IT ALL started like this. Miriam asked me one day “How is your writing going, Etsuko?” I can’t recall exactly when she asked this vital question. It must have been at least 18 months after my book launch back in November 2016. To be honest my writing wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t writing as much because I didn’t have readers to write for. I knew I would pick up my writing again soon, somehow. When the pivotal question was asked, however, I was on a sabbatical. “I’m not writing much lately.” At least I was honest with her.
“Why don’t you write for the Bass Coast Post? Introduce yourself to Catherine, the editor. Start from there.”
I was eager. I wanted to write. I might have said to her “I would like to write every single edition, if not, at least once a month please”. As a wise editor, Catherine tamed my impatience right away. Then she asked me to write about myself. It was a brilliant idea, I thought. An introduction piece of writing would go down well as my first column because I was a new contributor. I poured my heart into it – the story of my life in Japan and in Australia. My love of writing returned almost immediately. I titled my first writing ‘Belonging’. I was thrilled to see my own writing being published in the Bass Coast Post on October 31 2018. I noticed the title was ‘A sense of belonging’. I thought to myself “It describes my writing more clearly.”
In December I wrote a kind of reflective piece for the year 2018 and titled it ‘All’s well that ends well’. Although the expression wasn’t uniquely mine, I thought this summarised my year very well. When it was published the title was completely different. ‘A clean break’ – it was simple, pure and powerful. I liked it much better than my original title. The old title was rather awkward and clumsy. Catherine was so talented at this. I began to appreciate her small yet significant input into my writing.
I still bothered to title my 2019 February article, but secretly I was looking forward to discovering Catherine’s title. It was brilliant. ‘Riding a wave of goodwill’ captured the essence of my writing on volunteering. Accompanied by my husband Robert’s amazing photograph to further enhance my humble writing, it was a real triumphant article in so many levels. I felt fully supported by Catherine. At the same time I did my bit to promote the Disabled Surfers Association’s event through my writing. It was such a memorable piece for me.
From then on, I didn’t bother giving a title to my pieces. I just put the month at the top of my writing and waited for another creative title from our editor. ‘Checking out’ clearly illustrated my experiment of giving up Facebook for three months. The two words rolled out easily. Once again it was clear, simple and sounded a kind of cool thing to do with social media platforms. I felt as if I were a trendsetter.
In June, I wrote about my 50th parkrun experience, titled by Catherine ‘Born to run.’ The experience itself was incredible, but the writing was a real turning point for me as a writer. When I send my article, Catherine usually reads it straight away and replies with the comments like “Another fine piece, Etsuko.” On this occasion she asked me to explore further. So I did. Like Bruce Springsteen’s famous song, this piece was the greatest hit amongst my parkrun community, and it was published in both English and Japanese on the official parkrun website as well.
When I read Bob Middleton’s ‘The final flight’ I was deeply moved. His words were pure, effortless and eloquent, with no waste. His writing reminded me of haiku, a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables. Something profound was also brewing in me for a while. I decided to write three short pieces on grieving. ‘What remains’ was a cathartic release, and I feel it marked the culmination of years of evocative writing in my second language. Furthermore, the comments I received from readers touched me immensely. The words from those kind people were an outpouring of compassion to ease my pain and heartache. The connection I felt with readers was sublime. Gratitude filled my heart. I wept.
My reflective piece on travelling was aptly titled ‘New horizons’ in October. Travelling always broadens our perspective. Similarly, I feel I obtained a new set of wings through writing regularly. Writing for an audience has opened up a whole new horizon for me. It has been over a year since I started to write for the Post. Each endeavour taught me something new. The discipline of it brought enormous joy and unforgettable connection with many readers in my life.
That includes our editor Catherine. Our correspondences are often brief. I appreciate her gentle yet disciplining presence in my writing life. I will never ever forget what she wrote to encourage me to expand my writing. ‘You have a rare ability to capture the moment, Etsuko.’ Hearing words like that as a writer, I can die contentedly even tomorrow. Or perhaps after I write the literary masterpiece that all writers aspire to.