to investigating the avoidance and procrastination that can plague writers. I had an ‘ah ha’ moment quite early in the workshop when Cate pointed out that we procrastinate to avoid the feelings of a story and the creative process because both require conflict. Story telling revolves around a point of crisis, but as humans we tend not to like conflict and fear wading into the very material that makes the best stories.
We did a great personal writing exercise that was exposing and informative. Cate asked us to write one sentence about a secret or regret in our lives. The instructions for the exercise are below if you’d like to give it a go. Whenever we got stuck, we had to ask ourselves the question why? to facilitate continuation of the writing. The exercise drew me deeper and deeper into the topic and associated feelings and I will use it again in the future as it was a great way to tap into those deeply held emotions.
We explored the fears that stop us from doing the things we want most to do – to document our fascination with the carnival of human foley and make people uncomfortable, to feel emotions, to react and transform. Writing calls us to face our hidden preoccupations and expose ourselves by facing our inner demons and creating characters that have agency, face disruption, and doubt their own capacity.
Cate Kennedy is the author of two short story collections, a novel, three poetry collections and a memoir. She was an engaging and knowledgeable facilitator and I highly recommend any courses led by her if you get an opportunity.