Eat ... Think ... Heal: Margaret Bridgeford on writing her story
Eat … Think … Heal: One Family’s Story of Discovering the Healing Powers of Food and Thought
The Writing Experience, by Margaret Bridgeford, ARLP Course 5
I announced to close family and friends in 2011 that I had decided to write a book. It was going to be about almost everything that opens and shuts in the natural world, overlaid with modern economics, the size of our cities, the decline of the industrial age, and so it goes on. I even drew mind maps and explained them to people in a workshop how it was going to play out. Then reality struck. I realised it was too complicated to include economics, cities and the industrial age. Especially as I had never written a book, and certainly did not have a reputation in that field!
About that time, I asked Jane Milburn, graduate of ARLP Course 16, also a friend, ag scientist and journalist, to have a look at a spider’s web that I had drawn to try to distil the remaining messages of nature and how all is connected. She nodded and smiled, told me it sounded very interesting and suggested that perhaps I should turn it into a PhD! This achieved two things for me. It gave me confidence that what was so clear in my head might actually be able to be communicated to a wider audience, and importantly, that the message might have enough gravitas to resonate with some people. So PhD – no! A book based on what I believed to be important – yes.
All the while, I had the support of a business mentoring and peer support group, known as GrowthLink. The members are involved in all types of businesses, support each other in their life’s challenges and share each other’s celebrations. They are a most uplifting group of people to be around. Their common thread is a background in natural farming systems. They understood the linkages I was trying to communicate, probably did not know whether I could pull it off, but encouraged me on the journey based on my personal enthusiasm.
Now I was set to start writing.
As soon as I put pen to paper, I realised that I had to start where it all began for me. I couldn’t just write about the power of nature, how we try to dominate it, and how easy it is to interrupt. It had to be meaningful in order to deliver a message. If that was the case, then it also had to be personal, and that was a little more complicated. Bill and I experienced twenty years of farming life, building a very successful, ultra-modern farming business. During that time, I participated in Course 5 of the ARLP. Our twenty years was part of fifty years for Bill’s parents. What I wanted to write about challenged those farming practices to the core. Not because that was my goal, but because when I sat back and considered what I had learned since, that was an inevitable consequence.
So I started writing to see how it would turn out. Privately, quietly writing down what came from within. It was revealing and challenging but it felt right. I also realised that there was no way I could continue writing and hope to publish this book without the blessing of my family, the very people whose farming lives were unfolding on my pages. The next step was the tough one. I gave what I had written to all three generations to read. I asked nothing of them except to read it. I held my breath. It took a few days. Personally I had a sense of satisfaction from the writing process itself. I suspect it was cathartic. But I knew I needed their blessing. And receive it I did. Unconditionally. As I say in the book, “In the end, we all realise that we make our choices based on what we know. We learn throughout life, and we adjust and adapt as we gain new knowledge.”
From that point on, it was really just a matter of time, (and a lot of research, writing and reflecting), before I completed the first draft. I thought it was pretty good, so I gave it to a friend who is a journalist and has produced some Australian Stories for the ABC. He gave it back to me and said that if I want people to read the messages in the book, then I have to bring my family’s story even further to the surface. He said that the personal story will have the impact on the reader and that’s what will draw them in to read what I am really writing about. And so began the first of many re-writes of parts of the book.
His second piece of advice was that the first sentence or paragraph of the book had to tell the whole story! That now reads:
“Dominating nature is an obsession for humans. We are paying the price. Come with me as I tell you my story – our family’s story – of food and farming, of health and ill health, and of understanding the healing powers of the universe and the choices we really can make.”
This opening paragraph demonstrates that the book encompasses some complex concepts that I have worked hard to draw together for the reader. I think I succeeded. I had an email this week from Piet Filet, graduate of the first Murray Darling Basin Leadership Program. “About your book - well I have a third to go and have enjoyed very much what you are proposing. Well done for raising the many questions that you have - they are pertinent more and more in this busy industrialised world … I do appreciate what you have done to craft an interesting argument.”
From Robert Pekin, founder of Food Connect “I am enjoying the read Margaret. You have done a great job in condensing so much into a very understandable and relatable story. The other subtitle could have been ‘how man is chasing his tail!’
So the book is published, our family has read it and feel proud of the end result.
I am hoping that it is a book whose time has come. Let’s see where it goes from here …