Cliffy Young is my Muse

Every Aussie over the age of forty or so knows the name Cliff Young. He was an Australian potato farmer and athlete, best known for his ‘unexpected’ win of the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon in 1983 at 61 years of age.

He won because he simply didn’t stop. I think I read somewhere years later that he didn’t know he was permitted to stop so he just kept going.

He won because he didn’t stop…

For me, Cliff embodies the ‘Keep Going’ mentality. He popped into my mind this week as I sat down to write. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, especially when you’re in a lockdown, and we need to invoke our heroes/inspirations/muses/goddesses to keep on the right path.

As I write this, it’s October 1. As Gretchen Rubin so beautifully said, the days are long but the years are short. This year seems to have flown but at the same time, my 50th birthday party, a lovely night with my dearest friends seems like another lifetime ago.

Each 1 October through to December 31, I do something called Last 90 Days. Basically, instead of winding the year’s clock down to Christmas and the new year, people worldwide set goals and make changes in their lives to see the year out on top.

As I embark on my 4th #last90days I’m shifting my focus from goal setting to making a commitment to myself. To use a phrase I’m seeing all the time on social media, the idea of ‘commitment’ rather than just goal-setting ‘hits differently.’ We can set a goal weight or decide to exercise daily, but without the commitment to ourselves it can all be a little airy fairy.

I have writing goals that include editing and working on other larger projects, but my commitment to myself over the next few months is to enter at least 4 writing comps each month. Each month I enter Furious Fiction (see previous post) and Right Left Write, the short story comp held by the Queensland Writers Centre.

Then I find two more competitions to enter. (I compile a list of competitions each month for the Gold Coast Writers’ Association. If you’d like to subscribe to the list head over the and subscribe to the newsletter.)

I tell myself I am entering competitions for the experience, for the deadlines, for the fun of it, but of course I’d like a mention, maybe a win a some stage. Hello! I’d like to win everything I enter. I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

But my son pointed something out to me this week, something of which I was aware but when someone else says it, it… hits differently…

‘You write weird stuff, Mum.’

He’s not wrong. I do write weird stuff and shall continue to do so!

I had to invoke my muse, Cliff Young, this week as I read the winning entry for the most recent comp I entered. sigh… The winner was not my weird stuff….

Here’s my not-winning entry for Furious Fiction last month. The rules were: must contain the words Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, include an attic/basement, must include an insect.

My entry was inspired by Andrew Scott’s reading of ‘Do’ a letter from Sol le Witt to Eve Hesse. If you haven’t seen Andrew Scott reading this letter you have not lived!! Benedict Cumberbatch does a version too, but I have a bit of a soft spot for Andrew Scott (aka the hot priest from Fleabag.) All artists and writers should listen to this letter at least once a week.

The Cicada by Christine Betts

A letter from writer R. Walter Clifford to his sister, Eleanor, whose memoirs and six volumes of poems were published after her death in 1934.

Paris, May 1927

Dear Eleanor,

Thank you for your letter. It came at a time when I have a little breathing space. I have enclosed my new story from the Virginia Quarterly Review, a new literary magazine. This is no small thing, and I have Gertrude to thank for putting a fire under me to post it. She is a good friend for a writer to have.

I must confess I have read your most recent poems. You asked Sylvia to keep mum about them, but she knew you would benefit from my weighing in. You must have more confidence in your work! These new poems are clever and there is some fine writing, but the work needs punch!

Be brave, Eleanor. A writer must be fearless!

You will be grateful to hear I lunched with the editor of La Cigale, a magazine here. I showed him your poems. He was complimentary. That must be considered a win, though he does not wish to publish them.

You ask, ‘what is the key to my success?’ It has nothing, dear sister, at all to do with my being a man. Eleanor, you simply must write more. Write day and night! And you must read, too. Grow! Learn from your betters. You must live and breathe as a Writer!

Remember – every flower blooms in its own time, but you must water the garden!

I must say, though, my dear Eleanor—As much as I love you, I did not love your Haiku. A cicada on a windy tree? You must promise me you will never write Haiku again! Do you hear me? What ever were you thinking?

Oh, I am laughing! I do hope you are laughing, dear sister. One day, the world shall see your sparkling talent. Many women writers and painters are making a name for themselves here. You simply must come to Paris!

I shall send you the fare if Father refuses. I shall send a telegram to say you must come here if you are to make anything of yourself as a writer.

The Summer should be entertaining though I shan’t tell Mother and Father this, if we have any hope of getting you on a ship without a chaperone! Lucy is here already and Tom and Sheila have rented the attic on Rue St Charles again. He can afford better, of course, but says he writes well there. Sheila has no say in the matter. Tom insists she’s salt of the earth, but I think she would enjoy a little comfort now his books are selling well.

I shall introduce you to the best writers, the best painters. You shall work when I work, rest when I rest and you shall know what it takes to be a writer.

My deepest affections,

Your brother,


Yes, I do write weird stuff.