Have you seen the film that’s currently streaming on SBS Demand called ‘The Ideal Palace’?
It’s a very moving film about loss but also, unbelievable creativity and amazing determination. It’s the true story of Ferdinand Cheval, a humble postman from Hauterives in France, who walked 35 kilometres 5 days a week for over 30 years delivering mail.
During these walks Ferdinand came across a stone whose shape fascinated him. From this inauspicious start, Ferdinand went on to create a magnificent stone palace in his garden, complete with carvings, grottos, hallways, and quotes etched into rock.
He had no training, no blueprint and no understanding of engineering save for his own ideas of what would work. He spent 33 years building the palace.
In that time, the villagers looked down on him and called him a madman. His vision was questioned by everyone except his wife and daughter.
Tragedy followed tragedy but still Ferdinand built. Eventually he was recognised for his achievements and the palace he created is lauded today as a mastery of ‘naive’ architecture.
When you think of someone labouring for years on a project that has little obvious value it’s easy to be dismissive or disillusioned. But Ferdinand’s vision and determination led to the creation of something completely unique in the world.
I think writers experience similar feelings. Maybe the circumstances aren’t as extreme as Ferdinand’s but most of us have laboured for months and years over our novel or short story collection or poetry only to find rejection at the other end.
You send off stories to competitions, submissions to agents and publishers. You send your lovingly crafted manuscript to the assessors or editors and beta readers and take on their feedback so that you can improve your work to make it the very best it can be. And you do all this without any confidence your work will be accepted or read by anyone outside your immediate family.
The rejections send you back to the hard question; why am I doing this? But then, you pick yourself up and try all over again and, meanwhile, you keep writing.
What’s important, I think, is not to lose sight of the joy of the process itself, the joy of creating something unique, and uniquely you. What an achievement to create something out of nothing. What a remarkable and magnificent thing to bring to life characters and stories and places that have only ever lived in your imagination, and to make these stories live and breathe. What an inspiration to create something without that assurance of recognition or renown or recompense.
Of course, most of us dream of publication and we shouldn’t stop trying. But I think it’s important to remember why we write.
Write because you’re creating magic. Write because you have that burning story inside you that MUST be written. Write because you’re exploring yourself and the world around you. Write because it’s fun. Write because you can.
Never lose the joy of writing itself. Keep trying for the outer rewards but remember the inner rewards are the most satisfying of all.
Until next time,
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