Published 31 October 2009 · Main Posts Setting the Alarm Alec Patric Creativity can be taught. We learn how to do everything from walking to writing books. No-one teaches you how to blink or breathe but we learn pretty much everything else. Imagination is the most basic feature of the human mind so teaching writing or creativity isn’t difficult. It’s more a question of how important it is to you to be creative all the time. To be professionally imaginative. Most people spend too much time just trying to survive. Toni Morrison says she used to wake at four o’clock every morning, for years, so she could have a few hours before her kids got up and she had to go to work. How many people are going to set their alarm every day to 4:00am, just so they can write for a few hours? That’s hard enough, but this is a world before Toni Morrison writes any of the books that will eventually be rewarded with the Nobel Prize for literature. The quiet hours before the sun, when it’s just some woman at a table and there’s a clock on the wall, the rest of the house is sleeping, and there’s a blank piece of paper that is ruined as soon as it is marked by ink. She has a belief in the ruin. She commits herself to this kind of inverted redemption. ‘Beloved’ hasn’t even been whispered in her mind yet. It’s just a blank page hours before sunlight. If you can step outside the overwhelming push of the world, the constant demands of necessity and the unrelenting press of commitments, you will find that it is impossible not to be creative. If you can push the world aside for long enough the details of existence arise relentlessly. But the world doesn’t get pushed aside easily. If you think writing stories, poems, novels, (or whatever you’d like to turn your hand to), is like carpentry and you simply want descriptions for the types of cabinets you can make, what woods to use, etc, then you might get a lot from a Creative Writing course. Everything else you need, you have already learned. Basic virtues like discipline and dedication, faith and courage, sacrifice and passion. Being part of a Creative Writing course might help you find that kind of commitment but it probably won’t. All it can do really is show you how much is actually involved in stringing together a few sentences. Help you along with your craft but it still comes back down to those basic virtues. It’s about as easy to teach creativity as it is to show a person how to set their alarm to 4:00am. Everything else has already been learned and it’s just a question of putting in those kinds of hours. Putting in those kinds of years. It’s not difficult to teach these things, but it’s monumentally difficult to live by them. It’s so much easier just to sleep in and pretend that there’s some kind of mystery to the whole thing. Alec Patric AS Patric is the award-winning author of The Rattler & other stories (Spineless Wonders, 2011), Las Vegas for Vegans (Transit Lounge, 2012) and Bruno Kramzer (Finlay Lloyd, 2013). More by Alec Patric Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 25 May 202326 May 2023 · settler racism The ‘Chinese question’ and colonial capitalism in New Gold Mountain Christy Tan SBS’s New Gold Mountain sets out to recover the history of the Gold Rush from the marginalised perspective of Chinese settlers but instead reinforces the erasure of Indigenous sovereignty. Although celebrated for its multilingual script and diverse representation, the mini-TV series ignores how the settlement of Chinese migrants and their recruitment into colonial capitalism consolidates the ongoing displacement of First Nations peoples. First published in Overland Issue 228 15 February 202322 February 2023 · Main Posts Self-translation and bilingual writing as a transnational writer in the age of machine translation Ouyang Yu To cut a long story short, it all boils down to the need to go as far away from oneself as possible before one realizes another need to come back to reclaim what has been lost in the process while tying the knot of the opposite ends and merging them into a new transformation.