Dancing with Big Magic

Let me explain my own personal writing process. Maybe this will inspire you to embrace your own writing process.

When the words come, I just get them out. Paper. Computer. Phone notes. Whatever is at my disposal. I grab the words while they are swirling around my head and let them flow out. I don’t have time for punctuation and spelling. Whatever I need to write, I release. 

Writing is magic. It is healing. Cathartic. When I write poetry it just comes. Usually at 3 o’clock in the morning. Usually after processing something for a long time. When the pieces of the puzzle finally come together. 

Later, I go back and perfect it. Inspiration doesn’t sit around waiting, it comes and goes, so it is important to write when it comes.

Other times it’s tedious writing. Editing, revising. Labouring over a word, one sentence. Deliberating a comma or a full stop. When inspiration comes to dance, I dance. 

I found writing a full manuscript and getting to 85,000 words was like filling a big water tank. It simply took one word at a time. Like dripping water, it slowly filled up. Like catching water and filling a tank, I had times of a sudden down pour. A rush of water. Sometimes it was dry. A half-filled tank; a barely finished story. It simply took one drop. One word at a time. I learnt that small acts. Small, simple tasks that add to a big, final project or piece are important. I have never had the luxury of being able to dedicate my full attention and time to writing, so stealing a moment, an hour in a day is all it takes. The secret is to make it most days. Steal it unapologetically. 

Writing for me is not just the physical act of typing or scrolling on paper. Observation is like constant research. I would watch the light. Be mindful of the seasons. What does it look like? Everything in life becomes interesting, as I’d study it and think about how I would convey it on the paper. The challenge of conveying on the paper what I observe. Challenge of taking what I see in my mind’s eye and painting that picture with my words. An exciting challenge.

I have read as much as possible and studied words. I’m constantly trying to extend my vocabulary. Whenever I find a word, I like or don’t know, I write it down and look up its meaning. In Year 8 my teacher said that words are a writer’s tools. The more words you have the better. I try to gather as many tools as possible. 

Writing. It is joy and torture all at the same time. The story line and the characters just won’t leave you alone. Driving to and from work. As you sit and ponder, the images and voices dance in your mind. You can’t leave it or escape it. Pestering you to write them into life and tell their story. 

Notes. So many random fucking notes that need to be weaved together and fleshed out and made into something coherent. I love them. I hate them. I don’t know if this is a technique, I would recommend but often inspiration comes at inconvenient times and I need to record the ideas and then find the time to come back to them. 

Sometimes it is pure magic. When words, thoughts and feeling all flow. Coalesce. Pouring onto the page effortlessly. My spirit dances within another creative realm. There is freedom, healing and alchemy.

Other times, it’s just fucking hard work. Labouring over a sentence structure. Getting the plot to work. Checking dates. I have a detailed excel spreadsheet where I record the ages and details of my characters to make sure I am consistent. Deliberating over a word. Editing. Drafting. Editing. Drafting. Each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each chapter. Reading, correcting, fixing, changing, perfecting. I drafted my novel 7 times. I did 2 complete proof reads and edits from printed copies. I would sit with a pen and highlighter and go through each chapter. By simply doing one chapter a day, I found I could easily achieve that. Stealing an hour.

There is this critique, this judgement. A constant fear and doubt. This is also a driving force. Fear and inspiration join me on this journey. As Elizabeth Gilbert recommends in Big Magic. I let inspiration be in the passenger seat as I drive down this road of creativity and fear sits in the back seat. Still there, but not in control. The truth is, if I let fear drive, or even sit up the front, I wouldn’t write. I wouldn’t creative. I wouldn’t dance. I wouldn’t let the magic surround me. I would simply not do it for fear of judgement and failure. Isn’t that what life is like in general. We avoid trying for fear of failure. This journey is not easy, but it is so worth it. When it’s work and when it is magic. I always show up because dancing with big magic is like no other dance. 





A labyrinth

Streets like intertwined rivers

Weaving their way 

In a tangled maze


Endless discoveries

It all looks different from a different angle

Tangle of languages



Sea of endless possibility 

My emotions



Have been like these canals




Weaving their way out to sea

To find



Breathe again


Calm waters


No more greed

Or need





All the world

Is my home

With God

I am never alone


Farrah B. Mandala 2013
Mad Woman Rocking

Hidden Treasure

It has been a long journey to get here. A long journey to find this hidden treasure. 

I have had a love affair with writing, for as long as I can remember. The first poem I ever wrote was on an ordinary day, out the farm while Mum and Dad milked the cows, scribbled on a spew bag that I then hid under the seat of the car. It was after my great-grandmother, Nanna Brown died. Today is her birthday, she’d be 109. I think I was around 8 or 9 when I wrote this first poem. My Mum found it, this hidden treasure, she flattened it out and helped fix all the spelling mistakes and it was printed on the booklet at the funeral. My writing came from that place of sadness, from grappling with death and guilt.  Mad Woman Rocking was written from that same place. Throughout my life, I have always journaled and written poetry that I’d store in boxes. Hidden away. Hidden treasure. Hidden away, just for me, no one else needing to see it. 

When I was 13, I broke my leg. This was also the time when I found the first book, I ever loved, The Outsiders read to us in class by Mr Crees. He taught me two important lessons about writing. One was that Shakespeare couldn’t spell, so it’s not that important and the other was that words are a writer’s tools, to be a good writer, you need to know as many words as you can. This was the time that I began to read, to read a lot and I began to learn as many words as I could. I filled books with words I studied. Seeking hidden treasure in everything I read or heard. 

I had to endure a lot at a young age. It has been both a blessing and a curse. Throughout the times of trauma in my life I would always write. Boxes of paper, stored away, for maybe one day. There was tragedy I had to endure with the death of my best friend Stacey, then my boyfriend Kalon and my housemate Couttie. I was changed forever. On this journey, there was addiction, mental illness, hospitalisation, medication, therapy, university and teaching. There was travel, marriage, cars and a house. I found God and a school. A tough journey, seeking hidden treasure. 

The writing of this book felt at times like something out of my control. The universe conspired and I had no choice but to go to that place, that place deep inside, where the hidden treasure resides and simply write.  

In 2016, I gave birth to my son, Beau. Like death, birth changes you forever. I had never faced a greater challenge. I had never experienced a love or fear of such intensity before. I suffered post-natal depression. I remember an ordinary day, in the study of my house in Melbourne, I was in a dressing gown, sleep deprived, crying and at breaking point. Looking at my son, the most beautiful, precious thing, I’d ever seen; whilst simultaneously questioning my life. I took a box of writing from out of the cupboard and I searched. Reading poetry, letters and journals. I searched for the hidden treasure. I was thinking. How did I get here? I have everything I have ever wanted, a house, career, marriage and a perfect son. Why am I so unhappy? Where do I go from here? I continued on this journey. Seeking answers. Seeking hidden treasure. 

I battled crippling depression and anxiety for the first twelve months of Beau’s life. During this time, I was sober and I began reading. Reading a lot and I returned to studying words. Collecting, writing, seeking. One ordinary day, under the shade of the silver birch tree in our back yard in Melbourne, while Beau played in the sand pit, a clumsy, active toddler. I read my friend Gina’s copy of Big Magic. I felt my life changing. This burning desire. To create. To write. I started to think, maybe this will be where the treasure is hidden. 

In 2017, when Beau was one year old, my grandmother, Ger died. This shattered our lives in many different ways. For two years we embarked on a quest to buy the farm. The farm that had been in our family for now, 7 generations. My dad, had inherited one eighth and he needed to buy the rest from his siblings. At this time, I was listening to podcasts and I heard about The Alchemist. While visiting Gina, I saw it on her book shelf, sitting there waiting for me. I borrowed it and read it. A story about a boy, on a journey seeking hidden treasure. More answers were revealing themselves. I bought a copy and sent it to my dad, which he read. We started to believe in the power of dreams and a destiny. 

One ordinary day, I was walking through an Op Shop in Cranbourne. Sitting on a shelf, as though placed there just for me, was a book. I read the title from a distance, it said Towong Hill. As I got closer, I realised it was the place I knew by our acclaimed local author, Elyne Mitchell. I bought it for two dollars and went on my way. I loved this book. It was about a place that I knew and loved. The same mountains I admired. The same valleys I grew up in. It was about a strong woman I admired, reflecting on her life and her journey. As I read it, I constantly thought about Ger and the farm. The grandmother I had lost. The farm I wasn’t sure we could keep. This all coalesced. The universe conspired. Birth, death, sadness, inspiration and fear. I wrote a short story. I shared it with Gina and she asked to know more. Then I wrote another chapter. Then another season. Then I wrote the manuscript. I found this love affair with words, with writing again. Sitting up late into the night, up early in the morning, while Beau and my husband were sleeping. A secret love affair. Something just for me. A hidden treasure. 

As I was writing, I was discovering a desire for a new life. A new path. A new journey. I dreamt of a home on the mountain. A cabin, solar power and a big water tank. In 2018, when Beau was two years old, I left my marriage, my house and my job and we moved home. While in my old bedroom, painted with words, poetry and art, looking at pictures from my youth, I edited and proof read and drafted this manuscript. I kept it hidden away. My own hidden treasure. 

Then I decided to share the story with a few friends and family. My two soul sisters, Gina and Em, read early drafts, giving me courage to continue. Helping me dare to dream that my story was worth developing and sharing. Then my sister, Emily read it, loved it and pointed out, like only a sister probably can, gaps that I needed to fill. I did another edit, another draft. I sent it off into the universe. As you’d expect, I received many rejections. I was seeking that hidden treasure, many times I thought I would never find it. 

Then one ordinary day, as I was on the mountain, on the farm that my dad now owns, admiring my solar powered cabin, sitting next to my big water tank, enjoying the sunshine, content, I opened up my emails. There it was, the hidden treasure, I had been searching for, on this long journey. An email from Natasha Gilmore, at the kind press. It was an offer to publish my book. 

Now I am embarking on a new journey. A journey to take this hidden treasure and share it with the world. My love affair, no longer secret.  

The further I trek on this publishing journey the more I realize the value of the treasure I already had. The feel of wet grass on my feet, the beauty of a sunset and the warm embrace from my sweet boy with sparkling eyes and golden curls. I am filled with an abundance of gratitude. 

Mad Woman Rocking now has wings. I feel both fear and inspiration. Fear that people won’t like it. But also, a secret hope. A desire for my words to make you feel. Make you imagine, laugh even cry. I dare to dream that my book, my story, can be loved like the books and stories that I have loved. That my words could give hope, and maybe even inspire you to dare to dream. To write your own story, buy a farm, climb a mountain, fulfil your heart’s desire. 

I wish for us all, to find our hidden treasure.  

Mad Woman Rocking

Dream Big

Growing up in Corryong, I had big dreams. When I was in Grade 5, at Corryong Consolidated, in Mrs Hughes’ class, I dreamt of one day, being a teacher. Before this, I wanted to be a milk truck driver. I think growing up on a farm, I might have assumed there were only two options, that or a farmer. In recent times, I have discovered how much milk truck drivers make and have considered a career change. Luckily, I fulfilled this dream, after many years at university, and became a teacher, not a milk truck driver. I started teaching at St. Joseph’s College in Melbourne in 2010. 

At the start of 2018, a new desire, a new dream began to grow. Walking through an op shop in Cranbourne, I came across a book sitting on the shelf called Towong Hill. To my amazement and delight it was the same Towong Hill I knew and written by local acclaimed author, Elyne Mitchell. After reading Towong Hill, a story about a place I grew up, a place I loved and called home. I felt inspired to write. I started by writing a 2,500-word short story and entered it in the annual Elyne Mitchell Writing Competition. This didn’t win any awards but it began a journey. This short story I then developed into an 85,000-word manuscript. 

In September of 2018, I returned home to Corryong after 15 years in Melbourne. I dreamt of a life on the farm in my own home. I dreamt of the childhood adventures I enjoyed, for my son, Beau. I was lucky enough to be offered a position at Corryong College in 2019 as an Art and Library teacher at my old primary school. The primary school where my love of learning first grew. The place where I felt inspired to dream big. 

I have recently taught Literacy and English across Years 5 – 10 at my old high school, now one amazing big campus with new buildings and gardens. During this time, I have drafted and developed my manuscript. I dared to dream. A new big dream. A dream to be a published author. 

While reading The Outsiders and To Kill A Mockingbird to my students, in the same classrooms I was in whilst hearing those stories read, I was reminded of the profound impact my education had on me as a student at Corryong College. I was reminded of how the teachers could overlook the errors in my work and see the potential in my writing. Their praise. Their guidance. Their encouragement, led me to develop a love for writing. A love for literature. A love for words. A love that has served me throughout my life. 

Now my big dream is becoming a reality. My story, Mad Woman Rocking is being published on the 2.12.2021 by the kind press and will be available for purchase in all good bookstores, all major online retailers and at Booktopia. 

This has reminded me of the power of dreams. As I look at the students walking the corridors of Corryong College, the same corridors I walked, I hope for them they discover the power of dreams. I hope they are never afraid to dream big. 

Pre-order at a discounted price with Booktopia. AUS/NZ.

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Snow-Covered Mountains

‘To all of it I have given my effort and my love. In imagination I can feel the feather touch of snowflakes on my face, feel the freezing water of the lagoon enfolding me, on a hot summer day, and I would celebrate it all.’

– Elyne Mitchell


Today is a perfect spring day. Blue skies and not a breath of wind. Calm. The sun shining brightly with warmth in the air. There is still so much snow on the mountains and it is the middle of October. I have walked up the hill to marvel at it. 

This year the cold has lasted longer with so much rain. The valley is lush. The dams are full. The grass is thick. Growing up, I always wished the winter cold away. Pining for the heat of summer. Swimming in the creek. Backyard cricket. Summer holidays.

Since the devastation of the bush fires, the harsh reality of hot, dry weather, has made me appreciate the other seasons. To value and understand their purpose. We need the winter. The cold, the snow, the wind and rain. Frost filled valleys are necessary. Fog has its place in nature’s cycle. This is what most concerns me about the climate crisis we face. I am concerned the Australian government is not doing enough to protect our future and our precious seasons. 

Sometimes the enormity of the problem seems overwhelming. Then I’m reminded there are answers. I see my roof covered in solar power. The compost. My water tanks. My imperfect attempt to minimise my personal impact. In my frustration, I remind myself that I can only control my choices. We also have power in our choices, our voice and our vote. Hopefully there’s more people like me, with the same concern. Hopefully there is a call for change on a global scale and that call is answered in time. We have a window of opportunity. I hope we take it.

I hope we take it, so one day when my son is old and grey, he can stand on this same mountain. He can stand here too and look out in the middle of October and marvel at the beauty of snow-covered mountains. 




You are a delight

Who likes to give me a fright

You are brave and strong

Always dance to your own song

Old and wise

Always keep that sparkle in your eyes

Funny and cheeky

Cherish the moment, as it is fleeting

Such an intelligent mind

You are thoughtful and kind

Endless energy

Loved by a big family

One of a kind

Dream big my boy

There will be treasure to find


The Door Wasn’t Even Locked

My nearly five-year-old son, Beau, broke his leg recently. He has been in a full cast of plaster, for five weeks now. As the weeks have dragged on and boredom has well and truly set in, he has become increasingly more resistant to the limitations of his plaster. Beau’s desire to move and play has been stronger than his understanding of the plaster’s intention to keep him still, to help him heal. So, I’ve watched him bum shuffle. Drag his plaster around the floor. Crawl on all fours. Now hobbling at times. Despite my constant pleas to not move. Despite the constant chorus of me saying, ‘Beau, don’t put pressure on that plaster. Slow down.’ He finds a way. No injury. No plaster, will stop him from living his best life. 

As I watched him last night, crawling on all fours and kicking his Melbourne Demon’s football using his plaster, I started to think.

How many times in our lives do we let a perceived plaster, injury or limitation allow us to remain caged, immobile and stultified?

What if we allowed desire to be stronger than our barriers? 

Glennon Doyle described it so well in Untamed, when she explained, 

‘What was wrong with me? Why did I stay and suffer? The door wasn’t even locked.’

I keep thinking, after the plaster is off, we will do this and be able to do that. Beau just does what he can, now. He finds a way. I told him he couldn’t move with the plaster, without me carrying him or the wheelchair. He didn’t listen to me, but instead listened to his own deep desire within, to move, to kick his footy and found a way.

I feel inspired by Beau’s determination, but equally disappointed that our wild natures get tamed. As we grow, we see what we can’t do, what is restricting us, rather than the opportunities. Our fear becomes stronger than our desire. Our fear becomes stronger than our love. Love for simple things, like kicking a footy. 

So, I’m letting Beau teach me. I’m learning the wisdom of my wild child. When I feel like I can’t, I’ll think of a blonde-haired boy, kicking his Melbourne Demon’s football in a full cast of plaster. I’ll be reminded. We can all find the determination to live our dream lives with such wild desire. 

I’ll be reminded. When I said the door was closed. Beau tested the handle and realised, it wasn’t even locked. 



One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life !”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as our own,
that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper 1

into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver from Dream Work in “New and Selected Poems’, Beacon Press, Boston, 1992.



Sun rising

Golden hue illuminating the horizon 

Looking beyond 

Birds perched on a light pole, watching the traffic, 

Cars scurrying like frantic ants, collecting food

Beyond the power lines, 

Traffic lights

A bird flies in front of a peach-soaked sky 


Looking beyond

Road building, excavation, flashing lights 

Mesmerizing sunrise, speckled colour ever evolving

 Painting a masterpiece

 Beyond the silhouetted tree, resting on the hill

Looking beyond

The city lights sparkling in an endless sea 

Signs of salvation 

The loud children pushing, 


 Feel the warmth of sunshine 

The train rattling past

The ever-present strong mountain, standing tall 

Looking beyond 

Feeling salvation 

Haze over distant mountains 


Cusp of night and day 

Street lights, pedestrians crossing 

Setting sun 

Painted in pastels, whisper across the sky, like freshly scooped ice cream 

Vibrant effervescent moon 

Sweet smell of daphne, flooding the front door

Dancing wildly in the wilderness of potential and brilliance 

Bright young eyes, lovingly looking 

Warm arms greeting 

Looking beyond 

Seeing graceful signs of salvation


Home Amongst the Woods 

Every time 

I’ve fallen apart 

I’ve had to start 


Building a new castle

A home amongst the woods

Every time 

I build 

A grander castle I build

Every time 

I fall 

I rise 

A little higher

Leads me down 

A path 

To my home amongst the woods 

Every time

I’m lost 

I find a treasure buried

In the rubble 

On the long road home

Home amongst the woods

Every time

I spin out of control 

I find the strength to dance

In sunshine 

In rain

On my way home

Home amongst the woods 

Every time

I lose 

I find

A gift

Amongst the trees

That leads me home

Home amongst the woods