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Sasha Wasley: The Rediscovering of Me

Sasha Wasley stayed at KSP Writers' Centre in August 2022 as an Established Writer-in-Residence.

I’m a full-time carer and writer. My offspring (now 20) has Autism and ADHD and needs support with their executive function – organising their life and space. My younger daughter is also neurodiverse, with mental health issues. Each day, I’m needed to prompt her to get up, get showered and eat, while trying to keep her mood up and nerves down. We drive 35 minutes to a special school and there is often more buoying and calming needed when we arrive. While she’s in school, I sit in a café down the road from school and get some work done. When she finishes (two to four hours later), we go home or to a medical/counselling appointment. I feed her and offer moral support while she does her homework. Then when evening comes, there are the usual home parenting responsibilities – cooking, cleaning, and more emotional support.

This is the context in which I came to stay at KSP for two weeks as Established Writer in Residence. I planned my daughter’s care for the period of my absence with military precision. My partner would work from home for two days per week, my older offspring would switch their workdays to cover another, and my mum would help with the other two commutes. Piano lessons were cancelled; appointments were postponed or delegated; instructions given on how to manage mood issues. Everything was lined up so I would be able to engage fully with my residency. I’m a fast writer, so I knew I’d get a lot of words down.

I arrived at Aldridge Cabin with my heart beating fast. That afternoon, I wrote 2000 words. I went for a walk, cooked up at the house, had wine with my co-residents and wrote some more before bed. I was still living like I did at home – snatching every spare moment to write.

The next day I wrote another couple of thousand words, but the day after, time began to slow down. I had a whole day extending out into the distance before me. I couldn’t remember the last time that had happened. I wrote for a bit, then wandered outside when it stopped raining. I stared at the Perth skyline through the mist – my cabin had a direct view to the city. I filmed some magpies fighting off an intruder. I wrote less. I got bored and restless and even wished for a TV.

The end of the week was more like what I was used to. I had two public events in one afternoon. I had a presentation to plan and practice, followed by a writers’ social event. Then an author talk at a KSP group and a workshop to run for a national conference in Fremantle.

Sasha Wasley presenting her author talk for the KSP Past Tense Social History writing group. Photography by group facilitator Tamara Kabat.

Then Monday arrived, bringing a whole week of no commitments. It sat before me like the horizon across an expanse of desert. I gazed at it with delight, amazement and a bit of fear.

The writing had slowed because I was stuck on plot problems, so I used a whiteboard for the first time ever; Freytag’s pyramid scrawled across my wall. I searched for quendas and discovered the caged cats mentioned in the collective KSP guest diaries. I left apple out for a roof possum. I went for long walks. My dinners were microwave meals or omelettes cooked in the house kitchen – 20 minutes and they were done. It started to feel like I had too much time. There was barely anything to clean; it was only me, after all. I checked in with my daughter – she was doing okay. Didn't need me. I did some research and forced myself to write but only managed to get a few hundred words down. Nowhere near my usual pace.

Slowly, I wriggled out of the tight chrysalis of parenthood; of duty. There I was: a core, inner me who did not exist for other people. Someone who took days at a quieter pace, who went down research rabbit holes, who rested, who walked, who didn't eat a lot of meat. Who spent time in nature. Who stared at the world and thought – a lot. I read. I napped. I sat in the winter sunshine. I drank a lot of tea. My heart rate felt much slower than usual.

It was weird, almost distressing at times. My rushing around from appointment to activity had become baked onto my personality like layers of sediment. During my retreat, I experienced loneliness and boredom – but these feelings had to be felt. This was an excavation and my authentic writing self was the artefact. Maybe I’m not actually a fast writer. Maybe I’m fast only because I have to be, and freed of life’s pressures, I write like other writers do. Thoughtfully. With a lot of tea, research and reading, and occasional naps.

On my last day, I sat alone on Katharine’s balcony and watched the spectacular orange sunset. I thought of Miles Franklin and tried to preserve the pure teardrop of selfhood I’d distilled, keeping it for future use. I don’t know how or when I’ll use it, but for now it’s safe. Valued for the precious artefact it is.

Top 10 Tips

  1. Wander the garden.

  2. Go up to the house alone at night. It’s important to feel real fear.

  3. Visit a writing group so you remember what it is to write for your own development.

  4. Open the cupboards and drawers in the cabin – there are good things in there!

  5. Good coffee can be found at The Hive in Darlington or the Boya Library carpark coffee van until 9am.

  6. Take something to relax with. We cannot write for all the waking hours. Jigsaw puzzle, sketchpad, knitting, etc.

  7. Go and say hello to the caged cats behind the middle cabin.

  8. Watch the KSP magpies. They are special and they know it.

  9. Read about Katharine or Hugo while you stay there, for immersion’s sake.

  10. Be social with the other KSP residents for an hour a day so you don’t forget how.

~ Sasha Wasley 2022

You can follow Sasha on Instagram here.


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