After our last meet-up, the group agreed to set a challenge for July in which we would choose a topic to blog about. The concensus fell upon the question - How has living in Adelaide inspired your writing and/or your job?
In all the years I've been posting to this blog and writing, I don't think I've ever explored this question publicly or privately so I'm actually pretty chuffed to be able to share it here for the first time.
Even after 20 years of living and working in the city of Adelaide, it remains to me, a city that hasn't quite revealed itself fully to me. I haven't gotten her full measure. Perhaps that's on me.
Like the Sting song, "An Englishman In New York", I feel like a "legal alien" here. I've actually lived here longer than I have in Victoria where I grew up, but I still feel like I don't belong. And yet, it's because of Adelaide - because of living here - that I achieved all that I have in terms of career and family and creativity. So, I am thankful to this place. It has inspired me.
As a Nurse, I've experienced more variety as a clinician than I could have imagined when I first arrived here. While the medical community is small, Adelaide does punch above her weight in many medical specialities on the world stage and it is recognized as a leader in a number of fields. I've done and seen so much - particularly in the fields of Intensive Care where I have nursed premature lives at their most precarious and adults facing the most dire of diagnoses. I've had the privilege of meeting and falling in love with my wife and raising our two children in relative comfort, making our home in the city, close to the epicentre of culture and art and entertainment. And, as a writer, Adelaide has served as the setting for two of my four novels. In writing about Adelaide, I have been able to peel back the layers of this city and discover things about it that have been inspiring, illuminating and confronting.
I have delved into her recent past to observe and document stories of marginalized people, the powerful and influential and work-a-day people like myself - those of us who are trying to serve both ends of the "people spectrum". In creating the characters and situations that appear in my novels, I have drawn upon my experiences as a Nurse working in the community among Aboriginal Australians (as I did for Gifts of the Peramangk), among transplant recipients & intensive care patients (as I did for The Recipient & The Hambledown Dream) and among children experiencing the often overwhelming environment of the paediatric emergency department (as I did for The Artisan Heart). By portraying these clinical experiences into my writing, I've been able to lend a significant level of authenticity to my stories without neglecting the dramatic elements that make for good fiction.
Adelaide is a city of contrasting moods and aesthetics which rival any of the great cities of the world. Walking through her streets and among her architecture one can feel a classic European sensibility even as her soul beats with an Australian heart. There are these nooks and crannies along the cultural precinct of North Terrace, under the swaying boughs of plane trees and the monuments to notable figures from times past that are ripe with anecdotes. There is personality and sound and climate whose moods shift from the early morning as the sun climbs over the Adelaide Hills to the fading light of dusk as twilight falls across the city and the streets are bathed in the aritficial light from so many street lamps. The city is at once cosmopolitan and vibrant even as it remains sometimes stubbornly quaint and painfully conservative.
Adelaide inspires me and my storytelling because it is tactile and immediate. I have embedded myself in this place, observed her moods, her shades, her ebb and flow. The old maxim that says writers should write what they know remains evergreen in my estimation. The internet may have afforded me the ability to travel anywhere in the world without leaving the comfort of my office chair, but nothing can compare to being able to throw on my jacket, step out of my house and be in the place with all its attendant sights and smells and tastes and life.
As I said earlier, I have yet to get the full measure of this city. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps I'm not supposed to. I will continue to discover Adelaide for as long as I live.
And perhaps that's inspiring.
Please visit the next blog in our group's chain "Adelaide - An Inspired Life For Writing" from Ryan Peck.