Lazy days

It’s been a slow start to the new year.
The crows are creaking outside against a background chorus of buzzing insects.
I’m watching tennis with the sound muted because the tv antenna needs fixing and hearing the pop and crackle as the picture fades in and out is way too annoying.
I’ll start reading a new book soon, my kindle is waiting for me on the coffee table.Books waiting in many forms The fan is keeping things cool, but there’s also a nice breeze flowing through the house.
Even though I haven’t been writing much lately, I had two articles published in December.
There’s also another little snippet of mine here.
I’ve been reading hungrily and have worked my way through lots of great books.

Remedy Quarterly - Issue 11 Comfort
MAEVE Magazine - Issue 9 Christmas

I’ve just finished up a course with the Australian Writer’s Centre (highly recommended).
My pursuit of new writing work will begin in earnest again very soon, but for now it’s enough to surround myself with words, even if they’re by other people.
Hopefully my return to the day job for another year won’t be too much of a shock.
Happy new year. :)

Trying to find a new balance

A recent return to a full-time working week, has reminded me that I’m extraordinarily bad at finding balance. You could say that I’m always swinging perilously close to one extreme or another.

“I either feel 100% in control or not at all, and while an all or nothing approach can work in some circumstances, I just don’t think it suits a writing lifestyle.”

I get frustrated when I’m not able to dedicate as much time as I’d like to my writing, and perhaps that feeling is intensified right now because up until recently my weeks were ALL about the writing.

My owl has better balance than me.

The main trouble with getting frustrated at my lack of writing time, is that I often don’t make the best use of what time I actually do have available. I tend to get caught within a frustration bubble, where I’m always wanting more and not just making do. I’m trusting that as I settle into a new work routine, that I’ll eventually accept and adopt a more flexible writing rhythm that squeezes itself into the space between my other commitments.

For now though, I’m doing my best to just go with the flow and stay positive. Every day I try to do at least one thing that will progress my writing – whether that’s to start a story, write a blog post, send off a pitch, book in for a course, clean up my portfolio, or join a writing community – whatever it is, big or small, it makes me feel that I’m at least achieving something.

I’m reminded of Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing & Daily Creative Routine, all of which are great but one in particular has been of real help:

“When you can’t create, you can work.”

Word up, Mr Miller. Incidentally, if you’re not already a regular reader of ‘Brain Pickings‘, you really should be. However be warned…you’ll probably end up adding lots and lots of books to your already lengthy wishlist (I know I have).

So until some sort of manageable balance miraculously appears in my life, I’ll be applying the simple philosophy of ‘doing something is better than doing nothing’. Unless you have any tips for walking the tightrope of life without losing your balance? All I can say is, thank goodness for safety nets.

On doing and becoming (a writer)

The act of writing is easy enough. One simply puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and repeats as necessary. In making the journey from writing to writer however, things can start feeling more complicated.

Unlike professions which require completion of a certain qualification, or training in a particular set of skills, there are many different paths you can take to become a writer. For me such a realisation has been both wonderful and challenging. Wonderful because it means the door is theoretically open to anyone who wishes to write, but challenging because with such opportunity comes an extraordinarily generous measure of crippling self-doubt.

Writing and a writer

Writing has always been something I’ve pursued in the background, treating it more like a dream than a serious venture. Being a writer seemed to be a thing that other people did, and it never really occurred to me that writing is something I could and should be focussing on. So I’ve spent many years in professional wilderness – working in jobs I didn’t like, wishing I could just be ‘normal’ and be happy working in a corporate nine-to-five kind of job.

Having the past ten months away from work has honestly been the best thing I have ever done. Instead of it being time ‘off’, those months have very much been time ‘on’. I have learnt so much about myself and my writing during that time, and I finally feel like I have a clear sense of my future goals.

Even though I still have some unfinished business to take care of back at the day job, I have decided to completely embrace this writing life and all the ups and downs that come with it. While I may not always be comfortable expressing it, I know that in many ways I have always been, and will always be, a writer.

Strange days

Yesterday was the strangest day.

The thing about strange days is they remind you about the fragility of connections – something that as a writer, I’m growing to appreciate more and more.

My anxiety levels were running at about 300% because I was catching up with a work colleague in the city, and being in the city reminds me of my day job, which then reminds me that I need to act on some important decisions I’ve made about my working future. Stress!

Given that my anxiety levels normally run at about 120%, I was on serious high alert. Not quite an all out panic attack, but I felt like it wasn’t far off. My poor heart was rapidly thud, thudding in my chest, and despite the spring-like warmth in the air, my hands felt cold and clammy. Even the beautiful sunny day, bright blue sky, and my new polka dot handbag weren’t enough to calm my mood.

hello, friends

I had some time to kill before my lunch date, but where to go? Hmm…in the end my feet knew exactly where I needed to be, and I found myself seeking the comfort of a bookstore. Just the process of browsing the shelves and surrounding myself with those familiar faces was enough to make me feel a little better. I was about to leave for another store, when one of my oldest school friends (who I hadn’t seen in years and years), suddenly appeared in front of me. As it turned out, she happened to be in the city catching up with another one of our school friends.

We talked and laughed over cups of tea, wondering at the seemingly random series of events which found us in the same place at the same time.

Timing really is everything.

Shadows in the Garden

Hello dear reader, are you having a good week? I certainly hope so. If I push to one side all the deep thinking I’ve been occupying myself with (because that’s all rather exhausting and ho-hum), things are pretty OK with me. As I sat down to type this little message to you, gentle rain was just beginning to fall, a gathering of rainbow lorikeets were screeching in colourful happiness just outside my window, and I was enjoying a very welcome cup mug of tea.

Hey carnations, you're beautiful! :)

So what’s up with that title then? Well I’m rather fond of pretty things in the garden and shadows are something that I always find fascinating. I actually thought that ‘Shadows in the Garden’ would make an excellent title for a Virginia Andrews book, and wouldn’t you know it? There is actually one that is very similar, rather ominously titled ‘Garden of Shadows’. I’ve never actually read one of her books, but I know they were incredibly popular with a lot of my high school peers back in the day.

Anyway, I digress … I bought myself this bunch of flowers earlier in the week, and I really wanted to share them with you because (a) they’re lovely, and (b) you deserve this bunch of flowers too. I’m sure I’ve told you before of how partial I am to carnations … yes, I know they’re a bit old-fashioned and dated, but they really have the most wonderful blooms, and as cut flowers they last for a really long time.

Flowers and shadows make for a pretty picture

At the moment I have so much to say, and yet at the same time not much of anything to say … so rather than wait for me to gather my thoughts, let’s just enjoy these flowers instead. While the flowers are clearly beautiful, most of all I’m loving the shadows which form a part of this floral arrangement … I hope you like it too!

PS. My Sparkapolooza piece for this fortnight’s brief ‘Throwing Shapes’ features shadows too … fancy that! Oh, and the Mr has also submitted his own artistic and wonderful creation … featuring ninjas! :)

A Sense for Writing

Hi there! How have the days been treating you? I’ve been feeling a little reflective lately (more so than usual), thinking about life and other important stuff. Having my days revolve around writing means that I spend a lot of time caught up in my own thoughts – and that’s OK, but it has made me think about the influence of externalities in my world. While I may not always have a ready supply of common sense (the privilege of the dreamer), and I’m pretty sure I’m devoid of any extrasensory perception (although I do always know when good coffee is close by), I get along pretty well with most other senses – in particular, sight and sound.

Watching and listening to the world is the very stuff of story-making … the imagination feeds on a caught snippet of conversation, an observed interaction between strangers, or on hearing a certain turn of phrase. Sometimes these little moments weave their way into a story or form part of an idea that  is  (hopefully) original, yet still connected to reality.

Listening

I’m starting to think that I’ve been unintentionally training as an observer all my life. For whatever reason, and it’s something that I’ve never been able to explain, I seem well-equipped to blend in and become practically invisible – perhaps I’m like Marcus Brody? (of Indiana Jones fame). I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been stood on in elevators, walked into, or gone completely unnoticed because I haven’t been seen. Now this is not a ‘woe is me’ missive, but I won’t lie and tell you that it isn’t more than a little frustrating and de-moralising to have this happen time and time again. In fact, I’ve even had someone tell me that I ‘melt into the background’ … ouch!

Watching

After having my personal space invaded for about the millionth time this week, I’ve decided to look upon this camouflage of invisibility as a blessing rather than a hindrance. It does have its advantages. At least it gives me the opportunity to see and hear things that may otherwise go unnoticed, adding a different perspective to my writing … just call me Mrs Cellophane. ;)

Starting the year on the write note

I’ve spoken before about this year being THE year for me to get serious about my writing, and so I thought it’d be timely to give you a little update on my progress so far. Here’s hoping that you’ll all be able to keep me accountable if I ever look like I’m slacking off …  perhaps you’ve got a project that you need some encouragement with too? If so, I’m here to help with some positive barracking from the sideline or a helping hand where needed. After all, sharers are carers.

A few weeks ago I started easing back into the writing groove by setting myself a modest daily word count. From there I’ve increased my word count goal and shifted my focus towards ensuring I spend a certain amount of time writing each day (provided the baseline word count is still met), and it’s been working well for me. I want to treat writing more like a ‘job’ – so I need to make sure I turn up every day and put in a reasonable amount of time and effort. Most of the daily word count is going towards one main piece of fiction, but I’m also keeping my eye on a few other non-fiction side projects. However, rather than get too caught up with all the big picture stuff, I also want to make sure I take creative breaks from time to time … and that’s where I’m hoping the fortnightly Sparkapolooza briefs will help.

A line of deer

The first brief for the year was ‘Beyond the Square’, and if you’re interested you can find my (very) short story, ‘Lines of Nature’ over here. There are also lots of other wonderful submissions to the brief, and you can have a look at those here. I like the idea of using these briefs as a writing exercise – with the intention of just doing and not being too concerned with over-polishing. I’ve never been much of a fan of diamonds anyway! Haha! :)