The Duality Experiment and Why I Write

I always try to create colours and shapes with my words, and this weekend I was able to see this come to life for the first time. The Duality Experiment brings together 25 writers and 25 artists, blind pairing them and asking the artist to create something based on a scribble, note, or piece of work that the writer has never published. I was selected as one of the 25 writers for the Melbourne Experiment, and I was absolutely blown away when I saw what artist Lauren Nicholson created from my words at the launch in Melbourne.

The words that I gave to the curator were very real and raw for me. I had penned them a few days before I received the invitation to be a part of the Experiment, and I immediately knew that I needed to use them. They were taken from a piece I had written solely for myself. While I often plan to publish things, the short story I wrote was not one of them. It was too painful, too scary, too close to share it and risk being misunderstood by the people around me.

These are the words I gave to the Experiment and the gorgeous artwork made from them.


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I knew people would ask me what inspired the words, and I struggled to figure out what and how to share it. So, I thought I’d shed a little light on it here. This phrase was written in a short story I wrote called “Tea with Jesus.” Yes, that is correct. Tea, as in the herbal infusion often placed in a small bag and dropped in a mug of boiling water. And Jesus, as in, well, Jesus.

I wrote the piece as a conversation. It was written in solitude, as I desperately came to God, trying to figure out something in my life which I had been struggling with for 12 years. Anxiety had made in nearly impossible to work out, and for years I had been fumbling in darkness and stretching for the light, trying to find the truth about who I really was. “Tea with Jesus” was the moment I came to God and decided that no matter what His answer would be, and no matter who I truly was, I was ready to hear the truth.

Unsurprisingly, I got my answer very early in the piece. But anxiety is hard to tame, so I asked God how I could to truly accept the truth and silence the anxiety that had sent me on a perpetual journey of confusion for over a decade. This is the phrase that came from that moment, and these are some of the words that give me strength when I begin to fall into the old routine of doubting who I truly am.

Images by Shannyn Higgins.

When I saw the artwork that Lauren had created from the phrase, I was stunned that something so beautiful could come from the words that best chronicled my own brokenness. From the collage of people around a building which so resembled the tension and friction I feel between religiosity and authenticity, to the foliage representing growth and beauty that rested on top of it, urging me to rise above the doubt and insecurities.

The zebra was like a glimpse into the world of fantasy and beauty that act as my muse, and the girl who also resembled a creature on its back was me; fragile, yet strong. Choosing to rise above the deafening voices and bravely speaking these words of hope and love which formed a garden within me.

I cannot tell you how thankful I am to have been invited by Shannyn to contribute to Duality. To have my words placed alongside people I so respect and admire like Joel McKerrow and Lior was a dream, and the art was so moving.

It was terrifying to share my words with the world in the Experiment. I watched people stand and stare at them, using them as a springboard as they created their own interpretation of the artwork. For the first time, I was able to visibly see how words and art impact people, holding them for a moment and giving them the strength to enter the next one.

I was able to speak to a couple of people about my words. I struggled to explain what inspired them , but as soon as I told these strangers that they were my attempt at dealing with an anxiety disorder, I had a man open up and tell me about his own journey with anxiety. He also uses art to work through it, and it struck me that two very different strangers were bonded by their own stories.

I was also able to speak to the gentleman who brought the art. His love for it was extraordinary, and there was so much emotion in his demeanour as he explained what it meant to him. When I found out that he was a father, buying this painting because he wanted these words to be true for his daughter less than a year old, I understood why we write.

We write so that others don’t feel alone.

We write so that people are moved to move and express love.

We create art because it is the safest and most sacred way we know to express ourselves.

We share the fragments of our soul with others, because in moments like these, we remember that our art has never really been about us, it has always been about others.

Thank you to everyone who came out to Duality this weekend. It is a privilege to stand among so many writers and artists and call them my peers, and it is an even greater miracle to know that such beauty can come from the deepest, darkest parts of my story.

You can visit the Duality Experiment website here for more details. The artist who created this stunning piece of work is Lauren Nicholson, and you can find her website here.

The story ‘Tea With Jesus’ was retitled, ‘A Conversation in Jesus’ and was published in my memoir When Hope Speaks. You can pick up a copy now.