Inspiration Series – Lorraine Shenken Robbin


Since starting my new life in 2010, each week I wrote as much as my ability allowed in one hour. That was all the library allotted.  At first I wrote a few words. I wrote an entire thought. A story took me four sessions. I learned and forgot and relearned and forgot again how to cut and paste, after 5 years of recovering my functions; my walking talking eating thinking through liver brain fog. Once recovered, with a new liver, I resourced healing through art.  I etched my scribbles. I discovered art once more. Not the same art but altered shaky scratchings on 8 by 11 paper with watercolors that I used in a group of women who traversed the rickety bridge to reality.

Doctors saved my life, yet the illness made my mind sick. I healed my mind through psycho-therapy. I discovered I need to create to heal, to feel human. Imagination and being human are important in order to emerge as happy artist.
Being a writer seems a vaporizing image. I reason that I must propel forward to expedite change. Keep moving. Keep learning. I want to breathe. “I want to write to taste life twice,” as Anais Nin said. I love living.

8 years back I read my stories on radio, published in notable publications where I was paid for my efforts. I taught at a Native Healing Centre. Exhilarated to share the joy of expressive writing I had learned from my mentor, Arnie, I felt certain these learners would benefit as I had.

A learner shook her head saying “No, all my creativity has been taken. I can’t write.” She spoke her story while I wrote it down.

It wasn’t until I fought for survival that I understood the words the learner said meant she needed to first feel safe. That her creative energy had been drained.  I, too, needed to allow myself the time to grieve. The time to reflect would be my opus.

I meander, I convolute, I digress, and most dreaded word of all I am “tangential.” An accusatory psycho-social worker wrote a report on me when I sought employment. I peeked at the report when she left the office. It read, “She speaks in stunted and unfinished thoughts. Lorraine is tangential.” I was hurt and angry. Anger prodded me to seek clarity.

Sluggish, fallow, waiting for my perfect alone time, I allow distractors, detractors to affect me, or pierce me with critique. I interrupt my flying mind. I stop my doltish disobedient fingers keyboarding in soft halting script tap tap tapping miniscule letters like no-seeums drowning in a blue drunken concoction a page on a screen on a blog a twenty year old set up for me on “Tumblr ‘cos that’s easiest, Mum.” When I doubted my ability to create, my girl had faith in me. Faith has its own power. I recognize that I need time to myself. I schedule my writing time.

I wrote a story for a community newspaper’s writing contest in 2012. Marietta, my friend and editor donated 5 hours of her time. She submitted the story via email as I didn’t have a computer. I won second prize. 50 bucks for a ‘Menorah Memory’. I was as ecstatic as if I’d won the Nobel Prize. It lit me up. I had finally written something concise. I was writing again. Small amounts of encouragement and caring friends entice me to create. Human contact, eye to eye interaction and stimulating conversation are vital components to help me think. I need to express myself and writing is the best method for me. I can take as long as I need to access words that escape me when talking. I am a klutz with speech. When I’ve written about a subject I know how I feel about it.  Writing about my ordeal is trauma inducing. Once I overcome I will write my truth. Overcome. I work under the illusion of myself as architecture. I joined a writers group. I listened. I read. I heard writers read.

I’m learning by helping children learn to read.

Theory is fine, yet the rules need to be broken. I say,” English is tricky.” We practice, we laugh, play, we converse, we use intuition, knowledge and experience to encourage 7 year olds to read and write.

Children teach me to be curious.

Focus eludes me. I give myself a gift. Walkabout Wednesdays. No pen, no notebook, no sketchbook. Out I walk. I am open to experience; people, trees, greenhouses, concerts, the touch of stuff. (I asked if I could touch someone’s hairy yellow sweater. It looked itchy but it was soft.) I look at art. I confide in total strangers who inform me and give me fresh details to ponder. Those are mini relationships.

I begin new projects hoping unfinished work may provoke me to end my stories. Am I scared to end? You bet I ‘m scared. I was on my way to a writing class when I became sick. Now 7 years later I finish what I started in that class.

My new story about life’s renewal ferments unfinished. I can’t help feeling oddly superstitious. I might have to feel the agony endured when the life force drained out of me till hallucinations haunted me. To return to a place I know was painful seems destructive.

To die without finishing would mean no one would read my story.  Startled into a stupor of wasted time. What an oaf. If I write the first part I already thought the continuum in my head. I abhor the tedium of conveying every word, typing till my fingers stiffen. I convict myself to my chair. The urge to write pounds me. I feel joy at being enthralled by story.

To renew myself is to discover the middle, to keep searching, to continue to the end. When I write it I’ll know how I feel.

Lorraine Shenken Robbin has read 5 of her stories on Life Rattle CKLN radio, published in Life Rattle Press 1999, read aloud at Totally Unknown Writers Festival, and at The Imperial Pub, wrote an essay for Today’s Parent, recorded  one of her stories on First Person Singular on C.B.C Radio, written a story for the Globe and Mail, and since finding her voice again, after being the recipient of a blessed liver transplant, is working on 2 upcoming novels. You can read Lorraine’s thoughts and ramblings on her blog at http://www.tumblr.com/blog/bbirdword 

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